When we consider the preflight inspection, we naturally think of the physical walk-around when we evaluate the aircraft’s physical condition. While the time-honored tradition of the walk-around is vitally important so is the preflight inside the cabin making sure the required documents are on board. These include the airworthiness certificate, registration, operating limitations, and weight and balance information. The airworthiness certificate is required to be displayed in the airplane, so be sure it’s showing and that the aircraft information is accurate including the tail number.
A standard airworthiness certificate remains valid as long as the aircraft meets its approved type design and is in a condition for safe operation. Maintenance, preventative maintenance, and alterations to the aircraft also must be performed in accordance with regulations for the airworthiness certificate to be valid.
The airworthiness certificate is transferable if the aircraft is sold, but, as the owner, you must first register the aircraft. Aircraft registrations are now valid for seven years. Prior to 2023, there was a three-year limit for registrations. All aircraft with a valid registration as of January 23, 2023 are extended to the new seven-year period regardless of what the registration certificate shows. Just remember “January 23 – 23.”
Expired registrations will need to be renewed.
The operating limitations may be found in the airplane flight manual and placards.
What happens if during your preflight inspection, you determine the aircraft does not meet airworthiness requirements? Aside from having an item repaired or some other issue rectified prior to flight, the option exists to obtain a special flight permit, also known as a ferry permit.
The ferry permit is a special airworthiness certificate issued by the FAA authorizing the operation of an aircraft that does not meet airworthiness requirements, but is safe for a specific flight for a specific mission such as flying the aircraft to where repairs can be made. Ferry permits are typically issued for a limited period and may contain other limitations such as no passengers. An operator seeking a ferry permit should contact their local FAA office for guidance.
INOPERATIVE INSTRUMENTS OR EQUIPMENT
It may be possible to operate an aircraft with a piece of equipment not working without having to obtain a ferry permit if it falls within the scope of § 91.213 or the aircraft is operating with a Minimum Equipment List.
§ 91.213 allows certain Part 91 operators to fly an aircraft with inoperative instruments or equipment even though it’s generally required that all equipment installed on the aircraft be in working order at the time of flight. This relief is limited to aircraft operating under Part 91 in a non-turbine powered, small airplane. A small airplane is defined as one that is has a maximum certified takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds or less.
But there are additional limitations.
The inoperative instruments and equipment cannot be part of the VFR-day type certification requirements or indicated as required on the aircraft’s Equipment List or the aircraft’s Kinds of Operations Equipment List for the type of flight being conducted.
The equipment also cannot be required by § 91.205 which describes the bare minimum for airworthiness, or any other rule of Part 91. The inoperative components also cannot be required by an airworthiness directive.
The aircraft’s equipment list or kinds of operations equipment list can be found in the POH.
Finally, a pilot or certified mechanic must determine that the inoperative instrument or equipment does not compromise safety of flight.
If it’s determined the flight can be conducted safely under the guidance of § 91.213, the inoperative instruments and equipment must be removed from the aircraft, the cockpit control placarded, and the maintenance recorded. Alternatively, the equipment can be deactivated and placarded inoperative. If deactivation of the inoperative instrument or equipment involves maintenance, it must be recorded in the aircraft maintenance records.
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