Demystifying the FAR/AIM: Your Guide to Essential Aeronautical Information

Demystifying the FAR/AIM: Your Guide to Essential Aeronautical Information

By Jordan Bullock, CFI & Boeing 737 Pilot

When I begin instructing a new student, the first thing I do is show them all the literature and educational media that pilots have at their disposal. From youtube to podcasts to personal mentors- there is an abundance of free knowledge out there. Unfortunately, a lot of times hearsay can end up being wrong, or outdated. This is also something I stress to my students. So, the question is, how can a newcomer be certain what they hear or watch is legal or correct? That's where the FAR/AIM comes into play. 

The FAR/AIM is technically two books: The FAR (Federal Aviation Regulations), dealing with regulations, and the AIM (Aeronautical Information Manual), which is more geared to air traffic control procedures and basic flight information. Let’s look at some important features of the FAR/AIM and why you should be fairly familiar with it!

Traffic Patterns

We know that traffic patterns are left handed unless otherwise noted. Usually at some point in your first few lessons your CFI teaches you how to enter the traffic pattern. But something I’ve noticed through my teaching is that a lot of students aren't taught when to turn their crosswind after takeoff. After all, this is the first turn after taking off and flying straight. 

In 4-3-3 of the AIM, it discusses the proper altitude to make your initial turn into the crosswind. It states; “If remaining in the traffic pattern, commence turn to crosswind leg beyond the departure end of the runway and within 300 feet of pattern altitude”. Not very many aviators are aware of the fact that the FAA gives guidance on specifically when to turn your crosswind. I’ve heard many pilots state that they always turn crosswind at 500 feet. By doing this, assuming they are flying a 1,000 ft AGL pattern, they are actually flying an incorrect pattern. 


Yeah yeah yeah, I know. You’re tired of hearing about airspace. Just don’t fly into Class Bravo airspace unless you have prior permission, right? I wish it were that simple. While flying for work, we keep guard up in comm 2 (121.5) and constantly hear ATC calling someone out for flying through either Bravo airspace or restricted airspace. It happens all too often it seems. 

Thankfully, the AIM discusses airspace in length in chapter 3. While I’m not going to touch base on everything it offers, you need to be familiar with the Special Use Airspace, section 3-4-1. Prohibited, Restricted and Military Operating Areas (MOA’s) are oftentimes misunderstood, but thankfully the AIM defines them clearly.


Usually all any aviator cares about regarding medicals comes down to two things: 1) How long does my medical last and 2) Can I take this specific medication? The former is covered in the FAR portion of the FAR/AIM under section 61.23, and for the latter you can consult your personal AME (Aviation Medical Examiner). 

The AIM however contains a good bit of information for pilots as well! The FAA has titled it “Fitness For Flight” and its section 8 of the AIM. It covers and abundance of health related topics that pertain to aspiring aviators as well as experienced airmen.

The annual edition of the FAR/AIM is a must have for any pilot. But understanding the benefits and being familiar with the AIM portion will help you become a better and safer aviator! Be sure to checkout Northstar’s Pre-Tabbed FAR AIM today! I guarantee that it’ll save you hours upon hours on the ground so that you can spend more time in the sky! The durable tabs help you locate important regulations and it'll save you tons of time and headache from having to handwrite on sticky notes. 

By Jordan Bullock, CFI & Boeing 737 Pilot

Northstar Aviation References brings you the Pre-Tabbed ASA FAR/AIMDIY tabs for your FAR/AIM and other pilot resources so that you can more easily study the regulations that form the foundation of your flying career or hobby. Have any questions? Check out our FAQs page or contact us. Check out other blog posts here.