I received a question last night from Ed and this is what he wrote:
While performing a practice BFR for reinstatement, the P.P. said that current sectional charts are no longer a required item!? Can not find any reference to this on web or AIM.
This is one of those questions I was SURE I knew the answer to as soon as I read it. I mean I was positive about my response. Of course current aeronautical charts are required to be on board, right? Well….
Before I fired off my reply, I thought that I should look through the FARs and AIM in order to provide a solid legal footing for my answer. I grabbed my handy (and current) 2010 FAR / AIM and….well, it’s got to be in here somewhere. I mean, where is the FAR reference that all aeronautical charts have to be current and valid?
What I found shocked me. There is only one reference to “charts” in all of Part 91 and that is 91.503 which reads:
The pilot in command of an airplane shall ensure that the following flying equipment and aeronautical charts and data, in current and appropriate form, are accessible for each flight…
There is only one problem with this reference. It falls under Part 91 Subpart F which is applicable to “Large and Turbine-Powered Multiengine Airplanes and Fractional Ownership Program Aircraft” In other words, not to most of General Aviation and it’s pilots.
However, a little more searching did turn up a FAQ on the FAA NACO charting website that answers this question directly:
The FAA has rendered interpretations that have stated the foregoing. The subject of current charts was thoroughly covered in an article in the FAA’s July/August 1997 issue of FAA Aviation News. That article was cleared through the FAA’s Chief Counsel’s office. In that article the FAA stated the following:
- “You can carry old charts in your aircraft.” “It is not FAA policy to violate anyone for having outdated charts in the aircraft.”
- “Not all pilots are required to carry a chart.” “91.503..requires the pilot in command of large and multiengine airplanes to have charts.” “Other operating sections of the FAR such as Part 121 and Part 135 operations have similar requirements.”
- …”since some pilots thought they could be violated for having outdated or no charts on board during a flight, we need to clarify an important issue. As we have said, it is NOT FAA policy to initiate enforcement action against a pilot for having an old chart on board or no chart on board.” That’s because there is no regulation on the issue.
- …”the issue of current chart data bases in handheld GPS receivers is a non-issue because the units are neither approved by the FAA or required for flight, nor do panel-mounted VFR-only GPS receivers have to have a current data base because, like handheld GPS receivers, the pilot is responsible for pilotage under VFR.
- “If a pilot is involved in an enforcement investigation and there is evidence that the use of an out-of-date chart, no chart, or an out-of-date database contributed to the condition that brought on the enforcement investigation, then that information could be used in any enforcement action that might be taken.”
In other words, because there is no specific federal regulation that requires current charts to be carried on board the FAA can not say you violated a regulation by carrying out of date charts. HOWEVER all pilots are required by FAR 91.103 (preflight action) to:
Each pilot in command shall, before beginning a flight, become familiar with all available information concerning that flight.
That legally means that if you failed in your preflight preparations to notice a new restricted area and you violated that restricted area because you used non current charts, well, that’s another ball game (in other words, you are in trouble).
Here is another way to look at it. Take a look at this table:
|Terminal Area Chart
|World Aeronautical Chart
|Enroute Low Altitude Chart
|Enroute High Altitude Chart
|Terminal Procedures Publication
That means if you are flying with a sectional chart for instance, that is 6 years out of date,you have approximately 3,336 changes that have not been made to your chart. Good luck guessing which ones they are! Hopefully the changes are not to a prohibited area along your route of flight, or maybe a new obstacle that has just been added to that ridge you are about to cross.
So in summary: Are current aeronautical charts specifically required by the FARs for general part 91 operations, no. But carrying current charts are much more than just a good idea. They are critical to being able to operate safely and legally in today’s ever changing airspace system.
Fly Safe! (and carry current charts)