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Not really looking for any good answer but more starting a discussion about this.  Is the aim regulatory in nature? As I study and learn I find that the AIM to be suggestions and sometimes I read the AIM as if it where regulatory. For example recommended entry into a hold vs restrictions that apply concerning filing an airport as an alternate when using gps (aim 1-1-18 g / gps approach procedures).  I haven't found a regulation in the FAR's that state that if I plan to use a GPS approach at my destination then my alternate airport must have an approved IAP other than an GPS approach.

5 Answers

  1. Wes Beard on Oct 09, 2013

    The AIM is not regulatory in nature. It is highly recommended that it’s guidance be followed though. Lets take your two examples.

    The AIM has recommended hold entries: direct, parallel and teardrop. There used to be others but the AIM doesn’t mention it. Does anyone remember the 80/260 method? Still valid. The regulation simply requires you remain on the protected side of the hold. The AIM show you how to accomplish that the most effective way. You can use any method anytime as long as you stay where you are supposed to be.

    The AIM states that an alternate airport should have an approach other than GPS if your first airport has a GPS approach you are going to use. The regulatory requirement for this statement would be found in the approved supplement for the equipment you are flying. It is also this reason a WAAS approved receiver doesn’t have that requirement.

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  2. Kris Kortokrax on Oct 09, 2013

    If you read the AIM, you will find the following statement in the first few pages:

    “This publication, while not regulatory, provides information which reflects examples of operating techniques and procedures which may be requirements in other federal publications or regulations.”

    In other words, if you find yourself standing before an NTSB Administrative Law Judge, you will not be charged with violating the AIM. You must be charged with violating a regulation. Your failure to follow the procedures outlined in the AIM may be an aggravating factor in the enforcement action, but they cannot be the sole basis for an enforcement action.

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  3. Mark Kolber on Oct 10, 2013

    On some aviation forums, “The AIM is not regulatory” is #1 on the list of “Aviation Regulation Fallacies and Half-Truths” in my signature block.

    The AIM is a “guidance document.” It contains a collection of information, recommended practices and requirements found in the regulations an other documents. That something is in the AIM pretty much tells you is at least a best practice. It does not automatically tell you whether its is a rule or not, although many rule-like statements do specifically tell you they are recommendations only.

    Good example is traffic patterns. Entering on a 45 to the downwind is a recommendation; left turns in the pattern (unless otherwise provided) is a rule based in the FAR.

    Sometimes you get a hybrid. The GPS rules are a good example of that category. The GPS rules in the AIM are a combination of regulation, AC and FAA Order documents, some of which are “regulatory” and some of which are themselves “guidance.” But in this case, note the FAR 1.1 definition of a “suitable RNAV system” which specifically refers to “guidance” information for the details. (A good thing unless you want the FAA to have to go to the full regulatory process to give you the benefit of new GPS capabilities).

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  4. Skyfox on Jan 14, 2016

    Looks like I’m late to the party for this question. I’d have to contend that following the AIM, while not regulatory, is required. First, I asked a checkride examiner about this years ago when I worked at an FBO/flight school. To paraphrase what he said: “The FAA treats the AIM as the SOPs (standard operating procedures) of aviation, and as mandatory as the regulations. Breaking an AIM procedure can be used against you [in terms of the FAA taking action against a pilot].”

    Second, looking at the most recent publication of the AIM (PDF file, released Dec. 10, 2015), the first page of introduction following the list of changes states: “This manual contains the fundamentals REQUIRED in order to fly in the United States NAS.” [all caps emphasis mine]

    However, a the next page does state: “This publication, while not regulatory, provides information which reflects examples of operating techniques and procedures which may be requirements in other federal publications or regulations. It is made available solely to assist pilots in executing their responsibilities required by other publications.” This makes it sound like those parts which are specifically referenced in the FARs or other regulatory sources would be mandatory, although it doesn’t specify that such a requirement for a procedure to be followed would be exclusive to those parts which are referenced in the FARs/regulatory publications. And of course informational things like aeromedical factors are provided only for knowledge and reference.

    So it seems to me that while there aren’t codified laws for some standards and procedures outlined in the AIM, it’s more than just a recommendation and the FAA wants those procedures followed and accepted by pilots. But since there is a lingering question about this, I’m going to send a question about it to the local FSDO for a more definitive answer.

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  5. Skyfox on Jan 21, 2016

    I received an answer to my email to the FSDO:

    The publication is not regulatory, it simply contains the basic fundamentals required in order to fly in the United States NAS. A violation can only be based on a regulation.



    Thomas G. Kozura
    Principal Operations Inspector
    Grand Rapids, FSDO

    So, it looks like I was wrong and apparently so was the checkride examiner who gave me that advice. It’s good to know a more definitive answer. Hope this helps everyone!

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