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
FAR 91.7 gives pilots
singular responsibility and authority to determine an airplane's
airworthiness before flight. The regulation states:
§ 91.7 Civil aircraft
(a) No person may operate a civil aircraft unless it is in an
(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
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
- 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
- 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"
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.