Welcome Guest. Sign in or Signup

Where is the source for the “W” in A.R.R.O.W?

Posted by on January 4, 2009 17 Comments Category : Flight Instructor Blog Tags : , ,

John writes asking about the W in the A.R.R.O.W. acronym:

With regards to the acronym “ARROW” for required documents: Where in the FARs is the specific requirement for the “W”? I realize the requirement would be indirectly there because of the requirement for the AFM. But the acronym would be rather lengthy if we listed all the required components of the AFM.

If you’re reading this post, and haven’t started flying yet, here is something you should know about aviation: we have a acronym and mnemonic for EVERYTHING.  Especially when it comes to remembering lengthy regulations.  In this case, ARROW is the acronym used to help remember the required basic documents and paperwork that must be on board every airplane to be legal.   To review:

A – Airworthiness Certificate

R – Registration

R – Radio Station License (not required in the U.S.)

O – Pilot Operating Handbook (specifically the Operating Limitations)

W – Weight and Balance

John’s question is simply, “Can you show me in the regs where it says we need the W?”  Sure John, I’d be happy to help.  I do want to point out though that acronymns and mnemonics are not officially recognized.  They are not endorsed by the FAA.  We use them in the training community simply as a memory aid and device.  Maybe sometime, a long time ago, some instructor decided that “ARO” wasn’t as easy to remember as “ARROW”.

There are actually a couple of places where  we can find this requirement though.  The most common one most instructors point to is…

1) FAR 91.103 – Preflight Action.

This regulation details the information that pilots are supposed to become familiar with  before each and every flight.  Of course, we have another mnemonic (RAWFAT) to help us remember the these requirements:

(I have place an asterisk by the ones that are only required for flights not in the immediate vicinity of the airport)

R- Runway lengths (every flight)

A – Alternates *

W – Weather *

F- Fuel requirements  *

A – ATC delays *

T- Takeoff/landing distance data (every flight)

Let’s look at the last one – T.  If you are required to know your takeoff / landing distance data for each and every flight, it is somewhat implied that you are going to have to know your weight and balance as your performance will vary, obviously, with changes in the aircraft’s gross weight.  In fact, 91.103(b)(2) states that if for some reason you are flying an older airplane, for which there is not the standard  takeoff and landing data tables than:

(2) For civil aircraft other than those specified in paragraph (b)(1) of this section, other reliable information appropriate to the aircraft, relating to aircraft performance under expected values of airport elevation and runway slope, aircraft gross weight, and wind and temperature.

2) FAR 91.9 – Civil aircraft flight manual, marking, and placard requirements.

This regulation states pretty clearly that yes, we need an approved airplane flight manual but also:

..no person may operate a civil aircraft without complying with the operating limitations specified in the approved Airplane or Rotorcraft Flight Manual…

In every limitation section of a Airplane Flight Manual (or POH) you will find a section detailing not only the max. and min. weight limits but also the center of gravity limits.  So again, this implies that if you are required to operate within these limitations than you will have to complete a weight-and-balance calculation prior to every flight.

3) FAR 43.5 – Approval for return to service after maintenance, preventive maintenance, rebuilding, or alteration.

This regulation states that if any major repair work has been done on your airplane and that repair work results in a change or alteration of the limitations of the airplane.  That information must be entered in the airplane flight manual (AFM).  That is why you see all those updated weight and balance forms in the aircraft’s AFM.  It’s required.

I hope this has helped answer your question about why the “W” is in “ARROW”.

Fly Safe.


  1. Mark on Jan 19, 2009

    The acronym that I use to remember documents (as a Canadian instructor) is:
    A – Certificate of Airworthiness
    I – Insurance
    R – Certificate of Registration
    O – POH
    W – Weight and Balance
    I – Intercept Orders
    L – Licenses (Radio/Medical cert./Pilot License)
    L – Journey Logbook (required if landing at an aerodrome different than where you started)

    I am curious, since you used the “ARROW” acronym above, do you not require all of the documents that I have mentioned?

  2. Eric on Jan 21, 2009

    Mark, in the US, the last three aren’t required for the aircraft, although the license (certificated pilots only), medical/student license, and logbook (for student pilots only) are all required to be on board. We use ARROW for aircraft documents; there’s a separate list for the pilot.

    I’ve never seen ‘intercept orders’ required, although the AIM does contain procedures in the event of interception.

  3. Marcus on Apr 21, 2011

    Alright guys, I do have a pretty good answer on this one.

    Everything except “W” is regulatory by means of clear text of FAR part 91.
    We can assume that 91.103 (Preflight Action) requires a pilot to be fully aware of the aircrafts current state regarding Weight and balance. However, there is no statement in that paragraph saying that we need to bring the “weight and balance data” with us when we are flying. We as pilots, regulatory wise need only be “aware”. In other words, we need no proof of calculating a W and B sheet.

    However!! – Most aviation schools fly Cessna 172, 172RG, 152… you name em. If you take a look in section 8 (Page 8-5) in a Cessna POH, you will see under “AIRPLANE FILE” that Weight and Balance, and associated papers are to be carried in the airplane at all times.

    Ive only looked in to the cessna Pohs, so unfortunately, I dont know if piper or beechcraft etc have the same requirement.

    I hope this helps!

    A – Airworthiness Certificate
    R – Registration
    R – Radio Station License (not required in the U.S.)
    O – Pilot Operating Handbook (specifically the Operating Limitations)
    W – Weight and Balance

  4. Conor on Apr 12, 2012

    Excellent responses!

    I’d like to point out that even if it’s not explicitly in the regs, a pilot would be remiss to go flying without having assured themselves that their ship is within its weight and balance envelope. If such a pilot had an accident that involved stalling or landing long (and survived), weight and balance might be questioned by the investigators, and they might find such a pilot to have been negligent in their duties under 91.103, 91.7 (airworthiness), and 91.13 (careless & reckless operation). So even if it’s not in the regs, why would you launch without having weight and balance information for your flight?

  5. Michael on Jul 08, 2012

    I would like to know about all the types of flaps there are out there, for a private test, do you
    have to know all?

    Also do you have a formula to calculate when to start your desent when coming to an airport say at a speed of 110 a cessna 152 and alt of 8000.

    Do you have good method of teaching emergency procedures, as engine out on takeoff
    at 350 feet or fire in engine, smoke in cockpit., stuck flap on one side?

  6. Jim Madison on Aug 11, 2012

    Weight and balance must be performed but the paperwork itself is not required to be carried on board.

  7. Keith Martin on Aug 14, 2012

    At my flight school, each helicopter has it’s own specific POH/RFM, with it’s registration number posted on the front. Filed inside (along with all the standard operating limitations) are the weights and arms listed for that specific helicopter, including all optional equipment. For example, if a radio or other equipment is added…the weight and balance portion has to be revised accordingly. Thus, it’s my understanding that the “W” is not a separate requirement, but is more accurately part of the “O”….Operating Limitations (along with other parts of the POH/RFM, placards, etc.) We leave our weight and balance calculations back at our dispatch desk before we go fly….but we DO carry the weight and balance limits onboard, in our POH.

  8. Arch on Oct 06, 2012

    Your response is right on the $$$$$$$$. Many a pilot, including airline pilots, are under the mistaken notion that FAR Part 91 flights do not require a Weight & Balance calculation. This is absolutely INCORRECT. Your response hits the nail on the head backed up by published FARs. Kudos for doing your homework.

  9. michael kolcun on Nov 03, 2012

    would like to know, on take off if flaps are down, and you bring them up abruptly, can you lose
    control of plane

  10. Lisa on Mar 17, 2013

    Are you asking full 40 degrees of flaps? Or the 10 degrees? I forgot to put the flaps up on a touch and go and when I noticed my speed was not climbing but in fact I was losing power, I lowered the nose and looked to see if anything was wrong and of course I found the flaps still 30 degrees down. I was doing my first solo so I just put them up all at once and it didn’t lose control —it felt like a hot air balloon lifting up, but actually the plane sank 🙂 I don’t think you can lose control but I suppose it would depend on how fast, what altitude and other factors. I have also rode with a friend who had a 182 more power of course, and he was showing off and took off with full flaps and raised them up pronto and the plane climbed straight up, but I wouldn’t recommend doing them all at once, 10 degrees at a time is normal procedure. 🙂 And be high enough up so when it sinks lol you don’t bottom out on the runway :-=)

  11. Jimemcdonald on Apr 11, 2014


    Folks you can never be to Safe;; Know and do what is required for the plane
    you are flying every time , every flight I/A/W the FAR 91 etc; Why, just ask or
    read the final reports, after the Insurance Companies beat you down and the Lawyers
    beat you up, IF and when that bad, bad day, may come to pass. That Insurance
    Premium you been paying could go down the toilet (flush).
    Bad things usually come on very HOT days and High Density Alt.
    that’s my bit for today!!!!!

  12. Gary on Oct 18, 2014

    As far as I know there are only two documents that are positively, absolutely, and legally required to be carried in an aircraft…Airworthiness Certificate and Aircraft Registration.

    However, some folks say also operations/limitations and the latest change to weight/balance data (if any) are required.

    Operations/Limitations may be airspeed indicator markings, a POH, an AFM, or perhaps several other things. I realize that.

    The latest Weight/Balance data is important to have for pre-flight planning but for in-flight use? Not in my opinion, so why would it be a mandatory document to have on-board at all times?

    The Airworthiness Certificate and Aircraft Registration are plainly spelled out, as being mandatory on-board documents but Operations/Limitations and the latest change to Weight/Balance data are not, as far as I can tell.

    What I’d like to know is…if I get ramp checked, will I be in trouble if I don’t have Operations/Limitations and the latest change to Weight/Balance data on-board the aircraft? If the answer is yes, please support the answer with a regulation number or other documented evidence, not just an assumption. I’d doubt FAA would accept an assumption about required documents. Thanks much.

  13. Don Kuehn on Jul 13, 2015

    According to the Canadian Air Regulations (and what I was taught as a student pilot) if you are flying beyond 25 nm of your point of departure and/or will be shutting down at an aerodrome other than that of your point of departure you are required to carry the following documents (the acronym I learned is:) ARROWJICI
    Certificate of Airworthiness
    Certificate of Registration
    Radio Station Licence (only if leaving Canadian airspace)
    Operator’s Handbook (the official one for that aircraft)
    Valid Weight and Balance Report
    Journey Log
    Certificate of Insurance
    Crew Licences
    Intercept Orders

  14. Dan on Dec 09, 2015

    Gary- Yep, you sure do need an AFM and you sure do need to abide by the limits (including the weight and balance limits) provided there within. Don’t need a told card, but you do need to abide by the limits. If you were to be ramped and did not have an AFM you would be in violation of the following (depending on year of aircraft AFM may not be required, but other suitable document would be needed):

  15. Dulcie Piche on Jun 03, 2016

    Practical article . I learned a lot from the analysis – Does someone know if my assistant would be able to access a sample a form form to fill out ?

  16. Fred on Jun 04, 2016


    John’s question is simply, “Can you show me in the regs where it says we need the W?”

    Well, on my CFI checkride I was asked this by an FAA Inspector who was also an IA. The simple correct answer is, “It cannot ‘always’ be shown or implied the “W” needs to reside IN THE AIRCRAFT.”

    Example given by the inspector: You are ramp-checked and asked to provide the required documents—repeated time and time again as ARROW. So, example: Do you have to show a document with the current ‘Weigh’ or ‘CG’ for your Cherokee 140? No. Why? Because there is no such regulation for such a document—which is why it’s not being directly cited. Ask your A&P or IA about this.
    The performance and/or preflight action answers (O) given by CFIs, while seemingly connected, are red herrings. You need to have calculated or considered many things, we all agree on this. And while it would be prudent to have the “W,” that’s not what’s asked! [Note: This is explained in Jepps’ FARs Explained.]
    If you wished, you can have the information with the weight and CG required for calculating performance at home or the FBO; just call and ask what it is; that is ‘technically’ legal. Prudent? Well, that’s not the question.

    But hold the phone. What about being ramp-checked after landing in an R22? The answer changes to: Absolutely yes! Why different in this case? This is somewhat different—as part of the required equipment in the R22 includes an original AFM [A R22 POH from the local shop will not suffice!] (which contains the “O”) with current weight and balance data. I.e., it’s a conjunction of the regs plus Robinson’s requirements/restrictions for maintaining certification for any R22/R44/R66.

    Do you have to have an “AFM” or even a POH and “W” in your Piper Cub? No! This is the exception that explains the complete rule. All those 91.9, 21.5, 23.23, 23.25, 23.1583, 23.1589, 43.5 are irrelevant when you look closely at the legalese.

    So, can a CFI show in the regs…? That depends. Having ARROW is wise—and it might be required; not having the “W” in ARROW will not necessary be a violation.

    Note: You will notice the questions on the AKT (in the past) did not list the “W” among the choices in the answers. Why? It’s not necessarily a requirement that “W” applies to ARROW. The FAA knows this; the inspectors know this.

  17. Abbie Mucci on Jun 05, 2016

    Hi Dulcie Piche, my partner came accross a sample a form copy with this link http://goo.gl/k6j1Q3

Leave a Reply