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An airplane flight manual is a document developed by the airplane manufacturer and approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). It is specific to a par- ticular make and model airplane by serial number and
contains operating procedures and limitations. Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 91 requires that pilots comply with the operating limitations specified in the approved airplane flight manuals, markings, and placards. Originally, flight manuals followed whatever format and content the manufacturer felt was appropriate. This changed with the acceptance of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association’s (GAMA) Specification for Pilot’s Operating Handbook, which established a standard-ized format for all general aviation airplane and rotorcraft flight manuals. The Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH) is developed by the airplane manu- facturer and contains the FAA-approved Airplane Flight Manual (AFM) information. However, if Pilot’s Operating Handbook is used as the main title instead of Airplane Flight Manual, a statement must be included on the title page indicating that sections of the document are FAA-approved as the Airplane Flight Manual.

Flight Training

[Figure 7-1 Airplane Flight Manuals]

An airplane owner/information manual is a document developed by the airplane manufacturer containing gen eral information about the make and model of airplane. The airplane owner’s manual is not FAA-approved and is not specific to a particular serial numbered airplane. This manual provides general information about the operation of the airplane and is not kept current, and therefore cannot be substituted for the AFM/POH.

Besides the preliminary pages, a POH may contain as many as ten sections. These sections are: General; Limitations; Emergency Procedures; Normal Procedures; Performance; Weight and Balance / Equipment List; Systems Description; Handling, Service, and Maintenance; and Supplements. Manufacturers have the option of including a tenth section on Safety Tips, as well as an alphabetical index at the end of the POH.


While the AFM/POH may appear similar for the same make and model of airplane, each manual is unique since it contains specific information about a particular airplane, such as the equipment installed and weight and balance information. Therefore, manufacturers are required to include the serial number and registration on the title page to identify the airplane to which the manual belongs. If a manual does not indicate a specific airplane registration and serial number, it is limited to general study purposes only.

Most manufacturers include a table of contents, which identifies the order of the entire manual by section number and title. Usually, each section also contains its own table of contents. Page numbers reflect the section and page within that section (1-1, 1-2, 2-1, 3-1, and so forth). If the manual is published in loose-leaf form, each section is usually marked with a divider tab indi cating the section number or title, or both. The Emergency Procedures section may have a red tab for quick identification and reference.


The General section provides the basic descriptive information on the airplane and powerplant(s). Some manuals include a three-view drawing of the airplane that provides dimensions of various components. Included are such items as wingspan, maximum height, overall length, wheelbase length, main landing gear track width, maximum propeller diameter, propeller ground clearance, minimum turning radius, and wing area. This section serves as a quick reference in becom ing familiar with the airplane.

The last segment of the General section contains defi nitions, abbreviations, explanations of symbology, and some of the terminology used in the POH. At the option of the manufacturer, metric and other conversion tables may also be included.


The Limitations section contains only those limitations required by regulation or that are necessary for the safe operation of the airplane, powerplant, systems, and equipment. It includes operating limitations, instru ment markings, color-coding, and basic placards. Some of the limitation areas are: airspeed, powerplant, weight and loading distribution, and flight.


Airspeed limitations are shown on the airspeed indicator by color-coding and on placards or graphs in the air plane.


[Figure 7-2 Minimum, maximum, and normal operating range
markings on oil gauge.]

A red line on the airspeed indicator shows the airspeed limit beyond which structural damage could occur. This is called the never-exceed speed (VNE). A yellow arc indicates the speed range between maximum structural cruising speed (VNO) and VNE. Operation of the airplane in the yellow airspeed arc is for smooth air only, and then with caution. A green arc depicts the normal operating speed range, with the upper end at VNO, and the lower end at stalling speed at maximum weight with the landing gear and flaps retracted (VS1). The flap operating range is depicted by the white arc, with the upper end at the maximum flap extended speed (VFE), and the lower end at the stalling speed with the landing gear and flaps in the landing configuration (VSO).

In addition to the markings listed above, small multi engine airplanes will have a red radial line to indicate single-engine minimum controllable airspeed (VMC). A blue radial line is used to indicate single-engine best rate-of-climb speed at maximum weight at sea level (VYSE).


The Powerplant Limitations area describes operating limitations on the airplane’s reciprocating or turbine engine(s). These include limitations for takeoff power, maximum continuous power, and maximum normal operating power, which is the maximum power the engine can produce without any restrictions, and is depicted by a green arc. Other items that can be included in this area are the minimum and maximum oil and fuel pressures, oil and fuel grades, and propeller operating limits.


[Figure 7-3. Minimum, maximum, and normal operating range
markings on oil gauge.]

All reciprocating-engine powered airplanes must have an r.p.m. indicator for each engine. Airplanes equipped with a constant-speed propeller use a manifold pres- sure gauge to monitor power output and an r.p.m. gauge to monitor propeller speed. Both instruments depict the maximum operating limit with a red radial line and the normal operating range with a green arc. Some instruments may have a yellow arc to indicate a caution area.

[Figure 7-4 Manifold pressure and r.p.m. indicators]

The Weight and Loading Distribution area contains the maximum certificated weights, as well as the center-of- gravity (CG) range. The location of the reference datum used in balance computations is included in thissection. Weight and balance computations are not pro vided in this area, but rather in the Weight and Balance section of the AFM/POH.


This area lists authorized maneuvers with appropriate entry speeds, flight load factor limits, and kinds of operation limits. It also indicates those maneuvers that are prohibited, such as spins, acrobatic flight, and operational limitations such as flight into known icing conditions.


Most airplanes display one or more placards that con tain information having a direct bearing on the safe operation of the airplane. These placards are located in conspicuous places within the airplane and are reproduced in the Limitations section or as directed by an Airworthiness Directive (AD).


[Figure 7-5. Placards are a common method of depicting air plane limitations]


Checklists describing the recommended procedures and airspeeds for coping with various types of emergencies or critical situations are located in the Emergency Procedures section. Some of the emergen cies covered include: engine failure, fires, and systems failures. The procedures for in-flight engine restarting and ditching may also be included.

Manufacturers may first show the emergencies check lists in an abbreviated form with the order of items reflecting the sequence of action. Amplified checklists that provide additional information on the procedures follow the abbreviated checklist. To be prepared for emergency situations, memorize the immediate action items and after completion, refer to the appropriate checklist.

Manufacturers may include an optional area titled“Abnormal Procedures.” This section describes recom mended procedures for handling malfunctions that are not considered emergencies in nature.


This section begins with a listing of the airspeeds for normal operations. The next area consists of several checklists that may include preflight inspection, before starting procedures, starting engine, before taxiing, taxiing, before takeoff, takeoff, climb, cruise, descent, before landing, balked landing, after landing, and post flight procedures. An Amplified Procedures area follows the checklists to provide more detailed information about the various procedures.

To avoid missing important steps, always use the appropriate checklists whenever they are available. Consistent adherence to approved checklists is a sign of a disciplined and competent pilot.


The Performance section contains all the information required by the aircraft certification regulations, and any additional performance information the manufac turer feels may enhance a pilot’s ability to safely operate the airplane. Performance charts, tables, and graphs vary in style, but all contain the same basic information. Some examples of the performance information found in most flight manuals include a graph or table for converting calibrated airspeed into true airspeed; stall speeds in various configurations; and data for determining takeoff and climb performance, cruise performance, and landing performance.


[Figure 7-6. Stall speed chart.]

Figure 7-6 is an example of a typical performance graph. For more information on how to use the charts, graphs, and tables, refer to Aircraft Performance.


The Weight and Balance/Equipment List section contains all the information required by the FAA to calculate the weight and balance of the airplane.

Manufacturers include sample weight and balance problems. Weight and balance is discussed in greater detail in Weight and Balance section.


The Systems Description section is where the manu facturer describes the systems in enough detail for the pilot to understand how the systems operate. For more information on airplane systems, refer to Aircraft Systems section.


The Handling, Service, and Maintenance section describes the maintenance and inspections recom mended by the manufacturer and the regulations. Additional maintenance or inspections may be required by the issuance of Airworthiness Directives (AD) applicable to the airplane, engine, propeller, and components.

This section also describes preventive maintenance that may be accomplished by certificated pilots, as well as the manufacturer’s recommended ground handling procedures. This includes considerations for hangaring, tie-down, and general storage procedures for the airplane.


The Supplements section describes pertinent infor mation necessary to safely and efficiently operate the airplane when equipped with the various optional systems and equipment not provided with the standard airplane. Some of this information may be supplied by the airplane manufacturer, or by the manufacturer of the optional equipment. The appropriate information is inserted into the flight manual at the time the equipment is installed. Autopilots, navigation systems, and air-conditioning systems are examples of equipment described in this section.

Airworthiness Directive (AD)—A regulatory notice that is sent out by the FAA to the registered owners of aircraft informing them of the discovery of a condition that keeps their aircraft from continuing to meet its conditions for airworthiness. For further information, see 14 CFR part 39.


The Safety Tips section is an optional section con taining a review of information that enhances the safe operation of the airplane. Some examples of the information that might be covered include: physio logical factors, general weather information, fuel conservation procedures, high altitude operations, and cold weather operations.



The Safety Tips section is an optional section con taining a review of information that enhances the safe operation of the airplane. Some examples of the information that might be covered include: physio logical factors, general weather information, fuel conservation procedures, high altitude operations, and cold weather operations.


(Courtesy FAA)