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The Pilot in Command and Aircraft Airworthiness

Throughout the course of private pilot training, every student learns the privileges and responsibilities of the Pilot in Command (PIC). One of the most overlooked responsibilities is requirement 91.7, which is the determination of aircraft airworthiness by the PIC. There are several components to aircraft airworthiness, such as required documents, inspections, and equipment.

The document requirements are fairly straight forward and are seldom overlooked. They include the airworthiness certificate, registration certificate, operating limitations (AFM or POH, and required placards), and weight and balance data pertinent to the specific aircraft and must be on board the aircraft. The most common violation involves someone stealing the AFM to make copies of specific pages and forgetting to return it before the next flight.

Required equipment varies on the type of operation. Section 91.205 lists certain required instruments and equipment for day and night VFR, and operation under IFR requires even more. This section is seldom violated, but remember, it is the PIC’s responsibility to ensure that the required equipment is on board and in working order. If it isn’t working, make sure it is disconnected (if it isn’t a required item), and placarded as inoperative.

From a flight school standpoint, the most common violation is flying past the 100-hour inspection. (Remember, we can go past 100 hours by 10% only to get the aircraft to a place where the inspection can be conducted.) Unlike the oil change at 50 hours, the 100-hour limitation is a solid one and should not be broken. Normally, when an aircraft nears the inspection, Sweet Aviation staff will remove the keys, so that the aircraft cannot be flown. The weekends commonly present a challenge when our staff is not around as much. We have taken steps to make it easier for renters to comply with the inspection times by publishing the times on every aircraft’s clipboard. Should you, as the PIC, notice that the 100-hour inspection is past due, it is your responsibility not to fly because the aircraft is no longer technically airworthy.

With a little knowledge, determining aircraft airworthiness is no sweat.