Aviators Model Code of Conduct


Aviators Model Code of Conduct Initiative


Aviators Model Code of Conduct Initiative www.secureav.com

Date Approved: 


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Code of Ethics

Version 2.0



Model Code

of Conduct


Tools to advance aviation safety and professionalism




The Aviators Model Code of Conduct (Code of Conduct) offers recommendations to advance flight safety, airmanship, and professionalism.

The Code of Conduct presents a vision of excellence for aviators. Its principles complement and underscore legal requirements.

The Code of Conduct is a model, not a standard. Users should customize or otherwise revise the document—including title, length, and organization—to fit their needs. See “Additional Resources” (below) for materials to help facilitate such customization.

The Code of Conduct will be most effective if users have a firm grasp of the fundamentals of flight as well as a commitment to the pursuit of professionalism.

The Code of Conduct has seven sections, each presenting Principles and Sample Recommended Practices.

The Sections:

  1. General Responsibilities of Aviators

  2. Passengers and People on the Surface

  3. Training and Proficiency

  4. Security

  5. Environmental Issues

  6. Use of Technology

  7. Advancement and Promotion of Aviation

The Sample Recommended Practices:

Sample Recommended Practices are suggestions for applying the principles of the Code of Conduct and tailoring them to individuals and organizations. Sample Recommended Practices may be reordered, modified or eliminated to satisfy the unique capabilities and requirements of each pilot, mission, aircraft, organization, and flight environment. They are not presented in any order of importance. Instrument flight rule (IFR)-specific Sample Recommended Practices generally appear last.

The Commentary:

Commentary on selected provisions of the Code of Conduct is published at <www.secureav.com>. The Commentary provides discussion, interpretive guidance, and suggested ways to adopt the Code of Conduct. Published commentary on any provision does not imply greater importance of that provision. Additional provisions will be added as the Commentary evolves.

Benefits of the Code of Conduct:

The Code of Conduct benefits pilots and the aviation community by:

  • highlighting practices to support safety and professionalism among aviators,

  • promoting improved pilot training, airmanship, conduct, personal responsibility, and pilot contributions to the aviation community and society at large,

  • encouraging the development and adoption of good judgment and ethical behavior,

  • advancing self-regulation through the aviation community as an alternative to government regulation,

  • supporting improved communications between pilots, regulators, and others in the aviation industry, and

  • promoting aviation and making flying a more rewarding and enjoyable experience.

Note: References to the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are used as examples. In all jurisdictions, applicable laws and regulations must be followed.



Aviators Model Code of ConducT

Principles and Recommended Practice

I.  General Responsibilities of Aviators

   Pilots should:

a.  make safety the highest priority,

b.  seek excellence in airmanship,

c.  develop and exercise good judgment and sound principles of aeronautical decision-making,

d.  recognize and manage risks effectively, and use sound principles of risk management,

e.  maintain situational awareness, and adhere to prudent operating practices and personal operating parameters (e.g., minimums),

f.  aspire to professionalism,

g.  act with responsibility and courtesy, and

h.  adhere to applicable laws and regulations.

Explanation:  These General Responsibilities serve as a preamble to the Code of Conduct’s other principles.

Sample Recommended Practices:

  • Approach flying with seriousness and diligence, recognizing that your life and the lives of your passengers and others depend on you.
  • Never subject others to risks you would not prudently take, and plan your flights accordingly.
  • Recognize that your conduct reflects upon the entire aviation community.
  • Understand and comply with the privileges and limitations of your certificates, licenses, and ratings, and ensure any endorsements are correct and current.
  • Advance situational awareness based on sound principles of airmanship, scenario-based instruction, and risk management.
  • Develop, use, periodically review, and refine personal checklists and personal minimums for all phases of flight. Review these materials regularly with an experienced instructor or other trusted mentor.
  • Recognize, accept, and plan for the costs of implementing proper safety practices.
  • Be aware of personal susceptibility to (and seek to avoid or manage) distraction, fatigue, stress, and hazardous attitudes.
  • Make personal wellness and an honest evaluation of your mental and physical fitness a precondition of each flight—for example, by using the I’M SAFE (Illness, Medication, Stress, Alcohol, Fatigue, Emotion) checklist.
  • Develop conservative personal operating parameters reflecting experience, proficiency, and currency in challenging conditions, including poor weather and night operations.
  • Establish conservative personal parameters for the use of supplemental oxygen and an awareness of your personal susceptibility to hypoxia. Consider use of a pulse oximeter. Use supplemental oxygen on flights when required by rule or any time it may be beneficial.
  • Adhere to applicable rules and operating practices of your airport, flying club, school, FBO, flight center, or aircraft rental provider.
  • Comply with or exceed applicable requirements for Airworthiness Directives (ADs). Understand the benefits of complying with recommended inspections and Service Bulletins (SBs).
  • Within the scope of your education, training, and authority apply a Safety Management Systems (SMS) approach to safety considering equipment, facilities, environment, mission, organization, and human factors.
  • Implement Crew Resource Management (CRM), and Single Pilot Resource Management (SRM) techniques, or similar practices to enhance a safety culture.
  • Recognize the increased risks associated with flying at low altitude, in inclement weather, at night, in congested areas, over water, and over rugged, mountainous or forested terrain.
  • See and be seen. Practice techniques for seeing and avoiding other aircraft. Scan for traffic continuously. Do not practice maneuvers in congested airspace. Enhance your visibility through appropriate use of aircraft lights.
  • Listen and be heard. Monitor appropriate frequencies to remain aware of other aircraft, and accurately inform other pilots of your position and intentions.
  • Monitor and report. Identify safety and compliance issues, and communicate them appropriately.
  • Maintain a sterile cockpit for taxi, takeoff, landing, and other critical phases of flight.
  • Minimize turns and maneuvers below 500 feet AGL except as required during takeoff and landing.
  • Never allow simulated emergencies to become actual emergencies.
  • File a flight plan or communicate your intended flight itinerary to ground personnel prior to departure, even when flying locally.
  • Refuse to fly an aircraft that is not airworthy, whether because of mechanical discrepancies, failure to meet inspection requirements, or any other reason.
  • Operate rental aircraft as if you owned them, and communicate all discrepancies effectively and promptly. Return aircraft in an equal or better state of cleanliness than received.
  • Identify and adapt to changing flight conditions based on sound principles of airmanship and risk management. Be prepared to alter your flight plan accordingly or abort your flight.
  • Plan every flight carefully. Calculate weight and balance, consider the effect of wind on fuel reserves and range, and consider diversion alternatives. Remain aware of deteriorating weather and other circumstances that may make continued flight unsafe.

II. Passengers and People on the Surface

   Pilots should:

a.  maintain passenger safety first and then reasonable passenger comfort,

b.  manage risk and avoid unnecessary risk to passengers, to people and property on the surface, and to people in other aircraft,

c.  brief passengers on planned flight procedures and inform them of any significant or unusual risk associated with the flight,

d.  seek to prevent unsafe conduct by passengers, and

e.  avoid operations that may alarm, disturb, or endanger passengers or people on the surface.

ExplanationPilots are responsible for the safety and comfort of their passengers. Passengers place their lives in pilots’ hands, and pilots should exercise suffi­cient care on their behalf. Such care includes, but is not limited to, disclosing unusual risks, and exercising prudent risk management. Pilot responsibility extends to people on the ground, and in other aircraft.

Sample Recommended Practices:

  • Keep your passengers as safe as possible, as though they were your closest loved ones.
  • Act professionally towards your passengers.
  • Improve safety margins by planning and flying conservatively.
  • Require that passengers wear seat belts and shoulder harnesses, and consider providing hearing protection, such as intercom-equipped headsets.
  • Tactfully disclose risks to each passenger, address their concerns or anxieties regarding flight operations, and accept a prospective passenger’s decision to refrain from participating.
  • Conduct a thorough passenger safety briefing for each flight (see Additional Resources below).
  • Ascertain the flight experience, and concerns of each passenger. Incorporate this knowledge into the safety briefing and flight operation.
  • Maintain insurance policies for adquate coverage of aircraft, crew and passengers, and understand and comply with all policy terms and limitations.
  • Instruct passengers to avoid touching or obstructing critical flight controls. Brief and maintain a sterile cockpit during takeoffs, landings, and other workload-intensive times.
  • Encourage passengers to serve as safety resources—for example, by having them identify nearby aircraft, organize charts, and keep track of landmarks.
  • Assess unfamiliar passengers for potential safety and security problems.
  • Remember that passenger safety begins on the ramp before ever entering the aircraft. Watch passengers closely and keep them clear of hazards (e.g., fuel trucks, propellers, slippery surfaces).
  • Refuel with passengers on board only when authorized and appropriate, and when the operation can be safely conducted

III. Training and Proficiency

   Pilots should:

a.  participate in regular recurrent training to maintain and improve proficiency beyond legal requirements,

b.  participate in flight safety education programs,

c.  remain vigilant and avoid complacency,

d.  train to recognize and deal effectively with emergencies,

e.  prepare for and review each lesson carefully, and

f.  maintain an accurate log to satisfy training and currency requirements.

Explanation:  Training and proficiency underlie aviation safety. Recurrent training is a primary component of proficiency and should include both air and ground training. Each contributes significantly to flight safety and neither can substitute for the other. To be most effective, training must often exceed legal requirements.

Sample Recommended Practices:

  • Pursue a rigorous, lifelong course of aviation study.
  • Consider a training plan that will yield new ratings, certificates, and endorsements.
  • Develop and follow a training regimen that incorporates the assessment of your progress, ensures your flight instructor or mentor communicates such assessment to you, and provides opportunity for your input.
  • Invite constructive criticism from your fellow aviators and provide the same when asked.
  • Learn appropriate use of the aircraft flight manual to determine your aircraft’s limitations, calculate performance, plan flights, properly secure cargo, determine fuel requirements, and calculate weight and balance.
  • Develop decision-making and risk-management skills. Integrate stick-and-rudder and scenario-based training.
  • Understand and appreciate your roles and responsibilities as pilot in command, including declaring an emergency when appropriate.
  • Train for flight over challenging environments such as water or remote, desert, or mountainous terrain.
  • Train for survival, and carry adequate survival equipment, apparel, and drinking water.
  • Understand the unique risks and need for vigilance in taxi and runway operations.
  • Develop a practical understanding of the mechanics and systems of each aircraft you fly.
  • Understand and use appropriate procedures in the event of system malfunctions (e.g., electrical failure, lost communications, instrument problems).
  • Achieve and maintain proficiency in the operation of avionics and automation.
  • Know current aviation regulations and understand their implications and intent.
  • Attend aviation training programs offered by industry and government.
  • Participate in the FAA Pilot Proficiency Program (“WINGS”).
  • Stay current with diverse and relevant aviation publications.
  • Develop a system­atic approach to obtaining timely weather briefings and evaluating flight conditions.
  • Obtain adequate training before flying an unfamiliar aircraft, or with unfamiliar systems, even if you have flown that type in the past.
  • Join type clubs or support organizations for the aircraft you fly to learn more about their capabilities, limitations, and safe operation.
  • Conduct a periodic review of recent accidents and incidents, focusing on probable causes.
  • Periodically demonstrate mastery of applicable practical test standards (PTS), and train to exceed PTS minimums.
  • Avoid practicing training maneuvers in busy airspace or over congested areas, and employ a safe altitude in the practice area.
  • Maintain currency that exceeds minimum regulatory requirements.
  • Consider maintaining a log to track errors and lessons learned on each flight.
  • Register at <www.faasafety.gov> to receive announcements of safety meetings and literature, and to review appropriate safety courses.
  • Fly often enough to maintain proficiency in day, night, VFR, and IFR conditions, consistent with your ratings.
  • Complete the equivalent of a Flight Review annually, and, if instrument rated, complete an instrument proficiency check (IPC) every six months.
  • If instrument rated, practice partial panel skills at least every three months.

IV. Security

   Pilots should:

a.  seek to maintain the security of all persons and property associated with their aviation activities,

b.  remain vigilant and immediately report suspicious, reckless, or illegal activities,

c.  become familiar with the latest security regulations, and

d.  avoid special-use airspace except when approved or necessary in an emer­gen­cy.

ExplanationEnhanced security awareness is essential to the safety and viability of the aviation community. Threats to security demand effective responses. This section addresses the pilot’s essential role in promoting national security and preventing criminal acts.

Sample Recommended Practices:

  • Check NOTAMS, including Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) thoroughly during preflight preparation, and obtain updates during long flights, with an emphasis on airspace restrictions.

  • Periodically review military intercept procedures. Monitor 121.5 MHz when practicable.

  • Always use a transponder with altitude encoding if equipped and operable unless otherwise authorized or directed by ATC.

  • Report suspicious behavior and other security concerns to the appropriate authorities.

  • Secure your aircraft if it will be unattended. Use additional or enhanced locks or other anti-theft mechanisms to secure all aircraft, as appropriate.

  • Query passengers regarding hazardous materials, weapons, and ammunition in their luggage or on their person.

  • Confirm that ramp access gates are closed securely behind you to prevent “tailgating” by unauthorized persons.

  • Challenge and report irregularities, including unauthorized or suspicious persons.

  • Become familiar with the means to report and deter suspicious activities, such as the General Aviation Secure Hotline (866-GA-SECURE / 866-427-3287).

  • Complete required security training.

  • Do not deviate from an active flight plan (IFR or VFR) or clearance without notifying the appropriate air traffic facility.

  • To help avoid special use airspace, use ATC radar advisories, or consider flying IFR (if rated and equipped), whenever practicable.

V. Environmental Issues

Pilots should:

a.  recognize and seek to mitigate the environmental impact of aircraft operations,

b.  minimize the discharge of fuel, oil, and other chemicals into the environment during refueling, preflight preparations, servicing, and flight operations,

c.  respect and protect environmentally sensitive areas,

d.  comply with applicable noise-abatement procedures and mitigate aircraft noise near noise-sensitive areas, and

e.  review and adhere to prudent hazardous materials handling procedures.

Explanation:  Environmental issues can hamper operations, increase regulatory burdens, and close airports. Reducing pollution caused by aviation will reduce health problems, environmental impact, and unfavorable public perceptions.

Sample Recommended Practices:

  • Adopt environmentally sound and legally compliant procedures for fuel sampling, defueling, and disposing of fuel samples.

  • Learn and adopt environmentally responsible methods for all aspects of aircraft care, especially degreasing, de-icing, and handling run-off.

  • Adhere to applicable noise abatement procedures, provided safety is maintained.

  • If practicable, fly well above or avoid noise-sensitive areas.

  • Consider the impact of aircraft on wildlife, and conform to recommended practices (such as National Park Service minimum altitudes) when flying near wilderness and other environmentally sensitive areas.

  • Be aware of the noise signature of your aircraft, and follow procedures to reduce noise such as reducing engine power and/or propeller RPM, as soon as practicable after takeoff.

  • Install noise-reducing equipment such as quieter props and exhaust systems, if practicable.

  • Patronize service providers (such as FBOs, repair services, and aircraft cleaners) that adhere to environmentally friendly practices.

VI. Use of Technology

Pilots should:

a.  become familiar with and properly use appropriate technologies,

b.  monitor applicable airport advisory frequencies and report position accurately when approaching airports without an operating control tower and other higher-risk areas, if radio-equipped,

c.  use transponders or other position-indicating technologies during flight operations, if available or otherwise directed by ATC, and use ATC radar advisories for VFR enroute operations,

d.  carry redundant transceivers and navigational equipment and use them in appropriate circumstances, and

e.  use flight simulators and training devices as available and appropriate.

ExplanationInnovative, compact, and inexpensive technologies have greatly expanded the capabilities of aircraft. This section encourages the use and promotion of such safety-enhancing technologies.

Sample Recommended Practices:

  • When practicable, invest in new technologies that advance flight safety. Learn and understand the features, limitations, and proper use of such technologies.
  • If practicable, use an electronic means to confirm identification of your landing runway and provide vertical guidance (e.g., monitor a precision approach) even under VFR.
  • Consider keeping back-up and redundant communication/navigation devices accessible in flight, including extra batteries or a back-up power supply.
  • Inspect and maintain avionics and flight instruments to keep them operational, current, and approved for the intended flight.
  • Consider use of a personal locator beacon.
  • Report inoperative navigation aids and areas of poor radio/signal coverage to the appropriate authority.
  • Maintain basic flying and navigating skills to enhance safety in the event of failure or absence of advanced instrument displays or automation.
  • Avoid flying in or near moderate or higher weather radar returns, especially when thunderstorms are present or forecast. Seek frequent ATC or AFSS weather updates.
  • Consider the use of flight tracking or flight data monitoring technologies.
  • Use flight simulators, training devices, or web-based tools as appropriate.
  • Consider installing en­hanced occupant restraints.
  • Operate with an autopilot or a qualified second pilot if practicable when flying in IMC and/or at night.
  • Properly manage autoflight systems. Understand that programming avionics may cause distractions and that distractions may lead to errors, particularly during taxi and other critical phases of flight.
  • Operate with attitude-indicator (AI) system redundancy if practicable, and maintain partial-panel proficiency in IMC. Learn recovery techniques from instrument failure in IMC.

VII. Advancement and Promotion of Aviation

  Pilots should:

a.  advance and promote aviation safety and adherence to the Code of Conduct,

b.  volunteer in and contribute to organizations that promote aviation, and use their skills to contribute to society at large—and encourage other pilots to do so as well,

c.  demonstrate appreciation for aviation professionals and service providers,

d.  advance an aviation culture that values openness, humility, positive attitudes, and the pursuit of personal improvement,

e.  promote ethical behavior within the aviation community, and

f.  mentor new and future pilots.

ExplanationVigilance and responsive action are essential to ensure aviation vitality and to enhance the aviation community.

Sample Recommended Practices:

  • Strive to adopt the Code of Conduct.
  • Recognize a moral responsibility to promote safety among your fellow pilots.
  • Serve as an aviation ambassador to the public by providing accurate information and refuting misinformation concerning aviation activities, and by encouraging potential student pilots.
  • Volunteer in support of aviation.
  • Make charitable use of your aviation resources (e.g., by transporting persons seeking medical care or donating flight time to youth and environmental programs).
  • Consider volunteering for Civil Air Patrol or Coast Guard Auxiliary as a way to give back to the community.
  • Express appreciation to controllers and service personnel for their valuable assistance.
  • Participate in aviation-related fundraising events.
  • Adhere to the highest ethical principles in all aviation dealings, including business practices.
  • Seek to resolve disputes quickly and informally.


Additional Resources

FAA:        <www.faa.gov>, <www.faasafety.gov>

AEA:        <www.aea.net>

AOPA:     <www.aopa.org/>

EAA:        <www.eaa.org>

NBAA:     <www.nbaa.org>


AD AI AFSS AGL ATC CRM  FAA FBO    IFR ILS  IMC  IPC MSL PTS  SB  SMS  SRM  TFR VFR VMC Airworthiness Directive Attitude Indicator Automated Flight Service Station Above Ground Level Air Traffic Control Crew Resource Management Federal Aviation Administration Fixed Base Operator Instrument Flight Rules Instrument Landing System Instrument Meteorological Conditions Instrument Proficiency Check Mean Sea Level Practical Test Standards Service Bulletin Safety Management System Single Pilot Resource Management Temporary Flight Restriction Visual Flight Rules Visual Meteorological Conditions


The [insert your organization’s Code of Conduct] is a customized version of the Aviators Model Code of Conduct created by Michael S. Baum. ©2003-2012 Michael S. Baum. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use are available at <http://www.secureav.com>.

Pilots and the aviation community may use the Code of Conduct as a resource for code of conduct development, although it is recommended that this be supported by independent research on the suitability of its principles for specific or local applications and situations. It is not intended to provide legal advice and must not be relied upon as such.

Edits, Errata, Comments

The Aviators Model Code of Conduct is a living document, intended to be updated periodically to reflect changes in aviation practices and the aviation environment. Please send your suggestions, edits, errata, questions and comments to: <PEB@secureav.com>.


The Aviators Model Code of Conduct has had the benefit of extensive editorial comment and suggestions by a diverse body of the aviation community, and beyond. See “Acknowledgments” at <http://www.secureav.com/ack.pdf>. The Permanent Editorial Board of the Code of Conduct is presented at <http://secureav.com/PEB.pdf>.

This QR Code points to <www.secureav.com>, the Code of Conduct website: