Allow myself to introduce…myself…again? My name is Chris. This is my standard disclaimer; if you’ve read any of my previous articles, skip to paragraph 2. I’m not a writer, just a longtime fan of aviation; I am a retired military pilot, a major airline pilot, a chief pilot at a Part 141 flight school, and an FAA designated pilot examiner. I have a few hobbies too: I run an aircraft MX shop, I am a General Contractor, and am starting a MX school for military aircraft maintainers. Who knew that 24 years of 12-14-hour days would become addictive? I am the product of a public high school in a third-world country in a foreign language, so my grammar and spelling are terrible. The opinions that follow are mine alone. In the capacity of free-lance writer, I do not represent anyone other than myself.
I’ll try to be PC, but if I hurt your feelings, I’m sorry you have a weak constitution. Lastly: rules change frequently; So, any article that I write has a limited shelf-life. Always consult with professional service providers or the FAA before spending any money! This is just another of several articles (still TBD how many) that apply to all (US-citizen) pilots. If you are a foreign exchange pilot currently in the US, there are other rules for you. I don’t plan to write about those rules, so send me an email if you have questions. I’ll focus on things we (US military pilots) probably should have been taught at pilot training: it is never too late to learn. I am living proof that anyone can learn to spell FAR/AIM (in English)!
Part of any pilot’s training should include an education in where to look for the” right answer.” Thank God for search engines! In this article, I am going to start to pick apart FARs so you: 1) understand the labeling of FARs, 2) where to look for specific rules, 3) are a little more prepared should an FAR question come up in a technical interview. Before I begin in earnest, and in all fairness to me, I am blaming this series on the guy who asked me to write it. You know who you are! I know this is going to be boring, but it is important that you know a little bit about as much as possible when you transition to non-military flying. For those of you already flying in the GA or commercial communities, I bet you can learn something too. I am not going to delve down all the way to legal interpretations, but instead just identify how the FARs are labeled and where certain data comes from…so, standby while I go get some aspirin! If you are prone to headaches, skip this entire series!
As I explained a few articles ago, the FAA is governed by Coded Federal Regulations (CFRs). Specifically, the FAA falls under Title 14 of the CFRs (Aeronautics and Space), Chapter 1 (Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Transportation), subchapters A-N, parts 1-199. To confuse things, the FAA refers to Parts in isolation from the subchapters from which they come. The good news is: there is NO overlap or reuse of a Part number, meaning since Part 1 falls under subchapter A, there is no Part 1 under subchapter B. When referencing an FAA regulation (for example non-university-level flight training), typically folks just say, “Part 61,” or write “§§61.” What that really means is, 14 CFR Chapter 1, subchapter D (Airmen), Part 61. For example, PART 61 – CERTIFICATION: PILOTS, FLIGHT INSTRUCTORS, AND GROUND INSTRUCTORS. But, because there is no overlap of “Part 61” in any other subchapter, it is perfectly OK to abbreviate all the way down to the Part 61 since you can’t possibly get confused as to which chapter, subchapter or Part is being covered.
All FARs are covered in 14 CFR Chapter 1, which has 14 subchapters: A-N. Subchapter A only has 3 Parts (1, 3, and 5). There are also other rules the FAA lives by, but we’ll cover those some other time.
So…14 CFR Chapter 1, subpart A, Part 1 is called: Definitions and Requirements. It only has 3 subparts: 1-3 (also written as §§1.1- 1.3). Part 1 covers General Definitions; Symbols and Abbreviations; Rules of Construction (that means it defines singular, plural, and (yes) gender specificity). Have you ever wondered how the FAA defines specific words like “amateur rocket?” Look no further! This chapter defines all words that need to be defined in all subchapters (A-K). In this chapter, you can even find the definition of “shall,” “may (and may not),” “including,” etc. In a previous paper, I explained how FAA sub-chapters are listed as A-N, but above I said definitions only cover A-K. Well, subchapters L and M are reserved (currently blank), and subchapter N covers aviation insurance needs. Sub-chapter N is actually called War Risk Insurance.
14 CFR Chapter 1 subchapter B covers rulemaking procedures, investigations and enforcement, and other “administrative functions” that the FAA is responsible for. Subchapter C covers aircraft, airworthiness standards for aircraft and aircraft parts, registration requirements, airworthiness directives, aircraft titles, and other legal certification and ownership “stuff” that the FAA oversees. Cornell Law School has an easy to use break down of which FAR covers what topic at: https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/14/chapter-I. If you want legal interpretations of what a rule means, you can play around on this website and find some legal interpretations.
Conveniently for me, there is no Part 2 or 4! In fact, out of the 199 Parts, the FAA has reserved many for future use. Part 3 looks intimidating because it looks like it has 205 paragraphs (§§3.1 – §§3.205). In fact, there are only 4 (§§3.1, §§3.5, §§3.200, and §§3.205). Part 3 or (§§3) has 2 sub-parts…A and B. §§3A covers general requirements for Type Certificated Products or Products, Parts, Appliances, or Materials that may be used on Certificated Airplanes. Ever wonder why a 12- year-old Garmin 430W still costs S10K (other than ADS-B driven-demand) …look in here. Some of the requirements the FAA levies on manufacturers drive up costs significantly. Want the definition of “Airworthy?” It’s also in here! Part 3B defines the interaction between the FAA and the TSA when dealing with potential security threats. Part 5 covers Safety Management Systems: that’s all I’m gonna say about that. I told you this would be boring! Most of the “stuff” that most pilots (should) care about is in subchapters D, G, and H. so this is where we’ll focus some time for the next few articles.
Subchapter D is labeled Airmen and it covers the certification of all Airmen (not just pilots). Air traffic controllers, mechanics, and flight engineers are all examples of Airmen that earn and maintain a certification. Subchapter D contains Parts 60, 61, 63, 65, 67, and 68. No, sorry…no Part 69.
As noted above, §§61 covers the certification of pilots and is broken down into subparts A-K: each subpart deals with a specific topic or rating under the title, “Certification of Pilots, Flight Instructors, and Ground Instructors.” For example, subpart B is titled, “Aircraft Ratings and Pilot Authorizations.” It is in this subchapter that you would find military competency requirements (§§61.73, Military Pilots, or Former Military Pilots Special Rules). If you want to know what the requirements are to add a Private Pilot Rating in an Airplane, Single Engine Land to your ATP-level AMEL, you would find it in Part 61. Want to add a Sea Plane rating? It’s in here too. One of the biggest knowledge voids for most pilots is Part 61. Military pilots were never really required to learn about Part 61. Most GA pilots relied on their instructors, who in-turn relied on Chief Pilots or DPEs to ensure minimal compliance for a checkride.
To add some confusion, the FAA also publishes Advisory Circulars (AC’s) that Airmen must comply with. Must might not be the right word…for those of you that are Captain Jack Sparrow fans, some AC’s are like “the pirate code” (a loose set of guidelines). Since it is hard to determine which Advisory Circular is actually only advisory versus regulatory in nature, I treat them all like they are law. AC’s typically contain data that changes periodically, has not been codified into FAR yet, or is not regulatory. An example of an AC that gets rewritten periodically is AC 61-65(H). This covers endorsements that instructors MUST document in your (and sometimes their) logbook. The good news is that §§61 deals with certificating Airmen, an AC that starts with 61 also deals with certificating Airmen. You can find a complete listing of Advisory Circulars at www.FAA.gov.
Since I am out of bandwidth for writing about FARs, I am going to quit now. Next time I’ll briefly cover Part 141, and Part 142 and the difference between training under Part 61, Part 141, and Part 142. As always, if you have any FAA or FAA Safety Team (FAAST) questions, CFI questions, MILCOMP questions, or DPE questions…send it!