U.S. Department
of Transportation

Federal Aviation

St. Louis
Flight Standards District Office

10801 Pear Tree Lane
Suite 200
St. Ann, Missouri 63074


February 2003 




Thought for the month.....
When opportunity comes knocking will you open the door?

Flying with inoperative equipment.... When was the last time you showed up at the airplane only to find that something on it wasn't working? All too often pilots are faced with this situation and then have to make a decision to fly or not to fly. In a perfect world we would be at a location where a supply of replacement parts are readily available. But who lives in a perfect world? Many of us are not flying from an airport where a qualified person is available to replace inoperative parts or equipment or where replacement parts are available. What options are we facing when this happens?

Simply stated our choices are: 1. Don't fly until the inoperative item is repaired or replaced, 2. Defer the corrective action in accordance with § 91.213, or 3. Fly and worry about the consequences later. Two of these options will maintain a level of safety that is acceptable to the FAA and keep us within the bounds of the Federal Aviation Regulations. The other option is nothing more than the luck of the draw.

The odds may be in our favor to fly with a navigation light bulb burned out or with low fluid in the wet compass and which we may believe is not needed for this flight. But what if we bump into a wandering FAA Inspector on the ramp? What if our directional heading indicator was precessing excessively? What if we were delayed enroute and could not make it back to our home airport before sundown? All of these "what ifs" usually add up after a while and turn into real life problems.

I have investigated several aviation incidents where the unfortunate pilot had to make an unscheduled landing and I found instruments or other equipment in the airplane that was not working. Often, the inoperative item was NOT a contributor to the problem that put the airplane on the ground, however, the investigating Inspector has an obligation to report everything they find including inoperative items in the aircraft whether or not they were contributory to the incident. The pilot in command who chooses to operate an aircraft with inoperative equipment and not fix or properly defer the maintenance is gambling that nothing will go wrong. Clint Eastwood in his "Dirty Harry" movies said it so well when he asked, "…are you feeling lucky…". Well are you?

In option #2 I mentioned that the situation might be mitigated per the rule* that allows us to fly with some items of installed equipment in an inoperative condition. As long as the item is not required by the minimum operating equipment listed in §91.205 or required by the operating rules which may include transponders, ELTs, navigation radios, etc.

*§91.213(d) permits nonturbine powered aircraft items that are not required by certification or operating rules, airworthiness directives, or by the manufacturer, to be inspected, then if it is determined to not present a hazard to continued aircraft operations, the item can be deactivated, record the inspection and deactivation in the maintenance records, and placard the item as inoperative. After having these four steps performed the aircraft will be considered legal to fly as long as the aircraft doesn't have a Letter of Authorization to operate in accordance with a Minimum Equipment List (MEL). If a Letter of Authorization is issued for the aircraft to operate in accordance with an MEL, equipment deferral must be per that document.

Let's keep in mind that in aviation there are three ways of doing things. First there's the wrong way that most people will easily agree is the wrong way. Then there's what we might think is the right way. Finally, there is the legal way. This is the way the FAA believes things should be done. The path that we choose will affect the outcome of events either passively or directly. § 91.213, if applicable, is our window of opportunity. When it comes knocking will you answer the door?

Upcoming Events

Feburary 21-22
IA Renewal Seminar
Collinsville Holiday Inn
7AM to 5PM Saturday.
8AM to 2PM Sunday

February 22-23
Greater St. Louis Flight Instructors Association
Flight Instructor Renewal Clinic
St. Louis University
7AM to 5PM

April 1
Spatial Disorientation
Confusion That Kills
Shoney's Restaurant
Rolla, MO
7to9 PM

April 5
Pilot and Aircraft Courtesy Evaluation (PACE)
Parks College Hangar
STL Downtown Airport
8 AM to 3 PM

April 10
St. Louis Lambert RSAT
Lambert Planning and Development Office
7to9 PM

April 12
VFR/IFR/Companion and Maintenance Refresher Seminar
SWIC Campus
Granite City, IL
8AM to 3PM

Steven Long
Airworthiness Safety Program Manager
1-800-322-8876 extension 4835