CFI Brief: Minimum Equipment – CFR §91.205

Tomatoflames, gooseacat, flaps, apes, grabcard, decarat… My spellcheck is going wild right now with red squiggly lines. Spellcheck settle down, I understand these are not words nor did I misspell them. The aforementioned are actually aviation mnemonics to help pilots remember the minimum instruments and equipment required for flight.




As the pilot-in-command, it will be your pre-flight responsibility to determine that the aircraft you intend to fly contains all the required instruments and equipment for the type of operation you will be conducting. Think of this as a list of stuff the airplane needs to have installed and working for the airplane to be legal to fly.

You can break the type of operation down into three main categories: visual flight rules (VFR), VFR at night, and instrument flight rules (IFR)—each containing its own list of instruments and equipment and each list building on the other. For example, if you were to conduct an IFR flight, you would require all the minimum instruments and equipment for VFR, VFR at night, and IFR. You can find this outlined in 14 CFR §91.205, available in the ASA FAR/AIM.

To help remember the minimum list of instruments and equipment for VFR day operations, I like to use the mnemonic TOMATOFLAMES.

Oil pressure
Manifold pressure
Temperature gauge (for each liquid cooled engine)
Oil temperature (for each air cooled engine)
Fuel gauge
Landing gear position indictor (for retractable gear aircraft)
Airspeed indicator
Magnetic compass

If you intend to conduct VFR flight at night you will need TOMATOFLAMES as well as remember FLAPS.

Fuses (spares) or circuit breakers
Landing light (if for hire)
Anticollision lights
Position lights
Source of electricity

Lastly, if you are an instrument-rated pilot and conducting a flight under IFR you need to have TOMATOFLAMES, FLAPS, and GRABCARD for your list of required instruments and equipment.

Attitude indicator
Adjustable altimeter
Rate of turn indicator
Directional gyro

Now remember these are just basic mnemonics to help jog your memory of what will be required. Some of the items on the above lists include additional information and it’s best to be completely familiar with 14 CFR §91.205 which describes in detail the minimum instruments and equipment for each type of operation.

You may also note some additional types of operations in 14 CFR §91.205, like flight above FL240, category II and III operations, and operations conducted using night vision goggles. These are not so important to you at this point in your training but understand that they are there.

GOOSEACAT (VFR), APES (VFR at night), and DECARAT (IFR) are also commonly used mnemonics you might hear.

To help study, write down each mnemonic vertically on a piece of paper and see if you can fill in what each and every letter stands for.

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