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Airworthiness (Private Pilot)

The pilot in command (PIC) is response for making sure the aircraft is airworthy and safe to fly. If for any reason during the preflight inspection, PIC finds either a mechanical, electrical or a structural defect, the aircraft is not airworthy.

The most common questioned asked during a checkride by the designated pilot examiner (DPE) is, "Is the airplane for this checkride airworthy?"

Aircraft Documents:


All aircraft must have all plague cards and data plates. They provide information for the safe operation of aircraft.

Placards allow pilots to fly and operate the aircraft safely even though curtain instruments and equipment are inoperative. The instruments or equipment must be deactivated and have a placard stating “Inoperative or INOP”.

The information on placards are either reproduced in the limitations section or, directed by an Airworthiness Directive (AD).


Compass Deviation Card

Compass Card is a type of placard for that instrument. It must be legible and be located on or near the magnetic compass.


ARROW Acronym

This acronym will help you remember the documents required for the airplane to be airworthy.

The first one is ARROW, this document's must be with the airplane and you should be able to locate them.

           A - Airworthiness certificate
           R – Registration
           R - Radio certificate (used for international flights)
           O - Operators manual (different from POH)
           W - Weight & Balance (specific to that airplane)

  • Airworthiness Certification

    • Does not expire as long as all maintenance and inspection are current and up to date.

    • Must be in view for all passengers and air crew.

  • Registration

    • Owner of the aircraft

    • Valid for three years.

  • Radio Certificate

    • International flight’s only i.e. Mexico or Canada

    • Issued by the FCC

  • Operators manual

    • Must be with the aircraft at all times.

  • Weight & Balance

    • Must be current for that particular aircraft.


Aircraft Inspection:

AV1ATE Acronym
Another acronym is AV1ATE. These inspections are required and must be current and up to date to make the airplane airworthy.

           A –Annual Inspection
           V - VOR
           1 – 100 Hour Inspection
           A - Altimeter & Pitot Static
           T - Transponder
           E - ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter)

  • Annual Inspection

    • Required every 12 calendar months for all aircraft.

      • Includes: Airframe, Engine, and Propeller.

    • Must, be signed off by an FAA certified mechanic.

  • VOR Inspection

    • IFR only

    • Every 30 days for IFR flight.

  • 100 Hour Inspections

    • Required for all aircraft that are for hire.

    • Every 100 hours of Tach Time.

      • Maybe flown 10 hours over the 100 hours, if the aircraft is in transit for the 100-hour inspection.

    • Must, be signed off by an FAA certified mechanic.

  • Altimeter & Pitot Static

    • Required every 24 calendar months.

  • Transponder

    • Required every 24 calendar months.

      • Common squawk codes:

        • 1200 – VFR

        • 7500 – Hijacking

        • 7600 – Lost Communication (radio failure)

        • 7700 – General Emergency

  • ELT and Battery (Emergency Locator Transmitter)

    • Functional check due every 12 calendar months.

    • Battery must be changed, when the ELT has been in use for more than 1 cumulative hour -OR- when ELT battery life is 50% or lower


Be sure you can locate these inspections in the airplanes maintenance logbooks.

Airworthiness Directives (AD):

Airworthiness Directives are like recalls for automobiles but for aircraft. If an unsafe condition is found that requires immediate corrective action, the FAA will release an AD.

Airworthiness Directives are broken up in to two categories:

  • Emergency – requiring immediate compliance.

  • Urgent – requiring compliance within a period of time.

The aircraft owner is required by FAR 91.417 to keep a record of all AD’s and there current status. Including the method of compliance, AD number and any revision dates, next due date, and mechanic that performed the work. These records are to be kept in the back of the maintenance logbooks of either the aircraft, engine, or propeller.


Preventive Maintenance:

FAR Part 43.7 states that any pilot that holds at least a Private Pilot certificate may perform preventive maintenance.

Preventive maintenance is any maintenance that is not to complex, such as:

  • Removal/Installation landing tires.

  • Oil & oil filter changes

  • Replace small hardware (cotter keys, safety wire, and lightbulbs)

  • Replenishing fluids (oil, hydraulic)

For a more complete list of preventive maintenance items a pilot can perform:

All pilots that perform preventive maintenance is required to make an entry in the aircraft maintenance logbook. The required entry must include:

  • Description of work i.e. “oil and oil filter change at 1,234 hours with (Shell Aero- Oil)

  • Date when the work was performed.

  • Pilots name, signature, pilot certificate number, and type of certificate.


Modifications& Alterations:

If any modifications made to an aircraft by an FAA, certified Airframe and Power Plant (A&P) mechanic holding an Inspection Authorized (IA) certificate must be submitted using the FAA Form 337.


Minimum Equipment List (MEL)

A Minimum Equipment List (MEL) is a list that probable most GA pilots will not see until they get into commercial, and Air Transport Pilot (ATP) certificates flying large and more advanced aircraft.

MEL’s are mostly found in aircraft operating under Part 121 and Part 135, along with military aircraft. There are aircraft operating under Part 91 that have MELs, but very rear to see.

An MEL contains a list of equipment and instruments that may be inoperative on a particular make and model aircraft, by serial and registration numbers. It permits safe operation of the aircraft under specified conditions. Basically, an MEL allows pilots to legally fly an aircraft safely even though an item/s are inoperative.

MEL’s are FAA approved and must be stamped or marked by the FAA.

If an aircraft has an MEL, that is the first thing the pilot should look at if something is broken. It is a good idea to call an FAA Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) aircraft mechanic for further assistance.


A complete list of FAA current MMELs for all aircraft types (commercial and GA) can be found online


Private Pilot ACS PA.I.B.K1 - PA.I.B.K3d

FAR 45.13(a)

FAR 91.213

FAR 43.7

PHAK FAA-H-8083-25 (CH.9)

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