The IFR Pilot and The Aviation Mentor (f/k/a The Freight Dog) exchanged a few e-mails on the issue.
In a slack moment this afternoon, The IFR Pilot drew on his years of legal education and training to see if he could find any NTSB decisions on point. There really weren't any that held that MFD charts substitute for paper. But, one decision raises speculation on the notion that paper charts are required to satisfy FAR 91.103's requirement that the PIC become familiar with "all available information" about the route of flight.
I quote from Administrator v. Smith, 1992 NTSB LEXIS 86, as follows:
The Administrator cites two cases for the proposition that§ 91.5 requires not just familiarity with available information but that necessary charts be in the aircraft. Although we need not reach this issue, we note that the first case, Administrator v. Holter, 5 NTSB 826 (1985), contains language that could be read to support the Administrator's position. This meaning was not intended. In that case, respondent was also charged with violating § 91.183 (now 91.503), which requires navigational charts in the aircraft, and the discussion encompassed both claims. The second case, Administrator v. Hillman, 5 NTSB 803 (1985), which, like Holter, involved a 91.183 claim as well, does not anywhere suggest that § 91.5 requires maps in the cockpit. Although not having them could certainly lead to a § 91.5 violation, we are unaware of Board precedent adopting the interpretation advanced here, nor is such an interpretation obvious from the language of § 91.5.Now, I'm just a poor, somewhat humble lawyer trying to make a living in this cold, cruel world. But I sure interpret this to be a repudiation of the notion that lack of paper charts constitutes a per se violation of FAR 91.103. (Note that the provisions of current FAR 91.103 formerly were found in FAR 91.5).
Anyone read this differently? Because if my interpretation is correct, so long as I am familiar with "all available information," then it's not a violation of FAR 91.103 if I go fly and forget my charts in the hangar. (Or if I never buy them.) Perhaps I'm familiar from my past flight experience in the area. Perhaps I'm familiar because I am reviewing the chart on my MX 20. Either way, I think I've got a defense.