Aero ‘lectrics

The Feds have their virtual act together.


The FAA’s home page—everything you’ll need and more.

For all of the FAA’s reputation as a stodgy innovation-challenged organization, the folks in charge of its web site ( really have their act together. There is more good material on the thousands of pages of this site than I’ve seen from nearly any other government agency.

I generally navigate the FAA web site using the button bar near the top of the home page (Aircraft, Airports, Air Traffic, Data & Research, Licenses & Certificates, Regulations & Policies, Training & Testing). I’ll go through them one by one and point out some noteworthy items.


Have you ever wanted to find out how to reserve a special N-number for your half-built aircraft? This is where you’ll find out. Want to know who owns the serial No. 1 Long-EZ? Easy. Want to find out who owns aircraft in Nevada County, California? Trivial. Sorted by N-number? Easy. Want a printout of all aircraft registered in the United States? It’s pretty large (39 megabytes), but it is downloadable as a pdf file. How current is this file? It’s updated daily.

Are you interested in what aircraft are eligible for an Experimental certificate? A look at FAR 21.191 will tell you. Want to know what defines “airworthy?” You’ll find out right here. Feel like perusing Airworthiness Directives (ADs) back to the 1940s? Not a problem. By manufacturer? Easy. The most recent AD as of yesterday? It’s there. Do you really want to see the original Type Certificate Data Sheet for a 1948 Cessna 120? TCDS A-768 is still available along with the 34 revisions since March 28, 1946.

What if you want to know exactly what Grade A fabric is? The TSO-C15A specification is there for you to download. Want to find your nearest Flight Standards District Office (FSDO)? Give the page a city and a state and Voila! You’ll find everything you ever wanted to know about that office including address, phone numbers, accidents investigated, field approvals and more.


This menu includes everything that the old Airports Facility Directory (AFD) had, but in tabular (Excel spreadsheet) format. It’s not quite as easy as the old green AFD, but it’s accurate to within a day.

The air traffic portion probably doesn’t offer much of interest to those of us who fly “bugsmashers,” but it’s something you might want to read on a cold winter’s night.

Data and Research

In this section you can find accident reports going back 40 or 50 years. Whereas the rest of the FAA site is easy to navigate, this section requires some additional effort.

Licenses and Certificates

This is the mother lode, and it’s another place to search for ADs. All Airman Certificates are on file (though some high-profile pilots such as Chuck Yeager have requested their addresses not be published).

The complete Practical Test Standards (PTS) are online as are addresses for all aviation medical examiners in a given area. This is where you can update the address on your certificate, and even replace one that’s been lost. Applications for pilot and mechanic certificates are available, in addition to the FAA’s information on how to become a licensed pilot or become a mechanic, which you can find right on the home page as well.

Regulations and Policies

Snore. That’s what I first thought of this section until my technical advisor weighed in on the issue. This area is actually a treasure trove of information. You’ll find all of the current Advisory Circulars and ADs; the current Temporary Flight Restrictions (and these are current as of today); all current NOTAMS and current Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs)—plus a historical look at past regs all the way back to the Civil Air Regulations of the 1930s. You’ll even find regulations for space flight for those of you who are contemplating building SpaceShip III in your back yard.

And here’s the real treasure trove: Remember when we all had to buy those FAA publications such as the Airplane Flying Handbook, the Aviation Information Manual and others, for $10 per copy or so? They are all now available on either the Aircraft Handbooks & Manuals or Aviation Handbooks & Manuals areas of the site. There are dozens of them. The Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, the Aeronautical Information Manual, the Instrument Flying Handbook, the Student Pilot Guide and many more. And they’re all free.

Training and Testing

The pilot training section features many resources and guides—from scholarships and grants to how to develop a flight instructor refresher clinic. You’ll find information on mechanic training from locating a maintenance school to safety training events. There are even test guides and training handbooks, and information on how to keep your piloting skills current.

If you’re tempted to go to the dark side and work for the FAA, you’ll find a job listing with more than a dozen career categories the FAA is recruiting for, in a broad range of skill levels. These positions are located throughout the U.S., so check them out. You never know what you’ll find. Meanwhile, stay tuned.


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