Chapter 9: Flight Manuals and Other Documents
The goal of every pilot is a safe flight. Flight manuals and aircraft documentation are essential tools used to reach that goal. Educated flight decisions are made with an understanding of the operations, limitations, and performance characteristics of the aircraft, as well as what preventive maintenance a certificated pilot may perform on the aircraft.
Airplane Flight Manual/Pilot's Operating Handbook
Pilot's Operating Handbooks (POH) and Airplane Flight Manuals (AFM) are concise reference books that contain basic facts, information, and/or instructions about the operation of an aircraft. Pilots should consult the POH/AFM before each flight, as necessary, to ensure the safe outcome of the flight. They also should be certain that a copy is available for reference.
The aircraft owner/information manual is a document developed by the aircraft manufacturer. It is not approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and is not specific to an individual aircraft. It also is not kept current, and it cannot be substituted for the AFM/POH.
An Airplane Flight Manual is a document developed by the aircraft manufacturer and approved by the FAA. It is specific to a particular make and model of aircraft and contains the operating procedures and limitations of that aircraft. Pilots are legally required to comply with the operating limitations specified in approved flight manuals, markings, and placards.
Prior to Specification No. 1, AFMs followed whatever format and content the manufacturer felt was appropriate. Specification No. 1 established a standardized format for all general aviation airplane and helicopter flight manuals.
The Pilot's Operating Handbook is a document developed by the aircraft manufacturer. It contains FAA-approved Airplane Flight Manual. information. A statement must be included on the title page indicating that sections of the document are FAA-approved as the Airplane Flight Manual. For most light aircraft built after 1975, the Pilot's Operating Handbook is also designated as the FAA-approved flight manual.
The typical AFM/POH contains the following nine sections:
Manufacturers also have the option of including additional sections, such as one on Safety and Operational Tips. They also can include an alphabetical index at the end of the handbook.
Manufacturers are required to include the serial number and registration on the title page to identify the aircraft to which the manual belongs. If a manual does not indicate a specific aircraft registration and serial number, it is limited to general study purposes only.
The General section provides the basic descriptive information on the airframe and powerplant(s). A diagram may include information on wingspan, maximum height, overall length, etc. Definitions, abbreviations, explanations of symbology, and some of the terminology used may also be included, as well as metric and other conversion tables.
The Limitations section contains only those limitations required by regulation, or that are necessary for the safe operation of the aircraft, powerplant, systems, and equipment.
Airspeed limitations are shown on the airspeed indicator (ASI) by color coding and on placards or graphs in the aircraft.
The Powerplant Limitations portion describes operating limitations on an aircraft's reciprocating or turbine engine(s). All reciprocating-engine powered aircraft must have a revolutions per minute (RPM) indicator for each engine. Aircraft equipped with a constant-speed propeller or rotor system use a manifold pressure gauge to monitor power output and a tachometer to monitor propeller or rotor speed.
Weight and Loading Distribution contains the maximum certificated weights, as well as the center of gravity (CG) range. The location of the reference datum used in balance computations is included in this section.
Flight Limits list authorized maneuvers with appropriate entry speeds, flight load factor limits, and types of operation limits. It also indicates those maneuvers that are prohibited, such as spins or acrobatic flight, as well as operational limitations such as flight into known icing conditions.
Placards are located in conspicuous places in the aircraft. They also are reproduced in the Limitations section, or as directed by an Airworthiness Directive (AD).
The Emergency Procedures section includes checklists describing the recommended procedures and airspeeds for coping with various types of emergencies or critical situations.
The Normal Procedures section This section includes a list of the airspeeds for normal operations, as well as various checklists (preflight inspection, starting, climb, cruise, descent, landing, etc.).
The Performance section contains all the information required by the aircraft certification regulations and any additional performance information the manufacturer deems important. Performance charts, tables, and graphs vary in style, but all contain the same basic information.
The Weight and Balance/Equipment List section contains all the information required by the FAA to calculate the weight and balance of an aircraft.
The Systems Description section describes the aircraft systems in a manner appropriate to the pilot most likely to operate the aircraft. For an advanced aircraft, the content may be written for experienced pilots.
The Handling, Service, and Maintenance section describes the maintenance and inspections recommended by the manufacturer (and the regulations). Additional maintenance or inspections may be required by the issuance of Airworthiness Directives. This section also describes preventive maintenance that may be accomplished by certificated pilots.
The Supplements section contains information necessary to safely and efficiently operate the aircraft when equipped with systems and equipment not provided with the standard aircraft, such as autopilots, navigation systems, and air-conditioning systems. The appropriate information is inserted into the flight manual at the time the equipment is installed.
The Safety Tips section is an optional section containing a review of information that enhances the safe operation of the aircraft. For example, physiological factors, general weather information, fuel conservation procedures, high altitude operations, or cold weather operations might be discussed.
The Certificate of Aircraft Registration must be carried in the aircraft at all times. Before an aircraft can be flown legally, it must be registered with the FAA Aircraft Registry. The registration certificate is issued to the owner as evidence of the registration.
An Airworthiness Certificate is issued by the FAA after the aircraft has been inspected and is found to be in condition for safe operation. The Airworthiness Certificate must be displayed in the aircraft so it is legible to the passengers and crew during flight operations. It remains with the aircraft after any sale (except when sold to a foreign purchaser).
A Standard Airworthiness Certificate is issued for aircraft type certificated in the normal, utility, acrobatic, commuter, transport categories, and manned free balloons.
A Standard Airworthiness Certificate remains in effect if the aircraft receives the required maintenance and is properly registered in the United States.
Standard information on a Standard Airworthiness Certificate includes:
A Special Airworthiness Certificate is issued for all aircraft certificated in other than the Standard classifications. This includes Experimental, Restricted, Limited, Provisional, and Light-Sport Aircraft (LSA).
Maintenance is defined as the preservation, inspection, overhaul, and repair of an aircraft, including the replacement of parts.
Most aircraft need some type of preventive maintenance every 25 hours of flying time or less. They require minor maintenance at least every 100 hours. Variables include types of operation, climatic conditions, storage facilities, age, and construction of the aircraft.
By regulation, the primary responsibility for maintaining an aircraft in an airworthy condition falls on the owner or operator of the aircraft. The owner must meet all inspection requirements. The owner also must maintain the airworthiness of the aircraft during the time between required inspections by having any defects corrected.
By regulation, all civil aircraft are required to be inspected at specific intervals to determine the overall condition. The interval depends upon the type of operations in which the aircraft is engaged.
Any reciprocating engine or single-engine turbojet/ turbopropeller-powered small aircraft (weighing 12,500 pounds or less) flown for business or pleasure — and not flown for compensation or hire — must receive an annual inspection. The aircraft may not be operated unless the annual inspection has been performed within the preceding 12 calendar months.
An aircraft overdue for an annual inspection may be operated under a Special Flight Permit issued by the FAA for the purpose of flying the aircraft to a location where the annual inspection can be performed. However, all applicable Airworthiness Directives that are due must be complied with before the flight.
All small aircraft (not including turbojet/turbopropeller-powered multi-engine airplanes and turbine powered rotorcraft) that are used to carry passengers for hire must receive a 100-hour inspection within the preceding 100 hours of time in service, and they must be approved for return to service.
An aircraft used for flight instruction for hire must also have received a 100-hour inspection. The 100-hour limitation may be exceeded by no more than 10 hours for the purpose of traveling to a location at which the required inspection can be performed. Any excess time used for this purpose must be included in computing the next 100 hours of time in service.
Progressive Inspection Programs apply to large aircraft (weighing in excess of 12,500 pounds). Details are available in Part 43 of the regulations or from the local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO).
Altimeter, Transponder, and ELT
The altimeter, encoding altimeter, and related system must be tested and inspected within 24 months prior to operating in controlled airspace under instrument flight rules (IFR). This applies to all aircraft being operated in controlled airspace. (91.411)
The transponder shall be tested and inspected within the 24 months prior to operation of the aircraft, regardless of airspace restrictions. (91.413)
The Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) must be inspected within 12 calendar months after the last inspection. The ELT is inspected for proper installation, battery corrosion, operation of the controls and crash sensor, and signal radiation. (91.207)
ELT batteries must be replaced or recharged if the transmitter has been in use for more than one (1) cumulative hour, or if 50 percent of the battery useful life (or charge) has expired.
Minimum Equipment Lists (MEL) and Operations With Inoperative Equipment
By regulation, all aircraft instruments and installed equipment are required to be operative prior to each departure.
Under Part 91 operations, a Minimum Equipment List (MEL) allows aircraft to be operated with inoperative equipment determined to be nonessential for safe flight. Part 91 operators without an MEL are permitted to defer repairs on nonessential equipment within the guidelines of part 91.
There are two acceptable methods of deferring maintenance on aircraft operated under part 91. An FAA-approved MEL can be used for maintenance deferral. The deferral provision of 14 CFR, part 91, section 91.213(d) also can be used. This is limited to non-turbine powered airplanes, small rotorcraft, gliders, and lighter-than-air aircraft.
The deferral provision is widely used due to its simplicity and minimal paperwork.
Deferred maintenance is required to be determined prior to flight. For inflight discrepancies, the AFM/POH procedures are to be used.
If an inoperative item is not required, and the aircraft can be safely operated without it, the deferral may be made. The inoperative item shall be deactivated or removed and an INOPERATIVE placard placed near the appropriate switch, control, or indicator. As an example, inoperative position lights could be deferred prior to daytime flight operations.
If an operator requests an MEL and it is approved, the MEL becomes mandatory for that aircraft. Maintenance deferral provisions under Part 91 are not permitted. Instead, deferrals must be accomplished in accordance with the terms and conditions of the MEL.
The FAA considers an approved MEL to be a supplemental type certificate (STC) issued to an aircraft by serial number and registration number. The MEL and supporting documents must be on board the aircraft during each operation.
If an item on the MEL requires maintenance, and service or parts are not readily available at that location, a special flight permit can be obtained from the nearest FSDO, which allows the aircraft to be flown to another location for maintenance.
Preventive maintenance is regarded as simple or minor preservation operations, as well as the replacement of small standard parts that do not involve complex assembly operations. This type of maintenance may be performed by certificated pilots.
Allowed items of preventative maintenance are listed and limited to the items of 14 CFR part 43, appendix A(c).
All pilots who perform preventive maintenance must make an entry in the maintenance record of the aircraft.
Examples of preventive maintenance include:
For a more in-depth look at the preventive maintenance a pilot can perform on an aircraft, consult 14 CFR, part 43, "Maintenance, Preventive Maintenance, Rebuilding, and Alternation."
Airworthiness Directives (ADs)
The FAA requires correction of unsafe conditions found in an aircraft, aircraft engine, propeller, or appliance when such conditions exist and are likely to exist or develop in other products of the same design.
Airworthiness Directives (ADs) are used to notify aircraft owners and other interested persons of unsafe conditions, and to specify the conditions under which the product may continue to be operated.
ADs are regulatory and shall be complied with unless a specific exemption is granted. It is the responsibility of the aircraft owner or operator to ensure compliance with all pertinent ADs.
Somes ADs are emergencies and require immediate compliance prior to further flight. Less urgent ADs require compliance within a specified period of time.
Many aircraft owners have a chronological listing of the pertinent ADs in the back of their aircraft, engine, and propeller maintenance records.
Aircraft Owner/Operator Responsibilities
Registered aircraft owner/operators are responsible for the following:
Commercial Pilot & Flight Instructor Test Questions
An aircraft's operating limitations may be found in the aircraft flight manual, approved manual material, markings, and placards, or any combination thereof. (91.9)
Regarding certificates and documents, no person may operate an aircraft unless it has within it an Airworthiness Certificate, Registration Certificate, and approved flight manual. (91.9, 91.203)
Who is primarily responsible for maintaining an aircraft in an airworthy condition? Owner or operator of the aircraft. (91.403)
Aircraft maintenance records must include the current status of life-limited parts of each airframe, engine, propeller, rotor, and appliance. (91.417)
A new maintenance record being used for an aircraft engine rebuilt by the manufacturer must include the previous changes required by airworthiness directives. (91.421)
If an instrument on a multiengine airplane is inoperative, which document dictates whether the flight may continue en route? Certificate holder's manual. (121.135)
Information recorded during normal operation by a required cockpit voice recorder in a passenger carrying airplane may all be erased except the last 30 minutes. (121.359)
What document(s) must you have with your while operating as pilot in command of an aircraft? An appropriate pilot certificate and a current medical certificate. (61.3)
How long before the proposed operation should a request be submitted to the controlling ATC facility to operate in Class C airspace without the required altitude reporting transponder? 24 hours. (91.215)
A coded transponder with altitude reporting capability is required for all controlled airspace at and above 10,000 feet MSL (excluding airspace at or below 2,500 AGL). (91.215)
An altitude reporting coded transponder is required for all airspace at and above 10,000 feet MSL and below the floor of Class A airspace (excluding airspace at or below 2,500 feet AGL). (91.215)
The primary purpose of a minimum equipment list is to list the equipment that can be inoperative and still not affect the airworthiness of an aircraft. (91.213)
— Equipment that must be operational at all times on the aircraft is covered by the regulations and the aircraft flight manual.
Authority for approval of a minimum equipment list (MEL) must be obtained from the FAA district office. (91.213)
Which action is appropriate if an aircraft, operating under FAR Part 91 and for which a master minimum equipment list has not been developed, is determined to have an inoperative instrument or piece of equipment that does not constitute a hazard to the aircraft? The item should bedeactivated and placarded "inoperative," but repairs can be deferred indefinitely. (91.213)
What is the maximum distance from an airport that an aircraft engaged in training operations may be operated without an emergency locator transmitter? 50 NM. (91.207)
How long may an aircraft be operated after the emergency locator transmitter has been initially removed for maintenance? 90 days. (91.207)
When are emergency locator transmitter batteries required to be replaced or recharged? After 1 cumulative hour of use. (91.207) — ELT batteries also must be replaced or recharged when 50% of their useful life (or life of charge) has expired.
How often are emergency locator transmitters required to be inspected? Every 12 months. (91.207)
Completion of an annual inspection and the retur of an aircraft to service should always be indicated by the appropriate entries in the aircraft maintenance records. (91.409)
An aircraft's last annual inspection was performed on July 12, this year. The next annual inspection will be due no later than July 31, next year. (91.409)
Which is prohibited if the aircraft being used has not had a 100-hour inspection or annual inspection within the preceding 100 hours of time in service? Giving flight instruction for hire. (91.409)
An aircraft operated for hire with passengers aboard has a 100-hour inspection performed after 90 hours in service. The next 100-hour inspection would be due after 100 hours' time in service. (91.409)
Assuring compliance with airworthiness directives is the responsibility of the owner or operator of the aircraft. (91.403)
If an aircraft's operation in flight was substantially affected by an alteration or repair, the aircraft documents must show that it was test flown and approved for return to service by an appropriately rated pilot prior to being flown with passengers aboard. (91.407)
— Distractors include "for compensation or hire" and "by instructors and students."
If an ATC transponder installed in an aircraft has not been tested, inspected, and found to comply with regulations within a specified period, what is the limitation on its use? Its use is not permitted. (91.413)
What is the maximum time period during which a person may use an ATC transponder after it has been tested and inspected? 24 calendar months. (91.413)