What is the FAR/AIM? And Why is It Important?

What is the FAR/AIM? And Why is It Important?

By Jordan Bullock CFI, FO B737

Almost every single pilot at some point or another has heard of the FAR/AIM. Hopefully, you have even used it at some point. For those who aren’t well versed in using the heavy, nausea inducing and all encompassing federal guideline booklet, let’s take a look and break it down so that the FAR/AIM goes from being a phonebook catastrophe to your biggest asset. 

What exactly is the FAR/AIM?

Well, for starters it is actually two separate books bound together in one. The first part, the ‘FAR’, stands for Federal Aviation Regulations. Think of this book as the “Rules of the Road”. We’ll break down some important regulations all pilots should be aware of later, but for now let's discuss the formatting. 

Within the FAR, each section is numbered and referred to as a part. For example, qualifications required for each type of pilot license would be in section 61 (aka Part 61). So, each regulation within Part 61, would have a number sequence after it. For example, private pilot requirements are 61.103. Turning to this section, then lists each requirement for the private pilot license

The second part of the FAR/AIM book is the AIM portion. This stands for Aeronautical Information Manual. This document is overlooked by the majority of pilots within aviation. That's because most people aren’t sure what to use it for. 

Want to know what the METAR codes stand for? Check the AIM. It’s in there. Remember when your CFI taught you to turn crosswind around 500-700 feet? Why? Partly because their instructor taught them that, but more importantly, because it's in the AIM. Section 4-3-3 states “If remaining in the traffic pattern, commence turn to crosswind leg beyond the departure end of the runway within 300 feet of pattern altitude.” These are just a few examples of what is included in the many pages of the AIM. Be sure to check it out!

Why is the FAR/AIM important?

Since they’re separate documents, let's take a look at the Federal Aeronautical Regulations. As discussed previously, the FAR is broken down into Parts. Generally speaking, there are a few different sections we should take a look at. Below, we’ll break down the important sections: 

Part 61: Part 61 of the Federal Aviation Regulations pertains to the requirements of licenses. As you go from student pilot to Airline Transport Pilot (ATP), you will need different experiences for each rating. Part 61 is where you will find these requirements. It covers everything, from the medical requirement for a student pilot, to the specific type of flights that you need for the Commercial certificate (Ex: Day and Night cross country flights). If you are training for a rating, you NEED to be aware of what Part 61 requires for that specific rating. 

Part 91: Think of Part 91 as the “Rules of The Road”. When you need to know how far away from clouds you need to stay when flying VFR, Part 91 tells you. The beacon light is out and you need to know if you are legal to fly? Part 91 covers that. Anything to do specifically with flying the actual aircraft, Part 91 covers everything. 

*Let’s clarify something about Part 91. Say you’re hired to fly someone’s private plane for them. You would only be flying them, or their interests, thus you would be legally required to adhere to Part 91 rules. Now, what if you work for a private charter company? Or aspirations to work for an airline? In this case, Part 91 wouldn’t apply to you. There’s two more important sections in the FAR.

Part 135: This pertains to operations that sell tickets. As simple as that. Your local private jet charter company that flies different passengers every flight is operating under the part 135 rules. They have different weather requirements, pilot experience requirements and pilot duty times, amongst other things. Within the industry, to achieve the ability to charter private flights, one must obtain a Part 135 Certification for their company. This is often extremely time consuming and expensive. 

Part 121: This is all the airlines. Delta, American, United and the rest all abide by rules listed in this section. For instance, this section requires each crewmember to hold an ATP (Airlines Transport Pilot) license. This is the infamous “1,500 Hour Rule”. Reading through the Part 121 regulations can definitely be daunting. Which is expected, since this is where most passengers fly. 

Part 141: The last section I’d like to mention is Part 141. This is specifically related to Aviation schools. Your local mom and pop flight school operates under the previously mentioned Part 61 rules. Part 141 is specific to accredited flight academies. Think of Auburn University or Embry Riddle. Pilots training under this section have different requirements than those of flying under Part 61. Usually the curriculum at these schools are more structured and include an advanced college degree along with the pilot licenses.

All in all, the FAR/AIM provides a plethora of information. Each year the FAA releases the most updated revision with changes and amendments to various regulations so it’s always important to have the latest version. Also, the FAR/AIM can be used during your oral, since the checkride is technically an ‘open book’ evaluation. So checkout our website to purchase a pre-tabbed FAR/AIM. Having the book highlighted and tabbed out is a sure fire solution for when your brain stops working during your check ride! 

By Jordan Bullock CFI, FO B737

Northstar Aviation References brings you the Pre-Tabbed ASA FAR/AIM, DIY 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.