Aircraft owners & operators - What is an Aircraft Flight Manual (AFM)?
What is an Aircraft Flight Manual (AFM)?
The Aircraft Flight Manual (AFM) is a book containing the information and instructions required to operate the aircraft safely. The pilot must comply with this AFM information. A typical AFM will contain the following:
- Limitations - the 'envelope' of maximum speeds; maximum weights; allowable centre of gravity range; maximum engine RPM, temperatures and oil pressures, etc (for the specified powerplant); and allowable manoeuvres and other limits, within which the aircraft must be operated to be safe.
Operating procedures - aircraft procedures, speeds and configurations used to:
- Achieve expected performance and behaviour in Normal situations.
- Achieve safe outcomes in some specified Abnormal or Emergency situations (such as a forced landing after engine failure).
Performance - the required variation of the aircraft's maximum allowable weights, as affected by air pressure and temperature, in order to:
- Take-off or land in available runway distance.
- Climb at the minimum required gradient, or greater gradient needed to clear obstacles in the intended flight path following take-off or missed approach.
- Other information and instructions necessary to safely operate the aircraft
The AFM is as important as any other critical part of the aircraft. It is a part of the type design.
If AFM supplements are applicable and required, the complete AFM is the combination of the basic AFM and those AFM supplements.
To ensure that the pilot of an Australian aircraft is able to comply with the basic AFM and relevant AFM supplements, all the AFM information must be in the English language.
The AFM is usually clearly identified as an AFM.
For some older aircraft, the AFM may not be actually called an AFM but, instead, is a maker's document which has particular sections marked as containing approved AFM information.
Modern light aircraft have the AFM in the US General Aviation Manufacturer's Association (GAMA) Specification No. 1, 'Pilot's Operating Handbook' (POH) format.
'GAMA Spec.' POH
In 1975, the US GAMA introduced the 'GAMA Specification No. 1' format for the 'Pilot's Operating Handbook' (POH).
For most light aircraft listed as built in 1976 or later, makers have provided Pilot's Operating Handbooks (POHs) that are in the 'GAMA Specification No. 1' format. These POHs contain the AFM information that must be provided to the pilot under the relevant National Airworthiness Authority's airworthiness standards.
Under the new Australian AFM system, all such 'GAMA Spec.' POHs are required basic AFMs.
Compliance and carriage
Under regulation 138 of CAR 1988 the pilot is required to comply with the information and instructions in the AFM.
Unless an automatic exemption applies for Air Operator Certificate (AOC) holders under regulation 139 (3) of CAR 1988, an AFM must be carried in an aircraft when the aircraft is flying. This exemption allows AOC holders to carry an operations manual in the aircraft in place of the AFM.