FAR-AIM, POH & FOI Reflections
Well, here we are. I’ve spent several months during COVID-19 pounding out lesson plans for the eventualities of a flight instructor oral exam and check ride. After a visit to FedEx Office, I have a printed and bound testament to my diligent work over the past months. Despite painstaking efforts, I had this pristine tome of lesson plans in my hands only a few short hours before I began decorating the pages with penciled additions. Nevertheless, the book has already proven very helpful as I present lessons to a CFI every Saturday in preparation for a signoff. Turning the page, I have some reflections on a few stalwart publications with which I spent a great deal of time during my preparation. Some of these seem to be pillars of disdain among some aviators. These include the hallowed FAR/AIM, the Fundamentals of Instruction, and AFM/POH.
Federal Aviation Regulations
Hey, the Federal Aviation Regulations are. . . wait for it — regulatory. The FARs provide rules for all areas of aviation, including flight operations aircraft construction, training requirements, and more. If you want to do it, and it involves flying, it’s in the FARs. You may need an attorney on retainer to be mostly certain on interpretation of a few areas, but it’s all in there. Oh, and if it isn’t in there, you’ll likely find what you need in an advisory circular. And yes, that’s tantamount to being ‘in there’. One thing I was a little unaware of before this CFI bit was, how many advisory circulars exist. They are blocking the sun.
Some advisory circulars clarify things in the regulations that have left aviators wanting. You know, like AC 120-12A, “Private Carriage” versus “Common Carriage.” This is a must read before cranking up your back yard, ad hoc, good ole boy airline.
Other circulars expound on points the FAA feels deserve more attention. A couple of them being AC 90-48D, “Pilot’s Role in Collision Avoidance,” and AC 91-73B, “Single Pilot, Flight School Procedures During Taxi Operations.” The FAA really wants you to not run into stuff.
What about Flight Reviews?
Hey, if you’re a pilot, I’ll bet you’ve gotten gussied up for a flight review every couple of years. Well, you can engage that proactively or passively. Meaning, you hope you get through without any frowns from the instructor, or you have a list of things you’d like to address during the time to really polish your mad pilot skills. If you think the latter sounds like a good idea, you are super correct. Not sure where to start? Whip up AC 61-98D with your google Fu. You guessed it, that’s a big ole pile of advisory circular regarding flight reviews. Best of luck to ya.
Regulations and Smooth Jazz
Perhaps, you just want some nice bedtime reading. Just you, the FARs, and smooth jazz on the record player. Great! There are myriad ways to access them. You could go right to the horses — uh. . . mouth? Yep, it’s ecfr.gov. You don’t even have to own aviator shades to do this. Now, you’re going to need to select “Title 14,” unless you want to know about agriculture, energy, money and finance, or laws regarding how to cure sweet pickles. Title 14 is, “Aeronautics and Space.” From there, you’ll find something that is pretty recognizable. One difference though, the online bits are updated daily, or whenever new Title 14 regulations are anointed. If you are now cradling your printed copy of the FARs in realization that your book is not as updated as the website. . . that would be correct. Wait! There is a new beta federal regulation site. I’ll have it listed in resources below.
At the end of the day, most of us are familiar with the areas we are legally poking around in when we do our individual style of flying. However, if you’re like me and are eternally training for a new license, rating, or endorsement, it’s another story. Not to worry. You can find the thing you need to master, both academically and practically, right there in the FARs. Even the darn V-speeds are in there. Neighborly, huh. Now that we’re super experts on the regulations, let’s move to the Aeronautical Information Manual.
Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM)
Que the keyboard warriors! The Aeronautical Information Manual can provide basic flight information and ATC procedures. Think of it this way. You have two options. The next time something quizzical happens between you and ATC, or another pilot in the pattern, you can either go on the internet and have people guess answers at you. Eventually you’ll find one you like best and move on with life. However, this approach puts you at risk of being emotionally assaulted, and possibly reported to the FSDO. Don’t believe me? Get on over there and post about your confusion regarding nontowered airport pattern entry. I’ll swing by to pick you up from the therapy sessions you’ll need after having done so. Oh, your other option is crackin’ open the ole AIM for some evening reading. If you’re still stuck, ring up an instructor and beat them up for some advice on the matter. Nonliterally, of course.
Knowing Stuff is Cool
Spending a little time with the AIM can yield many benefits. For cryin’ out loud, you’ll learn what some weird ‘new to you’ chart symbols mean. Like, “MON,” or what all the different paint on a runway means. How long are the runway centerline stripes and the space between each one? I don’t personally know because I always land exactly on my declared touchdown point. But if you don’t have 100 percent pilot acumen like me, you’ll find it handy to know if you were 200 or 400 feet over. It’s really easier to just put her right on the spot. Less math that way. Keep sluggin’ away, you’ll get there one day. Next up, should you FAR in digital or analog?
Searching the FAR/AIM
I have the FAR-AIM apps on my iPad and iPhone. However, you must be careful using them this way. While convenient, search results can add unnecessary confusion for the unsuspecting aviator. For instance, 91.119 and 91.515, regarding minimum safe altitudes. The former is the thing we learned in our private pilot days. However, ‘515 has different altitude rules. I actually saw someone post a query about this on the open internet. They were looking for light general aviation altitude rules. Yep, you guessed it, they keyword searched it and got ‘119 and ‘515, and a case of bewilderment. On the mobile app, you can’t readily tell that you’ve ventured into a section of the FARs, not relevant to you. When reading the paper book by candlelight, you’re infinitely more aware of the pages and sections as you go. Oh, 91.515 is for large turbine-powered multiengine airplanes. I’ve been picking that guy up from therapy for months. You do read your FAR-AIM by candlelight, right?
Once you’re done memorizing all the regulations, it’s a good idea to sit down during a long rainy weekend and read your airplane operating handbook (POH). Now, way back when I was becoming a private pilot, I read and memorized the entire PHAK. I’m sure you did too. Nevertheless, I must have slipped just beyond the pale on frequency and recency because I don’t remember the part where they give a bit of history on the Pilot Operating Handbook and Airplane Flight Manual (AFM/POH). Well, it’s in there and I find it helpful. For several years, I only flew airplanes that were ‘newer.’ Ha! Don’t get ahead of yourself. By “newer” I mean, 40ish years old, as opposed to 50 to 100. ‘Newer’! At any rate, one day I got checked out in a plane from 1967. My god, that thing didn’t have any instructions. At least not compared to the newer planes. Seriously! There was a pamphlet with sketches of things and general references that could almost be boiled down to… add some oil, fill‘er with gas, find the key, go fly, don’t suck. As it turns out, before 1975 things were different. There was an Airplane Owner/Information Manual. This was developed by the airplane manufacturer and contained general information about the make and model. So, not airplane specific. Then, there was the Airplane Flight Manual (AFM), similarly developed by the manufacturer of the airplane, approved by the FAA. Then came the Pilot Operating Handbook (POH). This document is developed by the airplane manufacturer and it includes the FAA approved AFM. Most light aircraft conjured after 1975 have a POH containing the AFM and must contain a statement to that reality on the cover — in blood.
Thanks to GAMA for POH Sanity
Oh, and what’s more, thanks to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the POH was standardized across the fruited plane of general aviation and helicopters. The result was same section of info in the same order from airframe to airframe. That’s good to have when you’re bouncing around in clouds, hot oil blowing all over the side of the windscreen while smoke pours from the critical engine and the frenetic bits of flames begin to paw at the air. You want to find out how to not become a roman candle real darn fast. Oh, and while you’re POH-diving, don’t forget about STCs. They can change the way you cook the bacon. Now, on to learning about learning.
Fundamentals of Instruction (FOI)
In the years I’ve been flying, I’ve witnessed a great many pilots and flight instructors wax on about the awfulness of the fundamentals of instruction. Funny enough, I find the FOI to be quit interesting. Perhaps that’s because in earlier adulthood I had to incrementally put myself back together from the debris of a strange and sordid childhood. Doing so led to an interest in psychology. Most of what is in the fundamentals of instruction is psychology. At the end of the day, psychology is about people. Hey, guess what, so is aviation. At least for me it is.
I understand, for many, aviation is about a tool for transport, utility, and efficiency. Sure, and it is for me as well. However, what brought me to the table of aviation was, adventure, personal challenge, and pressing into areas that weren’t immediately comfortable. In aviation I also found something inextricably linked to what it means to be uniquely human. Still, I have more questions than answers.
Popping the Question
Some human aviators I’ve encountered have been especially unique. In fact, I have a question I ask almost every flight instructor, most pilots, and every designated examiner I encounter. I ask, “if you could offer only one piece of advice or wisdom from your aviation life, what would that be.” Some have given fantastic bits of wisdom for which I am eternally grateful. Some drew a total blank and had nothing to offer. Yet, others beat me to the punch, and answered the query even before I had an opportunity to ask.
Some of those bits of wisdom follow. Feel free to comment with your own. There’s plenty of room for more in our relatively small community of aviators.
Mad Aviation Wisdom
Don’t be in a hurry. Aviation and impatience do not mix.
Unload the wing (pertaining to belaying the stall).
Trust but verify (ATC, avionics, pilot friend).
Brief what you fly — fly what you brief.
Departure briefing (containing a visual abort point) every time!
Don’t be afraid to say no (even if they have 10 million hours).Mentors in Aviation