The Minimum Equipment List, or MEL, is often a confusing concept for student pilots. As well as having a misleading name, many student pilots do not encounter the MEL in real life as more often than not trainer aircraft do not have them. However, understanding the MEL and how it features in the regulations is essential learning for those working towards their pilot certificate.
What is the Minimum Equipment List (MEL)?
The Minimum Equipment List is an inappropriately-named document. Instead of listing the minimum equipment required for airworthiness, the document lists equipment which may be inoperative during aircraft operation, as long as certain conditions are met.
The MEL applies to a specific aircraft, rather than an aircraft type, and must be maintained as equipment is installed or removed from the airplane.
Why is it useful?
The regulations (specifically 91.205) list the equipment and instruments that must be installed and operative. Section 91.213 states that no pilot may take off in airplane with inoperable equipment, unless certain conditions are met.
For an airplane without a MEL, a flight may be legally conducted with inoperable equipment, as long as that inoperable equipment is disabled and placarded inoperable, does not appear as required equipment in 91.205, and is not listed as ‘required’ in the Pilots Operating Handbook (POH), and a suitably qualified pilot has determined that the flight may be safely conducted without the inoperable equipment.
For an airplane with a MEL, the MEL itself describes which equipment is allowed to be inoperable, and any associated conditions which must be met if the airplane is flown with specific inoperable equipment. It can provide partial relief from the requirements of 91.205 in some circumstances.
In certain scenarios, such as for all jet powered aircraft, a Minimum Equipment List is required by the regulations.
There is a lot more to learn about the MEL, but this basic information is sufficient to get you through your private pilot oral. Make sure you read and understand 14 CFR 91.205 and 14 CFR 91.213, and tab your copy of the regulations so you can quickly find it during your oral – knowledge of these regulations is very likely to be tested.
If you don’t have a copy of the regulations yet, don’t delay, get yours here!
What about the Master Minimum Equipment List (MMEL?)
The MMEL is provided for an aircraft type by the manufacturer. It serves as the ‘starting point’ for developing the MEL for a specific airframe. The FAA makes MMELs available for most type-certified aircraft in the Flight Standards Information Management System (FSIMS) at http://fsims.faa.gov/PublicationForm.aspx.