Rules & Regulations


  • There is a saying that the Federal Aviation Regulations are written in blood
  • What it means, is the information contained is there because someone before you has done something which created an unsafe situation that probably resulted in loss of life
  • While difficult to read, and often uninteresting, these regulations are the rules of the sky designed to keep you and other pilots safe
  • Ultimately it creates a known point from which all procedures can then deviate from

Rule Making:

  • The FAA's Office of Rulemaking provides general rule information on published regulatory documents
  • The public is welcome to participate in rulemaking by sending comments and petitions for exemptions
  • The rulemaking committees provide advice and recommendations for aviation-related issues, aging system reviews, and terminal area operations
  • Information such as notices of proposed rulemaking are available at:

Rules and Regulations for Pilots:

Rules and Regulations for Operations:

  • In order to discuss aircraft rules and regulations, their hierarchy must be understood
  • Beyond a pilot's responsibility, aircraft must be maintained in accordance with the operation they are flown
  • Starting with determining airworthiness, aircraft must also follow appropriate Visual Flight Rules or Instrument Flight Rules
  • If the aircraft is to be operated for commercial purposes, pilots must also understand the concept of Carriage

Word Usage

  • The concept of word usage and intended meaning as used in most regulations, as well as this website are:
    • "Shall" or "must" means an action/procedure is mandatory
    • "Shall not" or "must not" means an action/procedure is prohibited
    • "Should" is used when application is recommended
    • The FAA uses the term "may" denotes items that are recommended but not required
    • The FAA uses the terms "will" and "must" to convey directive (mandatory) information

Compliance Enforcement:

  • Ramp Inspections/Checks:

    • A ramp inspection, sometimes referred to as a "ramp check," is defined as surveillance of an airman, operator, or air agency during actual operations at an airport or heliport
      • Its how the FAA ensures regulatory and safety compliance
    • Common Reasons for a Ramp Inspection:
      1. Observes an unsafe operation in the traffic pattern or in the ramp
      2. Receives notification from air traffic control (ATC) of an unsafe operation
      3. Observes obvious discrepancies that may affect the airworthiness of the aircraft
      4. Conducts routine surveillance activities
      5. Receives a task from the current edition of FAA Order 1800.56, National Flight Standards Work Program Guidelines
    • The inspector is looking at pilot records and the airworthiness of the aircraft
      • Of note, per FAR 61.51, "persons must present their pilot certificate, medical certificate, logbook, or any other record required by this part for inspection upon a reasonable request by:"
        • The Administrator;
        • An authorized representative from the National Transportation Safety Board; or
        • Any Federal, State, or local law enforcement officer
    • The FAA will also likely check the airworthiness of the aircraft to be flown, or just flown
    • Guidance can be found at: or by visiting and scrolling to Volume 6, Chapter 2, Section 4
    • The AOPA publishes a list of Do's and Dont's to help inform pilots of their rights during a ramp check
  • Other Required Documents:

    • A student pilot must carry the following items in the aircraft on all solo cross-country flights as evidence of the required authorized instructor clearances and endorsements:
      • Pilot logbook;
      • Student pilot certificate; and
      • Any other record required by FAR Part 61
    • A sport pilot must carry his or her logbook or other evidence of required authorized instructor endorsements on all flights
    • A recreational pilot must carry his or her logbook with the required authorized instructor endorsements on all solo flights:
      • That exceed 50 nautical miles from the airport at which training was received;
      • Within airspace that requires communication with air traffic control;
      • Conducted between sunset and sunrise; or
      • In an aircraft for which the pilot does not hold an appropriate category or class rating
    • A flight instructor with a sport pilot rating must carry his or her logbook or other evidence of required authorized instructor endorsements on all flights when providing flight training

Aircraft Maintenance:

  • Preventative maintenance
  • Engine Maintenance:

    • Terms: new, rebuilt, or overhauled
      • New is brand-new from the factory
      • Rebuilt means the manufacturer compiled good parts to build an engine, but part history may be limited as salvaged parts come from a bin (scrapped engines have logbooks destroyed; reclaimed parts have no logs)
      • Overhauls are the replacement of inadequate parts, good parts remain, but all changes are known and logged. Maintainers have some options:
        • Top Overhaul: pistons, cams, etc.
        • Patch Overhaul: patch issues
        • Do nothing if engine condition is acceptable
    • Time Between Overhaul (TBO) is typically between 1000 and 2000 hours
    • The more extreme the flight characteristics, the lower the TBO
    • Calendar year requirement also accompanies an hour requirement under specified conditions
    • TBO is mandatory for Part 119, 121, 125, 129, and 135. Not so for Part 91
    • Consider environment, accessories condition, performance degredations
  • Engine Maintenance Best Practices:

    • Operate the engine regularly
    • Maintain logbook
    • Manufacturer recommendations followed
    • Maintain accessories

Additional Rules & Regulations:

Aircraft Owner/Operator:

Requests for Waivers and Authorizations:

  • Requests for a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (FAA Form 7711-2), or requests for renewal of a waiver or authorization, may be accepted by any FAA facility and will be forwarded, if necessary, to the appropriate office having waiver authority
  • The grant of a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization from 14 CFR constitutes relief from specific regulations, to the degree and for the period of time specified in the certificate, and does not waive any state law or local ordinance. Should the proposed operations conflict with any state law or local ordinance, or require permission of local authorities or property owners, it is the applicant's responsibility to resolve the matter. The holder of a waiver is responsible for compliance with the terms of the waiver and its provisions
  • A waiver may be canceled at any time by the Administrator, the person authorized to grant the waiver, or the representative designated to monitor a specific operation. In such case either written notice of cancellation, or written confirmation of a verbal cancellation will be provided to the holder


  • Rules are written in blood and the FAA's mission is to keep air travel safe
    • Don't be afraid to be a part of this effort and if the FAA calls, it may be an opportunity, not a danger
  • While rules and regulations can usually be traced back to a specific event, they're not in place to punish
    • The FAA utilizes compliance philosophy with which to educate when reasonable
      • This includes after an accident or incident occurs, or when a negative trend is discovered in those evaluated by a particular examiner
    • This may result in solicit for a "709 ride," with which the FAA has broad authority to institute
  • 14 CFR Part 13 governs FAA investigations and enforcement actions
  • Most everything can be waived
    • Part 91 waivers are goverend by Advisory Circular 91-72, Waivers of Provisions of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 91
  • The FAA often responds to public requests for legal interpretation, which can be found Society of Aviation and Flight Educators, FAA Legal Interpretations 'Starter Kit page
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