CFI Brief: Airplane Flight Manual (AFM)

In today’s post, we are going to discuss the Airplane Flight Manual (AFM). The AFM is a document that is developed by your airplane’s manufacturer containing specific information in regards to operating instructions of the aircraft. These manuals are specific to an aircraft’s serial number and are approved by the FAA. This manual must be carried on board the aircraft to maintain compliance with federal regulations outlined in FAR Part 91. Within the manual is where you can find specific operating limitations, weight and balance information, and equipment list all of which are required documents to have on board (we learned this in Monday’s post on MAROW).

Information contained within the AFM is presented in a standardized format as seen in the table below:


  1. General—you’ll find basic descriptive information on the airframe and powerplant. Serves as a quick reference to become familiar with the aircraft.
  2. Limitations—contains regulatory limitations or those necessary for the safe operation of the aircraft and all of its components.
  3. Emergency Procedures—here you’ll find checklists with recommended procedures for dealing with an emergency. You may also see an additional section of checklists dealing with abnormal procedures.
  4. Normal Procedures—a complete listing of airspeeds for normal operations will be listed at the beginning of this section. Following airspeeds will be a series of checklists also for normal operations like preflight inspection, before-takeoff check, climb, cruise, descent, etc.
  5. Performance—contains all regulatory and compliance information in relation to aircraft performance as required by the aircraft’s certification. You’ll find performance charts and tables depicting things like takeoff distance, landing distance, cruise performance, and stall speeds in various configurations to name just a few.
  6. W&B and Equipment List—contains all information deemed necessary to calculate aircraft weight and balance. Also in this section you’ll find a complete list of the equipment installed in the aircraft.
  7. System Description—an outline and description of each system on the aircraft.
  8. Handling, Service, and Maintenance—a description of maintenance and inspections as recommended by the manufacturer. You will also find information on preventative maintenance that may be accomplished by certificated pilots.
  9. Supplements—within this section you’ll find a listing of optional equipment installed that was not provided with the standard aircraft. You will also find information necessary to safely operate the aircraft with any optional equipment or systems installed.

It’s important to not get the AFM confused with an aircraft owner manual or information manual which may look  very similar in appearance to the AFM. Those documents, however, contains general information about the make and model of the aircraft and are not specific to the aircraft’s serial number and, furthermore, not approved by the FAA. You can best use these manuals to glean overall information about the make and model of aircraft you will be flying.

Next time you’re in the aircraft, pull out the AFM and take a look through. See if any additional equipment has been installed, or try to find information that’s unique to your specific aircraft.

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