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Airworthiness: What You Should Know

Source:, Featuring Bob Martens


"Know your airplane! It sounds simple enough but let’s see if we can answer a few fundamental questions.

Is the aircraft airworthy? The regulations require that we only operate an aircraft that is airworthy. But do we know what that means? There are two parts to the airworthiness issue and both must be met. First the aircraft must conform to its type design, and second, it must be in condition for safe flight.

We determine its condition with a thorough preflight but ensuring conformance to type design requires a little bit more effort. Every year on the annual inspection, the holder of an inspection authorization ensures that the aircraft conforms to its type design. That is, they validate that the aircraft is in compliance with the conditions under which it was certified. Are all required components installed and functioning and have all required airworthiness directives and inspections been complied with?

They also ensure that modifications to the aircraft have been done in compliance with applicable tech data and signed off in an appropriate manner. Let me ask you again. Is the airplane you are flying airworthy?

Several years ago, we did a program with the FAA where people voluntarily brought their airplanes in for a spot check on their airplane. These are people that knew we were going to go over them with a fine-toothed comb. Three out of four did not comply with the airworthiness definition.

A few more questions need to be answered before we can move on. When was the last time it flew? Who maintains this aircraft? How are discrepancies recorded and repaired? Am I comfortable with my knowledge of the aircraft systems and components on this aircraft? If any of these questions give you cause for concern, you might have a little bit of work to do before you fly."

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