Atomatoflames is an aviation acronym that is far easier to remember than many of the rules and regulations that govern general aviation. In short, tomatoflames is an acronym that lists all the equipment requirements required for flight operations conducted in the USA under FAR 91.205(b) in powered civil aircraft.
According to the Code of Federal Regulations, FAR 91.205 lists and describes the, “Powered civil aircraft with standard category U.S. airworthiness certificates: Instrument and equipment requirements.“
In plain English then, it’s the required equipment that you should have installed aboard your aircraft if it has a US certificate of airworthiness when flying under visual flight rules (VFR), but it’s also useful for any type of aircraft operated anywhere.
Let’s break down ATOMATOFLAMES into its constituent parts along with those of the additional acronym FLAPS which denotes the equipment required for night flying.
- A is for Airspeed indicator
- T is for Tachometer for each engine
- O is for Oil pressure gauge for each engine using a pressure system
- M is for Manifold pressure gauge for each altitude engine
- A is for Altimeter
- T is for Temperature gauge for each liquid-cooled engine
- O is for Oil temperature gauge for each air-cooled engine
- F is for Fuel gauges indicating the quantity of fuel in each tank
- L is for Landing gear position indicator, if the aircraft has a retractable gear
- A is for Anti collision lights
- M is for Magnetic direction indicator
- E is for Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT)
- S is for Safety belt
On some versions of this list, you’ll see a magnetic compass instead of the magnetic or gyroscopic direction indicator (DI).
FLAPS – VFR Equipment for a Night Flight
- F is for Fuses (spare fuses x 3)
- L is for Landing light
- A is for Anti collision lights
- P is for Position lights
- S is for Source of power
Notes on VFR Required Equipment
As with all checklists in aviation, some of the above only apply if the aircraft is fitted with the equipment as standard. For example, a single-engine Cessna 172 that has a fixed undercarriage differs from a single-engine Piper Arrow Turbo with retractable gear, and that too differs from a Beechcraft Baron G58 (twin-engined, retractable landing gear).
Non-Radio VFR Flight
You may have noticed that radio equipment is not on the list. Although two way radio communication is preferable at all times, a radio is not part of the legally required equipment for flights conducted under visual flight rules unless the flight is within controlled airspace.
This seems like an omission. Who wouldn’t want to listen to air traffic control? But aircraft don’t need radios for them to be flown safely during a VFR flight. The debate about operating safely with or without radios continues, but for now, they are not mandatory.
FAA Approved Safety Belt
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandates the use of seat belts or approved restraint systems for all persons aboard aircraft. These include an approved shoulder harness if the airplane is fitted with one.
The type of restraint system used will be determined by the make and model of the aircraft, as well as the seating configuration. However, all approved restraint systems must meet certain safety standards set forth by the FAA.
Oil Pressure Gauge
Even the non-flyer can work out that this gauge indicates the amount of oil pressure in the engine. The oil pressure gauge is located on the instrument panel, and it usually has a white needle that points to a scale with red and green markings. When the needle is in the green zone, it indicates that the engine oil pressure is within the normal range. However, if the needle moves into the red zone, it means that the engine oil pressure has dropped and needs to be checked immediately. A low oil pressure reading can be a sign of serious problems, such as an oil leak or an issue with the engine itself.
Oil Temperature Gauge
The oil temperature gauge monitors the temperature of the engine oil, which is an important indicator of engine health. it not only warns the pilot when the engine oil is getting too hot during the flight but also indicates if the oil is too cold during startup and before the flight. If the oil temperature starts to rise, the pilot can take action to prevent damage to the engine.
The oil temperature gauge along with the oil pressure gauge are two of the gauges in the set often referred to as the “Ts & Ps” – temperatures and pressures.
Manifold Pressure Gauge
The manifold pressure gauge measures the difference in pressure between the outside atmospheric pressure and the pressure inside the engine’s cylinders. This difference is caused by the piston moving up and down in the cylinder, which creates a vacuum. The higher the manifold pressure, the more power the engine is producing. The manifold pressure gauge is used to monitor engine performance and ensure that the engine is operating within its design limits. It is also used to lean the mixture during takeoff and landing, and to adjust the carburetor for different altitudes.
The airspeed indicator provides critical information about the speed of the aircraft through the body of air in which it is flying. It consists of a needle that moves along a scale, which is calibrated in knots. The scale also has color-coded markings that indicate safe operating speeds. The reading is generated by measuring the pressure differential between the static port on the fuselage and the forward facing pitot port (which usually has a remove before flight tag over it when the aircraft is not in use to prevent weather and insect incursion).
Landing Gear Position Indicator
The purpose of a landing gear position indicator is to provide the pilot with visual confirmation that the landing gear is in the correct position for takeoff or landing. The indicator typically consists of a series of small lights, each of which corresponds to a different position of the landing gear. For example, a three-light system may have one light for the up position, one light for the down position, and one light for the in-transit position. When the gear is in the correct position for takeoff or landing, all of the lights will be illuminated.
Electric Landing Light
The electric landing light is typically located in the leading edge of the wing or beneath the nose. Landing lights also make the aircraft more visible to other pilots, and they can be helpful in low-visibility conditions such as fog or rain. While landing lights are not required for daytime operations, many pilots choose to use them anyway, as they can provide an extra margin of safety. Electric landing lights typically use halogen bulbs, which produce a bright, white light that is easy to see in all conditions.
Anti Collision Lights
Anti collision lights are required on all aircraft certificated in the USA. They help other pilots see your aircraft, not just during VFR flights but especially at night or during adverse weather conditions. The lights must be visible from all directions, so they use special lens optics to achieve this.
There are two types of anti collision lights: incandescent bulbs and LEDs. Incandescent bulbs have been used for decades in many applications but are being replaced by LEDs due to their lower power consumption and longer life span. LEDs also offer the ability to produce different colors, which can be useful in certain situations (e.g., red for night operations). Anti collision lights are powered by the aircraft’s electrical system and are controlled by a switch in the cockpit.
Every student pilot learns early on about the importance of a visual inspection of the fuel level in each tank during the preflight checks, but once airborne, the pilot relies on the fuel gauges. Each fuel gauge tells the pilot how much fuel is remaining in the tank(s), and it can therefore be used to estimate how long the aircraft can remain airborne.
The fuel gauge consists of a float that sits on top of the fuel in the tank. The float is connected to a needle, which moves along a scale to show how much fuel is remaining. The scale is usually marked in increments of percentage or hours, so that the pilot can easily see how much fuel is left. Additionally, some fuel gauges have an LED that illuminates when the tank is low on fuel.