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ANN's Daily Aero-Tips (06.02.06): What Is Airworthy?

Aero-Tips!

A good pilot is always learning -- how many times have you heard this old standard throughout your flying career? There is no truer statement in all of flying (well, with the possible exception of "there are no old, bold pilots.") It's part of what makes aviation so exciting for all of us... just when you think you've seen it all, along comes a scenario you've never imagined.

Aero-News has called upon the expertise of Thomas P. Turner, master CFI and all-around-good-guy, to bring our readers -- and us -- daily tips to improve our skills as aviators, and as representatives of the flying community. Some of them, you may have heard before... but for each of us, there will also be something we might never have considered before, or something that didn't "stick" the way it should have the first time we memorized it for the practical test.

It is our unabashed goal that "Aero-Tips" will help our readers become better, safer pilots -- as well as introducing our ground-bound readers to the concepts and principles that keep those strange aluminum-and-composite contraptions in the air... and allow them to soar magnificently through it.

Look for our daily Aero-Tips segments, coming each day to you through the Aero-News Network. Suggestions for future Aero-Tips are always welcome, as are additions or discussion of each day's tips. Remember... when it comes to being better pilots, we're all in this together.

Aero-Tips 06.02.06

FAR 91.7 gives pilots singular responsibility and authority to determine an airplane's airworthiness before flight. The regulation states:

§ 91.7  Civil aircraft airworthiness.

(a) No person may operate a civil aircraft unless it is in an airworthy condition.

(b) The pilot in command of a civil aircraft is responsible for determining whether that aircraft is in condition for safe flight. The pilot in command shall discontinue the flight when unairworthy mechanical, electrical, or structural conditions occur.

What the FAA does not tell us is what is meant by "airworthy". The term is not defined in the Federal Air Regulations. So we're left to our own devices to determine what "airworthy" means.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language defines airworthy as "being in fit condition to fly".

Note: For those playground brawls it also lists adjectives "airworthier" (as in "my airplane is airworthier than your airplane") and "airworthiest" ("my airplane is the airworthiest on the airpark").

A practical definition

A practical definition of airworthy includes:

  • The aircraft is free from damage or defect that would interfere with the safe conduct of a flight.
  • The aircraft complies with its Type Certificate and any Supplemental Type Certificates (STCs) or other approved modifications, if it is a certified design; or the aircraft is operated in the Experimental category it complies with all equipment requirements that apply for that aircraft's individual certification.
  • If flown on an FAA Special Flight Authorization ("ferry permit"), the aircraft and operation comply with the requirements and limitations of that Authorization.
  • The aircraft meets equipment and documentation requirements the applicable regulations (example: FAR 91.203, 91.205 and 91.213 for privately operated civil aircraft registered in the United States.
  • The aircraft and operation conform to any applicable Operations Specifications, certificate holder flight manuals and/or Minimum Equipment List (MEL) for the design.
  • The aircraft's equipment is operable in accordance with any Limitations and specifically any Types of Equipment and Operation (or similar) tables in Section II of an approved Pilots Operating Handbook.
  • The aircraft has been inspected in accordance with the applicable regulations (annual, 100-hour, etc. as required).

You might also add that the airplane is operated within the stipulations of any applicable insurance policy, if the flight is to be conducted with an expectation of insurance coverage.

"Airworthiness" is a tough nut to crack because despite a pilot's responsibility to determine an aircraft meets this standard, the FAA gives us no guidance as to what "airworthy" actually means.

Aero-tip of the day: Uphold a high personal standard of aircraft airworthiness. Ultimately it's not a matter of legality; it's protection of your life and the lives of your passengers that is the definitive measure of airworthiness.

FMI: Aero-Tips

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