Changes Coming in Aerospace Standards

by Dale K. Gordon

All parts of the aerospace industry—commercial, business, military and space—currently seem to be doing fairly well. Several new products and projects, such as very light jets, new Boeing and Airbus passenger plans, and increased space vehicle work by international organizations are on the horizon from many sectors of the aerospace industry. You could say the industry has a lot of momentum.

A process also can gain momentum. Effort is required to initiate it, but once it’s up and running, it is relatively easy to keep it going. The word “momentum” also can reflect that a process is gaining adherents or general acceptance.

The International Aerospace Quality Group’s (IAQG’s) AS/EN/JIS-Q 9100 series of quality management system (QMS) standards for the aviation, space and defense industries definitely has gained momentum since its inception and publication more than seven years ago.1,2

When it was initially published, the aerospace QMS standard was known as AS9100 to organizations in North America, as EN9100 in Europe and as JIS-Q-9100 in Japan. At the international level it is generically known as IAQG 9100 and generally will be referred to as such in this article.

When the Online Aerospace Sup-plier Information (OASIS)3 database began to collect the information on IAQG registrations in 2003, it was estimated about 1,500 organizations already had registered to an IAQG 9100 series standard.

As of August 2006 there were more than 6,300 registrations (see Figure 1). In the past 12 months alone, almost 2,500 new registrations of aerospace organizations were added to the database.

The last technical revision to the ISO 9001 QMS standard, in 2000, coincided with the definition of the current global aerospace industry standard requirements. When AS9100 was published in its current form in 2001, it was released as AS9100 Rev., with the number of aerospace supplements to ISO 9001 significantly reduced.

However, AS9100 Rev. included both the new version of the standard, based on ISO 9001:2000, and the original AS9100 version, based on ISO 9001:1994. In 2003, with the withdrawal of the ISO 9001:1994 standards from circulation, AS9100 was revised again as IAQG 9100 Rev. B to eliminate the withdrawn ISO 9001:1994 version.

Since then, IAQG 9100 has achieved global acceptance as it has been translated into at least eight languages from the original English: French, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Hebrew and Russian. The international aerospace community has made it the base requirement for QMSs of most organizations wanting to be part of the aerospace products or services supply chain.

IAQG’s Changed Approach

There has been some recent discussion about how IAQG 9100 will be affected by the potential changes to ISO 9001, which are due to be released in 2009. But before we go there, it is important to understand how IAQG has changed its approach to quality improvement within the aviation, space and defense industries.

A little more than a year ago, IAQG changed from being a standards driven organization to being strategy driven. To that end, IAQG has developed different strategy streams around central concepts. These strategy streams are the now the basis of IAQG’s work.

It doesn’t really matter whether the strategy streams result in new standards or changes to existing ones. What matters is that IAQG enables improvement through the ideas and concepts embodied in its strategies. This means IAQG is driving the standards, not the other way around.

The IAQG strategy is defined as follows:

  • Operating management system: how IAQG operates and does its work.
  • Relationship growth: how IAQG interacts and is inclusive with stakeholders in its activities).
  • Improvement: the strategic mission activity of IAQG, including the strategy streams).

The strategy streams are:

  • Requirements.
  • People capability.
  • Supply chain process capability.
  • Product realization process.

As expected, the majority of IAQG work is focused on the improvement strategy. The requirements stream embodies all the standards activities and also determines the content and application methodologies required for each of the standards over which IAQG has purview.

The AS9100 series is currently being evaluated by several IAQG teams consisting of personnel from global aerospace companies. These teams are collecting data on AS9100, AS9110 and AS9120 to evaluate content, applicability and relationship to any potential ISO 9001 changes.

The work of these teams is expected to conclude in 2009, with the release of the revised ISO 9001. In the meantime, anything to do with the aerospace supplement to the standards is fair game. In addition, the teams are reviewing the method of assessment and evaluation of organizations to the standards to increase their effectiveness.

The other improvement strategy streams are supportive and complementary. The people capability stream, for example, is examining the people requirements within the industry and what tools IAQG can offer organizations to help assess and improve competencies within aerospace processes.

Items such as a definition of terminology within the industry are a starting point for identifying a common language. The aerospace industry, like many other fields, is a jargon laden environment, and miscommunication is common due to misunderstandings.

Teams are considering whether to define potential certification of specific skill sets within the industry. Also, as with most activities involving people, the understanding of human factors in relationship to processes is very important. Due to the low volume nature of the aerospace business, there is much human input and intervention in all aspects of aerospace design, manufacture and servicing.

As its name implies, the supply chain process capability strategy stream is focused on supply chain capability and how there can be assurance the requirements are properly embedded and flowed through the entire supply chain. To this end, several teams are working on a supply chain management handbook, as was reported in an earlier column.4

The product realization process strategy stream is working to improve the overall variability reduction in the processes and products delivered from each organization in the supply chain.

Key Characteristics

In 2001, IAQG created IAQG 9103—Management of Key Characteristics.5 So far, its use has been limited.

AS9103 is based on a page borrowed from the automotive industry’s advanced product quality planning and control plans. The idea, of course, is that if you can understand and control where the variation in the process is coming from, that variation can be prevented. The use of control plans and variability reduction techniques will also improve safety and reliability, which are crucial elements for the industry.

What IAQG is striving to develop is methodologies that not only will make the process easy to apply and meaningful to the product, but that also will increase adoption from the design requirements to the lowest level of manufacture that has an effect on the product performance. It is this area that holds a lot of potential for improvement within the industry.

AS9100 already embeds the key characteristics necessary for the use of
IAQG 9103 types of controls. Logically, the next revisions of the standard should place more emphasis on this area.

In fact the teams looking at the requirements and the revision of the IAQG 9100 series already have reviewed and dealt with nearly 400 suggestions and comments about the aerospace supplements. The teams are also taking suggestions from IAQG members and the other strategy streams to see how the industry can improve the standard to help promote the improvements needed as part of the overall IAQG process to drive improvements within the industry.

No Momentum Shift Expected

The changes to ISO 9001 are not expected to be significant, thus the changes to IAQG 9100 likely will not cause upheaval or significant changes in aerospace QMS requirements. While most of the work from IAQG strategy teams will not be fully realized for several years, the group certainly does not want to decrease or redirect any momentum related to the IAQG 9100 series within the industry until it has developed well thought out changes that will enhance the progress the industry already has achieved.

If you have comments or suggestions for inputs to the standards, IAQG and its working teams would like to hear from you. You can e-mail or send comments regarding IAQG activities to the appropriate leader through the IAQG website at www.iaqg.sae.org/iaqg/about_us/contact.htm.


  1. SAE AS 9100—Aerospace—Quality Management Systems Requirements, Society of Automotive Engineers International, 2003.
  2. The AS/EN/JIS-Q 9100 series consists of AS9100—Quality Management Systems—Aerospace—Requirements, AS9110—Quality Management Systems—Aerospace Requirements for Maintenance Organizations and AS9120—Quality Management Systems—Aerospace—Requirements for Stocklist/Distributors.
  3. Online Aerospace Supplier Information System, www.iaqg.org/oasis.
  4. Dale K. Gordon, “Supply Chain Management Remains Aerospace Challenge,” Quality Progress, July 2006, pp. 83-85.
  5. SAE AS9103—Management of Key Character-istics, Society of Automotive Engineers International, 2001.

DALE K. GORDON is vice president of quality for MPC Products in Skokie, IL. He is an ASQ fellow, past chair of the American Aerospace Quality Group and one of the writers of the AS9100 aerospace standard. Gordon earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from General Motors Institute (now Kettering University) in Flint, MI, and an MBA from Butler University in Indianapolis.

Average Rating


Out of 0 Ratings
Rate this article

Add Comments

View comments
Comments FAQ

Featured advertisers