Regulations: Required Documents

The success of a flight depends largely on thorough preparation. In the course of your training, a pattern of regular preflight actions should be developed to ensure that this is the case. This includes planning a flight, and checking the airplane. These preflight actions must be based on the checks found in the pilot’s operation handbook (POH), manufacturer’s information manual, or the FAA-approved airplane flight manual (AFM) for your airplane. Today we’ll go over the documentation you’ll complete as part of your preflight and what’s required to be with you and in the airplane. This post is excerpted from The Pilot’s Manual: Flight School, the first textbook in our core-curriculum series for student pilots.

Typical information manuals.

Typical information manuals.

It’s a pilot’s responsibility to check certain documents prior to flight to ensure the airplane is airworthy. You should know the significance of each document, and know where to locate them in the cockpit or at the flight school. The documents important to the individual pilot are:

  • maintenance records (check every flight);
  • the POH with aircraft limitations and placards (should always be in the airplane);
  • aircraft weight and balance data, and equipment list (check the POH or flight manual);
  • the Certificate of Airworthiness (must always be in the airplane), which shows that the airplane has met certain FAA safety requirements, and remains in effect in required inspections and maintenance has been performed; and
  • the Certificate of Registration (must be in the airplane), containing airplane and owner information—a new owner requires a new Certificate of Registration.

An easy way to remember the required documents is with the mnemonic MAROW:

M Maintenance records.
A Airworthiness certificate.
R Registration certificate.
O Operating limiations (shown in the POH, color-coding on instruments, and cockpit decals).
W Weight and balance. This is included in the POH or FAA-approved AFM, and sometimes found folded and stapled in the glove box or a seat pocket; weight and balance paperwork needs to be available on board the aircraft, but on many flights need not be filled in. An equipment list should always be on board, and this is often found with the weight and balance information.

The maintenance records should be checked prior to each flight, and any maintenance that you think is required should be specified after flight. Sometimes there will be no formal written maintenance release; however, do not accept responsibility for the airplane if it has defects that may make it unacceptable for flight.

If in any doubt, discuss the matter with your flight instructor or with an aircraft mechanic. There are some simple maintenance actions that may be performed by a qualified pilot, such as topping the oil, but certainly not anything that might affect the airworthiness of the airplane, such as the flight controls. Aircraft and engine logbooks should be available, but are not required to be on board.

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