I mentioned going over aircraft documents before flight in the new-to-me airplane. I want to say more about that. There are a number of documents that must be on board in order to fly. It's part of preparation for flight. Canadians often remember these with an acronym mnemonic like ARROWILL (there are lots of variations).
C of A: Certificate of Airworthiness. This is a bit of paper about 8" by 5" that usually dates back to the manufacture of the airplane or its importation into Canada. It certifies that if everything else is done right (maintenance, loading, operating specification, annual airworthiness reports) that the airplane is considered airworthy in Canada. I expect to see an original document, but have flown before with a certified fax.
C of R: Certificate of Registration. This bit of paper shows who operates the aircraft and for what purpose (i.e. commercial or private use) it is registered. It is usually a multi part form, so that when you sell the airplane or move, you fill out parts of the form to send in and keep other parts to use as a temporary C of R while the changes are being processed. I've flown airplanes where the C of R on board was an official fax or letter from Transport Canada acting as an effective temporary C of R. This is common with short term leases, and I've caught one of these a week before it expired, giving my company time to get on it and get me a new one.
Radio Licence: Because I make radio transmissions from the airplane, in Canada I meet the legal definition of a radio station. I carry a Restricted Radio Operator Certificate, restricted to aviation, that is. I can't go running an AM talk show in my spare time with it. Once upon a time the airplane itself required a radio station licence, but those are no longer required for flight in Canada or the U.S. The government body responsible recognized one day that airplanes were regulated up the wazoo already, and that it there was no utility in giving them a bit of paper regarding it. If I had a mission to fly in St. Pierre (a French possession off the coast of Canada) or Mexico, or further south, I might need to apply to Industry Canada for a radio station licence for my airplane. I'd have to look into those countries' regulations.
POH: Pilot's Operating Handbook, i.e. owner's manual. There has to be paperwork on board telling me how to operate all the systems and installed equipment. When the new fuel tanks were installed, a supplement was added to my manual. No one ever dares remove anything from a POH, so when you're dealing with an old airplane you may have to go through four different autopilot supplements until you finally find the one that is currently installed in your airplane--and placarded inoperative. You've seen me mention from time to time that I pull out the POH to check something. That's why it's there. I trust my knowledge, but I verify with the manual. So for obvious reasons it has to be the correct manual. If your airplane is so old that there never was a manual, it can pass a ramp check with a handwritten list of speeds and a letter from an aircraft association. I've seen it done. I've also ferried an airplane where the POH was about six mimeographed sheets, and most of it was with respect to systems that were no longer installed. I remember I determined the approach speed by noting what speed it took off at and multiplying by one and a third. I love it when book learning is useful in the real world.
Weight & Balance: This isn't the form I fill out before every flight to show that the aircraft is not over weight or out of C of G. Not all operators are legally required to do that before every flight, only to ensure the airplane is loaded within limits. The W&B form that must be on every flight is one showing the empty weight and C of G and listing the maximum weight. If components are changed on my airplane I always ask if this requires a W&B amendment. I have caught errors in this document before. I remember one where the airplane had been modified to carry more weight, but the W&B didn't match. It's okay to have the W&B faxed, so long as it's legible.
Insurance: Got to have proof of insurance on board. It might have the pilots names on it. It might say "all pilots approved by XYZ company and with N hours experience in complex multi-engine aircraft." I once found one that said (in a Canadian aircraft), "all pilots with an FAA licence." Problem was that I didn't have an FAA licence at the time. It turned out in the end that it was okay to fly because the Canadian airplane was insured with an American company that had defined an "FAA licence" to include a Canadian licence, but I refused to fly the airplane until it had been demonstrated to my satisfaction that I was insured to do so. I think the insurance companies can also define "up" as "down."
Licence: My pilot licence. I have to have mine on board for every flight, along with the medical certificate. The medical used to be called the "licence validation certificate."
Logbook: This is not my pilot logbook, which never needs to be on the airplane, but the airplane's journey logbook. American airplanes don't have these. (It's not the same as the technical logs: Canadians have tech logs in addition to the journey logbook, but a Canadian technical logbook is never allowed to go for a flight in the airplane it pertains to). There's a wrinkle here that allows the journey log to be left behind if there is no intention to land at a different airport. This allows this often bulky document to be left on the ground by aerobatic performers. The journey log is usually a letter-sized bound book with numbered pages. You can buy them in hardcover or softcover versions. (Hint: buy the hardcover. It's not a beach novel. You want it to last). Some companies use custom-printed numbered forms inside some kind of binder, so they have carbon copies for the various departments and crewmembers.
The basic documents for an American airplane are much smaller than the the Canadian ones, about the size of an index card, and I've seen American-manufactured aircraft with a little plastic pouch built into the interior, by the pilot's knee to keep the documents. On Canadian-owned airplanes the pouch is usually half torn off from people trying to keep pens in it. Canadians typically keep the documents in a ring binder or a pouch of some sort. Sometimes they are in an envelope glued in the back of the journey log.
Soon I have a story for you about an oops regarding bits of paper.