WHATS LEGAL and WHO WILL BE MAKING THAT JUDGEMENT CALL?
1) FAA REGULATIONS...THE FAR: Nothing in the FAR demands that you carry a Sectional! The nearest and most comprehensive statement is, FAR Paragraph 91.103 Preflight action, the first sentence of which is: "Each Pilot in command shall, before beginning a flight, become familiar with all available information concerning that flight." The four subtopics in 91.103 detail IFR, runway information, takeoff/landing distances, and knowledge of aircraft performance.
2) RAMP CHECKS: If you have a current paper Sectional and an AFD, there is probably no FAA Inspector that will cite you. Are there any that might say, "That big coffee stain is a no-no . . . you're grounded!"? Or for example, you intend to stay in the pattern, have drawn an airport map, showing runway information, radio frequencies, local obstructions, and maybe a nearby field for an emergency landing, are you legal? My guess is (not an attorney), probably. We have also chatted with OUR FSDO and were informed that you do not have to carry a Sectional to be legal. The FAA stands by its wording; "all available information".
3) AIR CHART SYSTEMS NOTEBOOKS: Our "paper competitor", Air Chart Systems, the makers of spiral bound notebooks that contain "COPIES" of Sectionals printed on high durability paper, claims (indirectly) on their web site and in certain advertisements, the use of the word legal. On the first page of their books, they include an "UPDATE LOG" wherein you must afix your initials everytime they supply you with an update. Their books include a nice lookup table instead of the Legend Areas you are familiar with.
We think there is the possibility of a very minor problem their big books...
THEY DO NOT UPDATE THE CHARTS . . . YOU HAVE DO TO IT!
However, call Air Chart Systems and ask them what they send you every 28 days. You'll find that
A note to Air Chart Systems: If we have this wrong, please call ED/iT Inc at (800) 987-3282 and advise us immediately. We we provide a more definitive statement correcting our error and would be pleased to inform our readers of how you can state that your charts are "legal".
(As an aside, the Air Chart Systems books have been around for quite a while. We think their books are terriic. Even though the pair weighs five pounds and they do not really fit on your lap, you do get all the lower 48 for about $160 and no batteries are needed.
4) GARMIN ET AL:You just spent $2,000 or $3,000 for a Garmin 396 or 496. That's big bucks. What happens when you turn it on? It says something like, "NOT TO BE USED FOR NAVIGATIONAL PURPOSES."
WHAT ABOUT eSECTIONALS?
5) SOURCE OF eSECTIONALS - digital charts provided to ED/iT directly by the National Aeronautical Charting Office (NACO) of the FAA. This is the same office that generates your paper sectionals. In fact, the digital charts are very high resolution scanned images of the actual paper charts from edge-to-edge including all legend information. WE VALIDATE GEO-REFERENCING AND VALIDATE CHART DATE RANGE FOR EVERY CHART REVISION. WHEN WE FIND ERRORS, WE ADVISE NACO IMMEDIATELY!
If you are using eSectionals or ePilotage in-flight (on a PC), you can show any chart to any interested observer to note the chart date appearing in the legend area.
If you are using an eSectionals TripKit, each frame is printed with the Sectional Name, Part, Edition, Effective Date, and Date it becomes Obsolete.
Since the eSectionals Charts are unaltered, directly from FAA-NACO, containing current information per FAR 91.103, they meet the requirements for in-flight use.
Our guess is that a given FAA Inspection may decline at their own option, your Air Chart Systems books or our eSectionals while another may say that either is just fine!. None of them will tell you your $3000 Garmin is legal.
Finally, a most critical issue about Sectionals: You will find that identical areas on different Sectionals (both current) will not have identical information nor will the information appear in the same place. For example, the Cleveland area on one Sectional shows four radio towers south west of an airport. On the adjacent Sectional, there are only three towers shown. We asked the FAA about such omissions and it was represented that a VFR pilot should be looking outside the cockpit. And, you should read your AFD covering for the Chart Update Notices published after charts are printed or visit the FAA website for similar notices. YOU ARE NOT CURRENT IF YOU HIT A RADIO TOWER NOT SHOWN ON A CURRENT CHART IF YOU DID NOT CHECK FOR THESE UPDATES!