How to Understand, Use & Tab the FAR/AIM
I think all pilots would agree that every time they open the FAR AIM they find or learn something new. This is your book of guidelines to stay safe and legal in the world of aviation. It's important to know the regulations, but it's even more important to be able to find them. You can't memorize everything! Anytime you are not sure about a regulation, you should be able to find it to clarify.
Let’s talk about what the FAR AIM actually is - because I have never actually found a simple enough breakdown for a new or aspiring pilot… so I’ll do it!
The FAR AIM is actually two documents in one book. The FAR is the book of Federal Aviation Regulations, and the AIM is basically a textbook with further information consisting of several topics in individual chapters.
From here on out, let’s just talk about the first half of the FAR/AIM… the FARs.
Where does the FAR come from? The government has a Code of Federal Regulations covering a variety of topics such as Food and Drug, Agriculture, Education, etc. Title, or chapter, 14 is specific to Aviation. Therefore, you might hear the FAR referred to as CFR Title 14.
As a private pilot, you will mostly deal with Part 61 and Part 91. These “Parts” are sections within the FAR…. sticky note them!
Part 61 is often referred to as “how to get your license.” This is because Part 61 describes the requirements to become a private pilot, recreational pilot, commercial pilot, flight instructor, etc. Each of these has it’s own section within Part 61.
For example, to find out the requirements to become a private pilot, you’ll go to Part 61 Subpart E. Let’s go there together. If you are unsure which Subpart to find (E in this case), you’ll go to the Table of Contents that is on the first page of every part. Within Part 61 Subpart E, you’ll find the eligibility requirements, knowledge, proficiency, experience, privileges and limitations in regards to obtaining your private pilot license.
“Part 91 is “how to keep your license.” This is because Part 91 describes operating and flight rules. Let’s say we want to go fly in Day VFR and we want to find out what equipment is required. Together, lets find Part 91 in the FAR. Look through the Subparts on the first page of 91 - the Table of Contents - until you find the Subpart that covers equipment. Did you find Part 91 Subpart C? We can see that airworthiness and equipment requirements are in 91.205. Let’s flip to it! Within 91.205, we can read all of the requirements in b) Visual-flight rules (day). See how easy this is?
Now, you have a general idea of how to use the FAR. Tab anything you’ll want to find quickly.
How do you tab your FAR? First, tab the Parts you will primarily use such as Part 61, Part 91, and Part 67 (Medical Standards).
Within Part 61, I’d tab the regulations on how to earn my Private Pilot License (Subpart E), Commercial License (Subpart F), and Instrument Rating (found in 61 Subpart B for aircraft ratings).
Within Part 61, I’d also tab a variety of important information that I need to find often.
61.23 Medical certificates - find out which medical you need!
61.51 Pilot logbooks - how to log flight time!
61.57 Recent flight experience - stay current!
Within Part 67, I might simply highlight disqualifying conditions for each medical just so you are aware.
Within Part 91, I’d tab regulations that I’ll need to refer to in the future. These are just a few!
91.3 PIC’s final authority
91.17 Alcohol and drug rules
91.113 Right of way rules
91.167 Fuel reserves
91.205 Required equipment
91.215 Inoperative equipment
When you break each Part and Subpart into even smaller pieces, you’ll find it is easy to understand!
It’s worth noting that some regulations are ambiguous and therefore can have different interpretations. If there is ever a “gray area,” you should always err on the side of caution. Some regulations also have Advisory Circulars (ACs) - additional documents that go further in depth.
Homework! Ask your instructor to walk you through the FARs so you get to practice finding specific regulations, and ask for more information on ACs and how to find the most current AC for the topics in question.