If the map (reading) light bulb is burned out in my own Cessna 210, what are my options if I want to fly FAR Part 91 under night-time VFR staying in the traffic pattern doing touch and goes?

  1. Can I change the light bulb myself (non- A&P mechanic) and go?
  2. Do I have to have an A&P supervise my work if I change the light bulb myself.
  3. What action, if any, do I have to take in order to be in compliance with the FARs.
  • $\begingroup$ Do you own the aircraft, or is it a lease/rental? $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Nov 3 '18 at 22:50
  • $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer - I own it. $\endgroup$ – 757toga Nov 3 '18 at 22:51
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    $\begingroup$ Per §91.213 , you can mark it inoperative and fly since it is not needed for VFR or IFR flight, A strict reading of §43 indicates that you can’t change interior bulbs, but I doubt if anyone would raise a ruckus. Just don’t you dare replace it with an LED. $\endgroup$ – JScarry Nov 3 '18 at 23:22

First, is the map light required for night VFR under part 91? 91.205(b) and (c) list required VFR equipment for day and night operations, and a map light isn't on the list.

Second, is the aircraft airworthy for night VFR without it? That depends on what the POH says. I Googled a couple of 210 POHs and found wording like this:

The airplane is equipped for day VFR and may be equipped for night VFR and/or IFR operations. FAR Part 91 establishes the minimum required instrumentation and equipment for these operations. The reference to types of flight operations on the operating limitations placard reflects equipment installed at the time of Airworthiness Certificate issuance.

I believe that means the aircraft is airworthy for night VFR if it meets the part 91 equipment requirements, but it's also a reminder that you have to operate it in accordance with all placards (per 91.9). As far as I can see, the type certificate for the 210 doesn't include a placard requiring the map light to be operable. In fact, it doesn't seem to mention the map light at all. (Some more modern Cessnas have a detailed list of equipment required for airworthiness; see this question.)

So unless your POH says something different, it looks to me like you're good to go as long as you placard the light as inop first, or deactivate/remove it (and log that, if required). 91.213 talks about "inoperative instruments or equipment", which is a pretty broad description and it would be best to comply even if it's unlikely that anyone would notice or care if you didn't.

As for changing the light bulb, at least one POH I found includes instructions for the pilot on how to replace the map light bulb in flight. It seems unlikely that they put that in there only for pilots who routinely fly around with an A&P on board :-) Having said that, part 43 Appendix A only includes landing and position light bulbs in preventive maintenance, and AC 43-12A says that the list isn't open to interpretation:

Part 43, appendix A, paragraph (c) contains the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) list of tasks that meet the requirements of the preventive maintenance definition. If a task or maintenance function does not appear in the list, it is not preventive maintenance.

So far, it looks like you do need an A&P. But, there's a generic exception in the list of preventive maintenance tasks in Appendix A:

The inspection and maintenance tasks prescribed and specifically identified as preventive maintenance in a primary category aircraft type certificate or supplemental type certificate holder's approved special inspection and preventive maintenance program

If there's a "special inspection and preventive maintenance program" (whatever that means exactly) for the 210 that includes the map light, then you would be allowed to change it without requiring an A&P.

In reality, I'd be willing to bet that 99% of pilots would just change the lightbulb themselves, whatever part 43 says. They could always point to the POH instructions as evidence that Cessna considers it to be preventive maintenance.

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    $\begingroup$ Somewhere in here there's got to be a joke. "How many A&P's does it take to change a light bulb?" Add your own punch line $\endgroup$ – TomMcW Nov 4 '18 at 22:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Pondlife Glad you added: "So unless your POH says something different" ... 14CFR91.213(d)(2)(ii) $\endgroup$ – Steve H Dec 16 '18 at 21:05

Change the light bulb yourself (non- A&P mechanic) and go. Owner maintenance is legit for minor items like that.

  • $\begingroup$ Would you be able to clarify your source? According to FAR part 43, appendix A, para. c changing a map light, although seemingly a small task, is not listed as approved for a pilot/owner to do. $\endgroup$ – 757toga Nov 4 '18 at 15:36
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    $\begingroup$ Part 43 allows owner/operator maintenance. If it is not explicitly allowed in Part 43 it is prohibited. Unless I’m missing it (which has happened before), changing interior light bulbs is not explicitly allowed—therefore it is prohibited. $\endgroup$ – JScarry Nov 4 '18 at 17:23

A map or reading light is not part of the Required Equipment List for night VFR or night IFR.

You are free to go with just a flashlight if you want.
(Technically, you don't even need that)

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    $\begingroup$ It’s not likely that a C210 has an MEL. $\endgroup$ – JScarry Nov 3 '18 at 23:20
  • $\begingroup$ Does anything have to be entered into the logbook or a notation on the map light that it is inop? $\endgroup$ – 757toga Nov 3 '18 at 23:26
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    $\begingroup$ That is not an MEL. $\endgroup$ – Carlo Felicione Nov 4 '18 at 13:31
  • $\begingroup$ @abelenky An MEL is a document that is agreed upon by the operator and the FSDO. It is highly unlikely (but not impossible) that the operator of a Part 91 Cessna piston will have an MEL. This link will get you started on understanding MELs. faasafety.gov/files/gslac/courses/content/25/176/… $\endgroup$ – JScarry Nov 4 '18 at 17:20

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