As you might expect, questions related to regulations appear frequently in knowledge tests, and the examiner conducting a practical test is also likely to expect some knowledge in this area. We have covered some regulations elsewhere in this document if they fit well with the subject under discussion. In this section we will try to cover all the other regulations that may be the basis of a test question or just something you probably should know.

The regulations we are discussing are currently documented in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, and are more correctly called 14 CFR Part ...., but most pilots have known them for years as FAR ...., and since they are still Federal Aviation Regulations, we will continue to use that term.


The exact meaning of words in regulations is often the subject of debate, perhaps because words are not always used consistently within the regulations. Here is a good example that will no doubt appear on a test.

TERMWith Respect to Certification of
With Respect to Certification of
  • Airplane
  • Rotorcraft
  • Glider
  • Lighter-than air
  • Powered Lift
  • Powered Parachute
  • Weight-Shift-Control Aircraft
  • Transport
  • Normal
  • Utility
  • Acrobatic
  • Limited
  • Restricted
  • Provisional
  • Single Engine Land
  • Multiengine Land
  • Single-engine Sea
  • Multiengine Sea
  • Helicopter
  • Gyroplane
  • Airship
  • Balloon
  • Weight-Shift-Control Aircraft Land
  • Weight-Shift-Control Aircraft Sea
  • Powered Parachute Land
  • Powered Parachute Sea
  • Airplane
  • Rotorcraft
  • Glider
  • Balloon
  • Landplane
  • Seaplane

Operate is another term that causes some confusion. FAR Part 1 says "Operate" means to use, cause to use, or authorize use of an aircraft, and "Operational Control" means authority to initiate, conduct, or terminate a flight. That clearly includes glider pilots. Part 1 defines "Commercial Operator" as one who carries persons or property for compensation or hire other than as an air carrier (airline). (Could include glider pilots). FAR 91.403 Says the owner or operator of an aircraft is primarily responsible for maintaining that aircraft in an airworthy condition, including compliance with Airworthiness Directives (ADs). Some inspectors have interpreted "operator" in this case to include pilots, but the knowledge test questions on this subject offer "pilot" and "operator" as separate answer choices. A more logical interpretation of this regulation is that operator refers to someone such as an FBO who operates an aircraft that is leased from someone else who is the owner. Anyway, answer the knowledge test question by selecting "operator". If the practical test examiner doesn't like that answer, remember the first rule of practical tests: Never argue with the examiner!


While we are on the subject of maintenance let's cover the other FAR Part 43 questions. Much of the maintenance work needed on aircraft must be performed by the holder of a mechanic certificate or someone working under the supervision of one. FAR 43.3 allows the holder of a pilot certificate to perform preventive maintenance on aircraft owned or operated by that pilot. Does "operated" here include a renter pilot? I'd play it safe and do it "under the supervision" of a holder of a mechanic certificate and let him/her make the maintenance record entry. That must include a description of the work performed; date of completion; and the name, signature and certificate number of the person performing the work. That constitutes approval of return to service for the work performed, and requires at least a private pilot certificate (FAR 43.9).

Preventive Maintenance is defined in Appendix A to Part 43. There are 32 items listed but they can be summarized as:

All of these must not involve "complex assembly operations".


At one time glider assembly was considered "preventive maintenance" and required logging of the operation. Assembly is now a pilot operation and does not require logging, but pilots need to become proficient at it prior to cross-country flight or any practical test. It is unlikely that actual assembly of a glider will be required as part of the practical test, but the applicant should be prepared to discuss assembly to demonstrate adequate knowledge in this area. Since memorizing the glider manual is unrealistic, the importance of having written instructions available during assembly should be obvious. A suitable work area (e.g. level and protected from wind) is also important.

If the applicant has ever assisted in actual assembly, the need for an adequate number of helpers will quickly come to mind. Unless assembly aids are available, one person to steady the fuselage while three others position the wing may be barely enough. One should be prepared to accomplish assembly with inexperienced help, since those who have done it before are likely to disappear when the glider trailer is moved into position for unloading.

Verification of the work is important and includes accounting for all parts and performing a post-assembly inspection. A positive control check in which one person provides resistance at each control surface while another moves the corresponding cockpit control should be performed to ensure correct hook-up.


As suggested earlier, FAR Part 91.401 - 91.417 also has a few things to say about maintenance. The owner or operator (there's that term again) must have the aircraft inspected every 12 calendar months, and if it is used to carry persons for hire or provide instruction for hire, every 100 hours. The 100 hours can be exceeded by not more than 10 hours if necessary to reach the place where the inspection will be done, but that does not extend the time for the next 100-hour inspection. The annual inspection can be substituted for the 100-hour inspection but not vice-versa. The owner/operator is responsible for seeing that the maintenance personnel make the appropriate maintenance record entries. If the work may have changed the flight characteristics, the aircraft must be flight checked by at least a private pilot before anyone other than a crewmember is carried in it.

Even if our interpretation of responsibilities in the preceding is correct, the pilot in command (PIC) still bears primary responsibility for flight safety including airworthiness of the aircraft. FAR 91.3 says the PIC "is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft." Interestingly, Part 1 defines PIC as the person who has that responsibility and authority. While we are discussing PIC we should note another example of multiple meaning. Part 1 clearly says that the PIC is the person in charge. However, FAR 61.51 says that a rated pilot and a flight instructor can both log PIC time on the same flight. Thus being PIC and logging PIC time is not always the same thing. Obviously any pilot flying solo is PIC, and current regulations allow student pilots and other pilots working on a new rating to log solo time as PIC time.


Returning to pilot responsibilities for airworthiness, FAR 91.7 says that the PIC is responsible for determining that the aircraft is airworthy. The best way to do that is a thorough preflight inspection, based on the manufacturer's recommendations if available. While one might question its applicability to airworthiness, the aircraft must contain a current airworthiness certificate and registration certificate (FAR 91.203). Of more practical value, FAR 91.9 requires an approved flight manual, placards, and markings or any combination thereof to determine operating limitations and weight and balance criteria, and forbids operating the aircraft without complying with them. These are summarized by the memory aid "ARROW", which stands for Airworthiness Certificate, Registration Certificate, Radio Station License (required for international flight only), Operating Limitations, and Weight and Balance Data.

The pilot cannot determine if the aircraft meets the inspection requirements described earlier without examining its maintenance records. That is also the place to find out if ADs (Airworthiness Directives) have been complied with and what restrictions, if any, they impose on flight. Maintenance records may also include Supplemental Type Certificates (STCs), which document FAA approval for modification of a kind of aircraft. They effectively change the Airworthiness Certificates of all aircraft to which they are applied. Major Repair and Alteration, Form 337, is used to document implementation of an STC on a specific aircraft. It also is used to document other major alterations or repairs to specific aircraft. When so used, both the STC and 337 become part of the aircraft maintenance records.

FAR Part 1 does not define airworthy but it is reasonable to assume that it requires everything in the aircraft that is needed for the proposed flight to be working properly. FAR 91.213 allows an aircraft to be flown with inoperative instruments and/or equipment provided they are not required for the flight and they have been removed or deactivated and placarded "Inoperative".

Preflight preparation is not limited to checking the aircraft for airworthiness. FAR 91.103 requires the pilot to become familiar with all available information concerning that flight, including runway lengths at airports of intended use and aircraft performance relative to those runways, for all flights. For flights not in the vicinity of an airport, add weather, fuel, alternatives, and traffic delays that may impact the flight.


Pilots must have their pilot certificates and photo identification with them in the aircraft when they fly. Glider pilots are exempt from a similar requirement for medical certificates, since glider pilots are not required to have them (FAR 61.3), although FAR 61.53(b) says they must ground themselves if they are not medically qualified to fly. Except for Sport Pilots, their pilot certificate must include the category and class aircraft flown if carrying another person or being operated for compensation or hire (FAR 61.31). Sport Pilots' category and class privileges are shown by endorsements in their logbooks, which must be carried with them when they act as PIC.

Student Pilot certificates and Flight Instructor certificates expire 24 calendar months from the month issued. All other pilot certificates have no expiration date. A Flight Instructor certificate is valid only when accompanied by a valid pilot certificate (FAR 61.19).


Application for all pilot certificates must be made using FAA Form 8710. Although the application form is not actually a part of the test, it provides one of the first opportunities for the examiner to evaluate the applicant. The FAA provides a full page of instructions attached to the form and they expect the completed form to conform to those instructions. An examiner waiting for correction fluid to dry has time (and incentive) to think up more challenging questions to use during the test.

Here are some of the more important points to observe:

In addition to the properly completed form, applicants for tests must have appropriate endorsements from their instructors.


To be eligible for a student glider pilot certificate, an applicant must be at least 14 years of age (FAR 61.83). Before Student Pilots can fly solo they must have received training specified in FAR 61.87, and passed a flight instructor administered knowledge test that includes regulations, airspace, and aircraft performance applicable to the conditions under which the student will be operating. The instructor must endorse the student's certificate and logbook to verify that this has been accomplished and authorize solo flight in the make and model aircraft to be flown. The logbook endorsement must be repeated every 90 days. The certificate endorsement is made only once for each make and model aircraft (FAR 61.87).

A Student Pilot is not authorized to fly solo more than 25 NM from the originating airport or land at another airport before receiving appropriate flight training and an instructor's endorsement for each flight. The endorsement states that the student's preflight planning and preparation is correct and that the student is prepared to make the flight safely (FAR 61.93). An exception for repeated solo cross-country flights not more than 50 NM, when the instructor has given instruction in both directions, can be authorized by a single endorsement.


For pilot privileges beyond Student, the pilot must pass knowledge and practical tests administered by FAA designated examiners. To be eligible for a practical test the applicant must have passed the required knowledge test within the preceding 24 calendar months (FAR 61.39). The aircraft to be used must not have any limitations that prohibit its use for required operations on the test (FAR 61.45). An applicant for a knowledge test must have an endorsement from an instructor certifying that the applicant is trained and prepared for the test, and must bring proper identification (FAR 61.35). Cheating on knowledge tests can result in suspension or revocation of existing certificates and prohibition from applying for any rating or taking any test for a period of one year (FAR 61.37). Knowledge tests are not required when adding a rating to an existing certificate if the existing rating is for a powered aircraft (FAR 61.63). An applicant for a knowledge or practical test who fails that test may reapply for the test only after the applicant has received training and an endorsement from an authorized instructor (FAR 61.49). If a practical test is discontinued, the applicant gets credit for that portion already passed if the test is completed within 60 days (FAR 61.43).


Persons seeking a private glider pilot certificate must be 16 years old (FAR 61.103), and meet the aeronautical experience requirements in the table below. Option A generally applies to those currently with only a Student Pilot certificate and option B generally applies to those wishing to add a glider rating to an existing Private Pilot certificate.

Aeronautical experience requirements are documented in the pilot's log book, and training time must: (1) Be endorsed in a legible manner by the authorized instructor; and (2) Include a description of the training given, the length of the training lesson, and the instructor's authorized signature, certificate number, and certificate expiration date (FAR 61.51).

Heavier Than Air Flight Time40
Total Flight in Gliders10AND203
Solo Flight in Gliders2AND1010
Test Prep Dual Past 60 Days33

A private pilot can share operating expenses equally with passengers, and can act as PIC in an airlift sponsored by a charitable organization to raise funds (FAR 61.113).


Prospective glider pilots willing to accept some limitations on their flying can train to obtain a Sport Pilot certificate. Sport Pilots are restricted to flying Light-Sport Aircraft, which are defined as having the following limitations:

Gliders are among the categories of aircraft that may qualify as Light-Sport Aircraft. Applicants seeking a Sport Pilot certificate for gliders must be 16 years of age and meet the following aeronautical experience requirements:

Heavier Than Air Flight Time20
Total Flight in Gliders103
Dual Flight in Gliders105
Solo Flight in Gliders2AND51AND3
Test Prep Dual Past 60 Days33

Note that the Sport Pilot aeronautical experience requirement is for 3 hours dual in the 60 days preceding the practical test, while all other glider requirements are for 3 flights. This is obviously an error but don't expect it to be corrected any time soon.

Sport Pilot certificates do not show category and class ratings. They are provided by logbook endorsements. A Sport Pilot can share operating expenses equally with passengers, but cannot act as PIC in an airlift sponsored by a charitable organization to raise funds. Sport Pilots may not carry passengers or property for hire or fly in furtherance of a business, nor carry more than one passenger. They cannot tow any object. Perhaps the least acceptable limitation for glider pilots is the altitude restriction of 10,000 feet MSL. Sport Pilots need training and endorsements to add category/class or make/model privileges; to fly in Class B, C, or D airspace; fly a sport aircraft with VH greater than 87 kts; or fly a tailwheel aircraft.


To be eligible for a commercial pilot certificate, a person must be at least 18 years of age and hold at least a private pilot certificate (FAR 61.123). A commercial pilot may act as PIC of an aircraft carrying persons or property for compensation or hire, provided they also meet the requirements that apply to the operation (FAR 61.133).

The aeronautical experience requirements for a commercial glider pilot are given in the table below. There are two optional ways to meet the requirements. Option A generally applies to applicants seeking initial commercial certificates and option B generally applies to those wishing to add a glider rating to an existing commercial certificate. However, a high time private pilot could qualify via option B.

Heavier Than Air Flight Time200
Total Glider Pilot Time25
Flight Training in Gliders3OR103OR10
Pilot-in-Command in Gliders10020
Solo Flight in Gliders2AND105
Test Prep Dual Past 60 Days33


To be eligible for a flight instructor certificate or rating a person must log at least 15 hours as pilot in command in the category and class of aircraft that is appropriate to the flight instructor rating sought (FAR 61.183).

A flight instructor with a Sport Pilot rating must meet one of these experience requirements:


The endorsements mentioned earlier for Student Pilots must be given only by an instructor who has personally determined that the requirements have been satisfied (FAR 61.195). That can be accomplished by flight and/or ground review; it is not adequate to base approval on another instructor's reputation.

A Flight Instructor who provides training to an initial applicant for a flight instructor certificate must have held a flight instructor certificate for at least 24 months, and for a glider rating, have given at least 80 hours of flight training as a flight instructor (FAR 61.195).

An unexpired Flight Instructor certificate can be renewed administratively through the local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) by showing that during the preceding 24 calendar months the flight instructor has endorsed at least five students for a practical test and at least 80 percent of those students passed that test on the first attempt. The FSDO can renew a flight instructor certificate if within the preceding 3 calendar months, the person has successfully completed an approved flight instructor refresher course (FAR 61.197). The certificate can be renewed by passing a practical test to add another flight instructor rating. Reissuing an expired certificate requires passing a practical test for one of the listed ratings (FAR 61.199).

Flight Instructors are required to retain records of endorsements given for at least three years (FAR 61.189).

Flight Instructors may provide no more that 8 hours instruction in any 24-hour period.


A Basic Ground Instructor is authorized to provide ground training and endorsements for private, recreational, and sport pilot certificates and flight reviews. An Advanced Ground Instructor is authorized to provide ground training and endorsements for all pilot certificates and flight reviews (FAR 61.215). Unless a ground instructor has served as a ground instructor for at least three months during the preceding 12 months, they must obtain an endorsement of their proficiency from an authorized flight or ground instructor to perform the duties of ground instructor (FAR 61.217).


There is no requirement to document flight time except to show that experience requirements for a certificate/rating are met, and that currency requirements are satisfied. There are two currency requirements for pilots. The first requires a pilot to have accomplished a flight review, or its equivalent, in any aircraft for which the pilot is rated, within the preceding 24 calendar months to act as PIC. A flight review consists of one hour of ground training and one hour of flight training (FAR 61.56). Glider pilots can substitute three instructional flights to pattern altitude for the hour of flight training. Obtaining a new certificate or rating or completing a phase of the Pilot Proficiency Award Program (Wings) also satisfies the flight review requirement. The second currency requirement prohibits carrying passengers unless the pilot has made three takeoffs and landings in the category, class, and type aircraft within the preceding 90 days (FAR 61.57).


The holder of a pilot, flight instructor, or ground instructor certificate may not exercise the privileges of that certificate 30 days after changing their permanent mailing address unless they have notified the FAA in writing (FAR 61.60).


Pilots may deviate from any regulation in an emergency, but may be asked to submit a written report of the deviation (FAR 91.3). A similar rule (FAR 91.123) applies to deviation from a clearance or obtaining priority from ATC. Immediate notification is required and a written report in 48-hours if requested.


FAR Part 1 defines a "clearance" as an authorization by air traffic control for the purpose of preventing collision between known aircraft, for an aircraft to proceed under specified traffic conditions within controlled airspace.


Required flight crewmembers must keep their safety belts fastened all the time they are at their station (FAR 91.105). For gliders that means the pilot all the time. During takeoff and landing, they must keep their shoulder harnesses fastened. Pilots are required to brief passengers on the use of safety belts and harnesses and not initiate movement of the aircraft before passengers have been notified to use them. Everybody two years old or older must be in a seat with belts fastened during movement on the surface, takeoff, and landing (FAR 91.107). The pilot's responsibility is to tell them; it is their responsibility to do it.


It is OK to drop something from an aircraft if reasonable precautions are taken to avoid injury or damage to persons or property. Otherwise the PIC must not allow it (FAR 91.15).


Regulations are not tolerant of alcohol or drug offenses. No person may act as a crewmember within 8 hours of consuming alcohol, while under the influence of alcohol or any drug that adversely affects performance, or with a blood-alcohol level of .04 percent or more. Except in an emergency or for a medical patient no pilot may carry a person apparently under the influence of alcohol or drugs (FAR 91.17). A conviction of any of these violations or of growing, processing, manufacturing, selling, possessing, or transporting illegal drugs is grounds for suspension or revocation of existing certificates and denial of application for any certificate for a period of one year (FAR 61.15). A person may not apply for any certificate while one is suspended (FAR 61.13). A person convicted of a motor vehicle action while under the influence of alcohol or a drug must report that to the FAA, Civil Aviation Security Division, within 60 days. "As little as one ounce of liquor, one bottle of beer or four ounces of wine can impair flying skills. Alcohol also renders a pilot more susceptible to disorientation and hypoxia." (4)


FARs 91.313, 91.315, and 91.319 restrict the operation of some categories of aircraft as shown in the following table:

Carrying persons or property for hire XXX
Over a densely populated area XX
In a congested airway XX

The restrictions on experimental aircraft relative to densely populated areas and airways can be lifted when "otherwise authorized by the Administrator in special operating limitations".


FAR 91.303 forbids aerobatic flight under the following conditions:


FAR 91.119 specifies the following minimum safe altitudes except when necessary for takeoff or landing:

Anywhere An altitude that permits an emergency landing without undue hazard to others
Over any congested area or any open air assembly of persons An altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet
Over other than congested areas An altitude of 500 feet above the surface
Over open water or sparsely populated areas Not closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure

Pilots are requested to maintain a minimum altitude of 2,000 feet above the surface of National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges, and Wilderness and Primitive areas


FAR 91.209 requires aircraft to use position lights between sunset and sunrise.


Advisory Circulars are available on a number of subjects of interest to pilots. These publications are for sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office. This table shows that the numbering system and subjects correspond to those used in the regulations.


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) provides rules applicable to aircraft accidents and incidents. Part 830, Subpart A defines an accident as an occurrence in which any person suffers death or serious injury, or in which the aircraft receives substantial damage. Otherwise it is an incident. Serious injury is defined as any injury which: requires hospitalization for more than 48 hrs.; results in a fracture of any bone (except ... fingers, toes, or nose); causes severe hemorrhages, nerve, muscle, or tendon damage; involves any internal organ; involves second or third degree burns or any burns affecting more than 5 percent of the body surface. Substantial damage means damage or failure that adversely affects the structural strength, performance, or flight characteristics of the aircraft.

Subpart B requires the operator of any civil aircraft to notify immediately the nearest NTSB field office (usually the local FSDO will do) when any of these occur:

Subpart C says the wreckage may not be disturbed or moved except to the extent necessary:

Subpart D requires the operator of a civil aircraft to file a report within 10 days after an accident, or after 7 days if an overdue aircraft is still missing. A report on an incident for which immediate notification is required shall be filed only as requested by an authorized representative of the Board.


The Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) is the reference source for many of the questions on the knowledge tests. The following are items of information from the AIM that have not been covered in other areas of this training aid.


Carbon monoxide inhaled in smoking or from exhaust fumes can reduce the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. The absorption of nicotine into the blood causes a corresponding drop in blood oxygen saturation and will lead to hypoxia. Susceptibility to carbon monoxide poisoning increases as altitude increases.


After SCUBA diving that does not require controlled ascent, wait 12 hours before flying up to 8,000 feet MSL. After a dive that does require controlled ascent or any time you plan to fly above 8,000 feet MSL, wait 24 hours.


Hyperventilation, breathing too rapidly, can be caused by stress. Symptoms include lightheadedness, suffocation, drowsiness, tingling in the extremities and coolness. The symptoms subside within a few minutes after the rate and depth of breathing are brought back under control. Hyperventilation is the result of a deficiency of carbon dioxide, not too much oxygen.


Motion sickness is caused by stimulation of the inner ear, which controls the sense of balance. It may be relieved by opening the air vents, loosening clothing, using oxygen, focusing the eyes on a point outside the aircraft, and avoiding unnecessary head movements. The best cure is getting back on the ground.


Many different illusions can be experienced in flight. Some can lead to spatial disorientation, which can be prevented only by visual reference to reliable, fixed points on the ground or to flight instruments.
Rapid acceleration during takeoff can create the illusion of being in a nose up attitude.


Hypoxia, lack of oxygen, is one of the most serious problems a pilot can encounter. Its symptoms are similar to intoxication, affecting the pilot's physical and mental capabilities adversely without the pilot being aware of the deterioration in performance. Many pilots start using supplemental oxygen above 10,000 feet as a precaution against hypoxia.


Pilots and passengers may experience pain due to trapped air in their ears or sinuses when external pressure changes during ascent or descent. Flying with a cold often is the cause. Problems on descent can sometimes be relieved by holding the nose and blowing gently.


Spatial disorientation can occur when the pilot loses sight of the real horizon. If suitable gyro instruments are available and the pilot knows how to use them it is essential that they be believed.


Pilots should carry an adequate supply of drinking water on long flights and use it to preclude dehydration. Flying for long periods in hot summer temperatures increases the susceptability of dehydration since the dry air at altitude tends to increase the rate of water loss from the body. However, it is worth noting that the amount of water needed to prolong life significantly after a desert out landing exceeds that which can be carried without wet wings. Perhaps a better use of load carrying capacity would be communication equipment to minimize the chances of prolonged exposure to the desert environment.


While the eye can see approximately 200 degrees of arc, only a small central area provides really sharp vision. This is important when looking for traffic in daylight, and requires that the pilot scan by examining small segments (about 10o) at a time. At night, the peripheral vision is actually better, and pilots should look to one side of where they expect to see something. Adaptation to night vision takes about 30 minutes and is further impaired by altitude and carbon monoxide.


"Stress and fatigue can be an extremely hazardous combination."(4) Moderate reaction to the normal stress of flying can be beneficial, adrenalin alerts the body to prepare for action, but too much can result in inappropriate reactions. Stress originating from activities outside flying may be reason to postpone a flight. Fatigue decreases pilot performance both physically and mentally. It is greatest at the end of a flight when workload is likely to be greatest, so if you are already tired when you begin the flight, don't expect it to get better.


One tool to aid in the preflight of the pilot is the "I'M SAFE" personal checklist:

If none of these factors apply, the pilot is good to go.

© 2005 Jim D. Burch 602-942-2734

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