One of the first things an aspiring aviator learns is that pilots do a lot of reading. Sometimes it is to gain knowledge, other times to refresh knowledge, often examining the last revision in an FAA-published text.
Last week the FAA announced an update to the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, also known as the PHAK, or FAA-H-8083.
“This handbook supersedes FAA-H-8083-25B, Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, dated 2016; the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge Addendum A, dated February 2021; the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge Addendum B, dated January 2022; and the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge Addendum C, dated March 2023,” the FAA said.
In English, that means FAA-H-8083-25C is now in effect. The agency calls this a minor update to the PHAK, adding that a new version of it is slated to be released in June 2024. Mark your calendars now.
The PHAK and the companion book, the Airplane Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-3C), are the backbone of many private pilot ground schools. Both publications are available as paperbacks or downloadable as a PDF from the FAA.
If you need to know it to be a safe pilot, you’ll find it in the PHAK. Expect to learn about aeronautical decision-making, aircraft construction, principles and aerodynamics of flight, flight controls and aircraft systems, weight and balance, aircraft performance, weather theory and weather services, airport operations, navigation, airspace, and aeromedical factors.
The Airplane Flying Handbook (AFH) covers the how-to of flying an airplane, beginning with ground operations, basic flight maneuvers, energy management, altitude and airspeed control, upset prevention and recovery, takeoffs and departure climbs, ground reference maneuvers, airport traffic patterns, approaches and landings, performance maneuvers, night operations, and emergency maneuvers.
The AFH also features several chapters to help a pilot transition to another type of aircraft—, for example, complex airplanes, multiengine, tailwheel, turboprops, and light sport.
Do Not Fear the FAR/AIM
Ready for more literary aviation acronyms? You will want to have a current copy of the FAR/AIM, the Federal Aviation Regulations and Aeronautical Information Manual, at your fingertips.
In paperback, it is a big, thick book that can intimidate wannabe pilots. You do not—I repeat do not—have to memorize the information in the book, but you do need to know how to look up things in it. Even searching the PDF format isn’t exactly intuitive, so in your first time through the book in either electronic or paper form, you will want to have certified flight instructor (CFI) with you to help you determine what needs to be tabbed for quick reference.
If you decide on the paper version, there are companies that sell it pre-tabbed. You can go that route, but if you are a kinetic learner, you will likely get more out of tabbing it yourself. Grab some note cards and start writing and taping them in the right places—again under the guidance of your CFI.
Full disclosure: I still use a paper FAR/AIM. When the new version is released (around the first of the year), I spend an hour or so transferring the tabs from my old one or making new tabs as necessary. It’s a good review for me and a chance to see what has changed. I find this physical action helps most learners as well. For the private pilot candidate, we make a ground session of it, beginning with Part 61.1, applicability and definitions. This is where you find category and class with respect to both aircraft and airmen. These definitions are found on pretty much every knowledge test.
Part 61 covers the experience and knowledge required for the certificate or rating you seek. For the private pilot certificate, begin with FAR 61.81-61.95 that covers student pilots. Yes, the FAR/AIM still uses the word “students.” Pay special attention to FAR 61.87, solo requirements for student pilots. It lists the 15 things that must be taught before the learner can be signed off for solo flight.
This is the first FAR I have CFI candidates tab because “What do I need to teach them before I solo them?” is a frequently asked question.
For the learner pilots, going over FAR 61.87 line by line helps them understand what each lesson is about, and when paired with a syllabus, provides a plan of attack. FAR 61.89 student pilot limitations is another important one to review and tab, as pretty much every instructor can tell a story about a learner who violated one of the limitations because they didn’t know they existed.
Part 91 contains general operating and flight rules. It is often said that Part 61 walks you through the experience and knowledge you need to acquire the certificate or rating, and Part 91 contains the rules that, if broken, could cost you that certificate or rating. In this section you will find information on airspace, required equipment, and flight rules.
Putting it all Together
Most aviators, either by necessity or temperament, are lifelong learners. It starts with preparation for flight reviews and goes all the way up to type ratings. Get used to it.