Are *You* Ready For Flight? CFR 91.103

Sorry, I know an article on the FAA regs can be *quick death* in a popularity contest but please stay with me, I’ll keep this brief and provide good reasons to pay attention. For professionals in aviation this one simple legal requirement is both infamous (but as I hope to show) essential.

CFR 91.103 is the much maligned “all available information” reg we all laugh at initially. No one has “all available information” almost by definition so most people chuckle and immediately move on. But if you read this reg. more carefully, it provides really great guidance. It is the one reg. I insist all my students know from day one for basic safety.

91.103   Preflight action.
Each pilot in command shall, before beginning a flight, become familiar with all available information concerning that flight. This information must include—
(a) For a flight under IFR or a flight not in the vicinity of an airport, weather reports and forecasts, fuel requirements, alternatives available if the planned flight cannot be completed, and any known traffic delays of which the pilot in command has been advised by ATC;
(b) For any flight, runway lengths at airports of intended use, and the following takeoff and landing distance information:

Please look at (b) first: every flight requires basic performance data, your take-off and landing distances and the length of the runway. Why? Because this is probably one of the most popular ways to hurt yourself in an aircraft! Complacency develops pretty quickly because it “always works” and aircraft are well designed to take offs by themselves (if everything goes right) As a result this phase of flight is statistically the most toxic! On flight tests if an applicant does not know the length of the runway or take-off data this is a non-starter! As professional CFIs we must embed respect for both gathering essential performance data and maintaining an attitude of “ready for anything” on each and every take off. This has to start with lesson #1 and continue on every future operation.

The other part (a) above “flight not in the vicinity of an airport” requires that if we are leaving the pattern, we need to gather information on weather, fuel, delays and alternates. Again, anyone familiar with aviation safety can recognize these requirements as the most popular ways to end up in a cornfield instead of a runway. Surprise weather enroute (unplanned IFR) is equally toxic to both VFR and IFR pilots if they do not expect it. Checking weather and fuel are essential (and legally required) if you are leaving the pattern again because they are the common “killers.”

At our flying club the bottom of the dispatch sheet has a “fill in the blank” for all these 91.103 requirements and a PIC sign-off (just like the military). You check and accept the aircraft as inspected and verify current flight conditions as well as personal readiness. A little awareness before committing to the skies goes a long way toward improving safety!

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About the author

David St. George

David St. George is an FAA DPE (Sport to Multi ATP) and a Part 135 charter pilot flying the Pilatus PC-12 in the NYC area. He recently renewed his Master Instructor for the tenth time and is a Charter member of SAFE. Formerly a 141 Chief Instructor for over 25 years, with a Gold Seal CFI. David started flying at 16 and has logged over 15,000 hours. He owns a 1946 7AC Aeronca Champ and wrote the SAFE Toolkit app.

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