In a recent Legal Interpretation, the FAA’s Office of the Chief Counsel was asked whether an aircraft flight manual which was provided at the time that an aircraft was purchased would be considered the “current” flight manual for the purposes of FAR 91.9(b)(1) or whether the operator would need to have the latest revision of the manual in order to legally operate the aircraft.
The Interpretation initially noted that FAR 91.9(b)(1) “prohibits operation of an aircraft for which an [flight manual] is required if that aircraft does not contain a copy of the “current” approved [flight manual]”. It then went on to observe that in order to comply with the Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”), the word “current” could not impose an ongoing obligation, but rather only apply as of the time that the manual was adopted by the owner or operator. However, the Interpretation qualified that observation by stating that a flight manual that was subsequently amended by an Airworthiness Directive (“AD”) would be considered a “current, approved” flight manual for purposes of FAR 91.9(b)(1).
As a result, the Interpretation concluded that “the word ‘current’, as it is used in FAR 91.9(b)(1), refers to the version of the [flight manual] that was in place at the time that the aircraft in question was purchased and includes any subsequent AD-mandated changes that were made to the [flight manual]. It went on to explain that “[t]he word “current” does not encompass any subsequent changes that were made to the [flight manual] that were not mandated by an AD or other rulemaking because those changes did not go through the notice and comment rulemaking process.”
Keep in mind that this Interpretation only applies to operations under FAR Part 91. Operations under other parts of the FARs are governed by different regulations which may interpret the word “current” differently than in the context discussed in this Interpretation. If you have questions or concerns regarding interpretations in other contexts, contact me directly and I would be happy to discuss the issue with you.