U.S. Department
of Transportation

Federal Aviation

St. Louis
Flight Standards District Office

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


May 2001 




Thought for the month.....
Verifying the records makes for a better flight than carrying a rabbit's foot for luck.

SO PROVE IT!.... In the past year Fred and I have had many long drives together driving to and returning from safety meetings. You can't sit through a two or three hour trip without some good conversations about this safety business. Being relatively new in the safety program, I have a good opportunity to pick Fred's brain for ideas.

I recently accompanied Fred to a CFI check ride. After the ride, I wanted to know where most applicants fall short when asked questions pertaining to airworthiness issues. He said that the Practical Test Standards for a CFI require the applicant to be able to instruct a student on how to determine the airworthiness of the aircraft they will fly. Why is the CFI supposed to know this? Because one of the basic concepts of learning that is taught to a CFI is a thing called "Primacy". This means that the first time something is presented to a student a strong impression is formed. What is taught must be taught right the first time. If the CFI is not knowledgeable of what they are teaching and they are "winging" it, there is a good chance that information is going to be wrong. Unteaching is more difficult than teaching.

For those CFI applicants who have had the opportunity to be tested by Fred you know that he will ask you to show him what rule requires the aircraft to be airworthy. In other words, Prove It! Not only will he expect you to show you him the rule that requires aircraft to be airworthy, he will most likely expect you to prove the aircraft you will be flying is airworthy. How do you know if the aircraft is airworthy? Who is responsible to determine the aircraft is airworthy? How did you determine its airworthiness? Simply knowing that it should be airworthy isn't enough. Can you prove it?

At a recent safety meeting I was asked how much a person must know about the airworthiness of an aircraft that they intend to rent or borrow. Does the FAA really expect a person to review the maintenance records each time they fly? No, the FAA doesn't expect a full review of the logbooks before each flight. The standard that is applied is whether the airman who operated an aircraft knew, or reasonably should have known, that it was unairworthy. It is reasonable to expect the pilot to inquire about the inspection status of the aircraft. When was the last annual inspection performed? It is also reasonable to ask the status of Airworthiness Directives. These are safety-related hot buttons for the FAA. It boils down to being assured that when we spend our hard earned dollars on a rental airplane we will get our money's worth.

It is equally important that people we take for a "Sunday afternoon" rides are confident that all reasonable actions have been taken to ensure an uneventful airplane ride. Our passengers have every right to expect an airworthy aircraft when they fly.

Have you ever seen a facility that charges one rate for airworthy aircraft and another rate for not quite airworthy aircraft? Of course not. We wouldn't even consider flying something like that. We have a responsibility to determine the airworthiness of anything that we are pilot in command of and should be given access to aircraft maintenance records that will help us make that determination. Keep in mind that it would be courteous to arrange with the rental FBO a time that is convenient to produce the aircraft maintenance records for our viewing. To expect them to drop everything 30 minutes before our scheduled flying time so they have to locate and deliver the records isn't fair to them.

On the other hand if the rental FBO balks at our request to view the maintenance records that should sound an alarm in our head. First, we should ask ourselves why? Then ask them why? There may be some compelling reason that they are reluctant to make them available. Sometimes the fear of loosing the records drives an owner or operator to hesitate in turning them over to someone who wants to review them. This may be a reasonable concern but we still need to verify that the aircraft is legal. The bottom line is that as the operator, we are ultimately responsible for flying an airworthy aircraft. If things go badly during the flight, we must defend our actions and decisions against the requirements of the FAR's.

Your safety and your passenger's safety, as well as your peace of mind, rests on your ability to know that the aircraft you fly is airworthy and you should be able to PROVE IT!

Upcoming Events

May 31st
Spirit of St. Louis Airport
Thunder Aviation Hangar
USPA Safety Seminar
7 to 9PM.

June 7th
Required DPE training
St. Louis FSDO
8AM to 3PM

August 23rd
91/135 Operator Safety Seminar
St. Louis FSDO
8AM to 3PM

September 13th
AOPA Air Safety Foundation
Fuel Awareness
Florissant Valley College
Multi-purpose Room

September 15th
St. Louis Soaring Association
Open House and Safety Day
Highland Airport
Highland IL

Steven Long
Airworthiness Safety Program Manager
1-800-322-8876 extension 4830