Students are taught the mnemonic ARROW—Airworthiness Certificate, Registration, Radio License, Operating Limitations, Weight and Balance for remembering the required documents. This article discusses the regulations behind the mnemonic and expands a bit on what is meant.
Airworthiness Certificate and Registration
These are fairly straightforward. Every aircraft has an airworthiness certificate issued by the manufacturer and must have a current FAA registration. Information on registrations can be found at this FAA web site.
14 CFR § 91.203 Civil aircraft: Certifications required.
(a) Except as provided in §91.715, no person may operate a civil aircraft unless it has within it the following:
(1) An appropriate and current airworthiness certificate. Each U.S. airworthiness certificate used to comply with this subparagraph (except a special flight permit, a copy of the applicable operations specifications issued under §21.197(c) of this chapter, appropriate sections of the air carrier manual required by parts 121 and 135 of this chapter containing that portion of the operations specifications issued under §21.197(c), or an authorization under §91.611) must have on it the registration number assigned to the aircraft under part 47 of this chapter. However, the airworthiness certificate need not have on it an assigned special identification number before 10 days after that number is first affixed to the aircraft. A revised airworthiness certificate having on it an assigned special identification number, that has been affixed to an aircraft, may only be obtained upon application to an FAA Flight Standards district office.
(2) An effective U.S. registration certificate issued to its owner or, for operation within the United States, the second duplicate copy (pink) of the Aircraft Registration Application as provided for in §47.31(b), or a registration certificate issued under the laws of a foreign country.
(b) No person may operate a civil aircraft unless the airworthiness certificate required by paragraph (a) of this section or a special flight authorization issued under §91.715 is displayed at the cabin or cockpit entrance so that it is legible to passengers or crew.
(c) No person may operate an aircraft with a fuel tank installed within the passenger compartment or a baggage compartment unless the installation was accomplished pursuant to part 43 of this chapter, and a copy of FAA Form 337 authorizing that installation is on board the aircraft.
(d) No person may operate a civil airplane (domestic or foreign) into or out of an airport in the United States unless it complies with the fuel venting and exhaust emissions requirements of part 34 of this chapter.
On October 25, 1996, the FCC released a Report and Order in WT Docket No. 96-82 (text) eliminating the individual licensing requirement for all aircraft, including scheduled air carriers, air taxis and general aviation aircraft operating domestically. This means that you do not need a license to operate a two-way VHF radio, radar, or emergency locator transmitter (ELT) aboard aircraft operating domestically. All other aircraft radio stations must be licensed by the FCC either individually or by fleet.
Aircraft operating domestically do not land in a foreign country or communicate via radio with foreign ground stations. Flying in international or foreign airspace is permitted, so long as the previous conditions are met. If you travel to a foreign destination, however, (e.g., Canada, Mexico, Bahamas, British Virgin Islands) a license is required.
Licenses can be obtained on-line from this FCC web site. A license is required for the aircraft and each operator. Form 605 is used for both and can be filled out on-line. For the Aircraft Radio Station License, use radio service code “AC”, and for the Restricted Radio Operator’s Permit, use “RR”.
An FAA approved Flight Manual (AFM) is required to be in the aircraft for all aircraft over 6,000 lbs and for aircraft manufactured after March 1, 1979. In addition, the Type Certificate Data Sheet (TCDS) specifies placards and markings that are required. These placards may include, aircraft category, whether aerobatics or spins are approved, airspeed limitations for flaps and gear, and takeoff and landing checklists. Additional placards may be required by Airworthiness Directives for specific aircraft. One example is AD 79-15-01, requiring a placard next to the fuel gauges detailing the steps required to handle a fuel vapor lock. Some Supplemental Type Certificates (STCs) require additions to the AFM and must be kept in the aircraft. The operating manuals for GPSs, autopilots, and engines usually have this requirement. STCs for things that don’t have an operating component, like exhaust systems or mirrors, do not usually require changes to the AFM.
14 CFR § 91.9 Civil aircraft flight manual, marking, and placard requirements.
(a) Except as provided in paragraph (d) of this section, no person may operate a civil aircraft without complying with the operating limitations specified in the approved Airplane or Rotorcraft Flight Manual, markings, and placards, or as otherwise prescribed by the certificating authority of the country of registry.
(b) No person may operate a U.S.-registered civil aircraft—
(1) For which an Airplane or Rotorcraft Flight Manual is required by §21.5 of this chapter unless there is available in the aircraft a current, approved Airplane or Rotorcraft Flight Manual or the manual provided for in §121.141(b); and
(2) For which an Airplane or Rotorcraft Flight Manual is not required by §21.5 of this chapter[First flight prior to March 1, 1979], unless there is available in the aircraft a current approved Airplane or Rotorcraft Flight Manual, approved manual material, markings, and placards, or any combination thereof.
(c) No person may operate a U.S.-registered civil aircraft unless that aircraft is identified in accordance with part 45 of this chapter.
(d) Any person taking off or landing a helicopter certificated under part 29 of this chapter at a heliport constructed over water may make such momentary flight as is necessary for takeoff or landing through the prohibited range of the limiting height-speed envelope established for the helicopter if that flight through the prohibited range takes place over water on which a safe ditching can be accomplished and if the helicopter is amphibious or is equipped with floats or other emergency flotation gear adequate to accomplish a safe emergency ditching on open water.
1 CFR § 21.5 Airplane or Rotorcraft Flight Manual.
(a) With each airplane or rotorcraft that was not type certificated with an Airplane or Rotorcraft Flight Manual and that has had no flight time prior to March 1, 1979, the holder of a Type Certificate (including a Supplemental Type Certificate) or the licensee of a Type Certificate shall make available to the owner at the time of delivery of the aircraft a current approved Airplane or Rotorcraft Flight Manual.
(b) The Airplane or Rotorcraft Flight Manual required by paragraph (a) of this section must contain the following information:
(1) The operating limitations and information required to be furnished in an Airplane or Rotorcraft Flight Manual or in manual material, markings, and placards, by the applicable regulations under which the airplane or rotorcraft was type certificated.
(2) The maximum ambient atmospheric temperature for which engine cooling was demonstrated must be stated in the performance information section of the Flight Manual, if the applicable regulations under which the aircraft was type certificated do not require ambient temperature on engine cooling operating limitations in the Flight Manual.
14 CFR § 121.141 Airplane flight manual.
(a) Each certificate holder shall keep a current approved airplane flight manual for each type of airplane that it operates except for nontransport category airplanes certificated before January 1, 1965.
(b) In each airplane required to have an airplane flight manual in paragraph (a) of this section, the certificate holder shall carry either the manual required by §121.133, if it contains the information required for the applicable flight manual and this information is clearly identified as flight manual requirements, or an approved Airplane Manual. If the certificate holder elects to carry the manual required by §121.133, the certificate holder may revise the operating procedures sections and modify the presentation of performance data from the applicable flight manual if the revised operating procedures and modified performance date presentation are—
(1) Approved by the Administrator; and
(2) Clearly identified as airplane flight manual requirements.
Weight and Balance
Every textbook I checked says that a document showing the current weight and balance is required to be in the aircraft. None of them cite a source for the requirement. The FARs do not specifically state “a weight and balance report is required to be in the aircraft”. There are two cases where the regulations do require a Weight and Balance in the aircraft. First, if it is specified in the TCDS and second if the aircraft was manufactured after March 1, 1979 and therefore requires an AFM.
The aircraft I fly do not require a weight and balance in the TCDS. The TCDS may contain language like:
If an AFM is required, then the following section requires that weight and balance information be included in the AFM.
14 CFR § 25.1583 Operating limitations.
(c) Weight and loading distribution. The weight and center of gravity limitations established under §25.1519 must be furnished in the Airplane Flight Manual. All of the following information, including the weight distribution limitations established under §25.1519, must be presented either in the Airplane Flight Manual or in a separate weight and balance control and loading document that is incorporated by reference in the Airplane Flight Manual:
(1) The condition of the airplane and the items included in the empty weight as defined in accordance with §25.29.
(2) Loading instructions necessary to ensure loading of the airplane within the weight and center of gravity limits, and to maintain the loading within these limits in flight.
(3) If certification for more than one center of gravity range is requested, the appropriate limitations, with regard to weight and loading procedures, for each separate center of gravity range.
This article makes the case that the weight and balance is required by 14 CFR § 91.103 Preflight action. (2) For civil aircraft other than those specified in paragraph (b)(1) [Not requiring an AFM] of this section, other reliable information appropriate to the aircraft, relating to aircraft performance under expected values of airport elevation and runway slope, aircraft gross weight, and wind and temperature.
It seems a bit of a stretch to say that the weight and balance would be required in the aircraft, since the relevant information could be programmed into your GPS or PDA. However, during a ramp check it would be difficult to demonstrate that you were in compliance if you did not have the weight and balance in the aircraft.