Maintenance on general aviation aircraft involves the means the inspection, repair, and upkeep of an aircraft, including any parts replacement. The purpose is to ensure that each aircraft remains airworthy throughout its operational life and the FAA has established a number of required inspections to provide the assurance that all aircraft are maintained and functioning properly.
Although maintenance requirements vary for different types of aircraft, specific requirements are also influenced by the aircraft’s type and frequency of operation, age of the aircraft, and storage conditions. Most aircraft require some type of maintenance to be performed at least after every 100 hours of flying time and some preventive maintenance much sooner.
The inspections need to follow the manufacturer maintenance manual and service bulletins, including the specific tasks required for the maintenance of the aircraft, proper inspection intervals, and required parts replacement.
The owner of the aircraft is responsible for the scheduled maintenance of the aircraft. The airworthiness of the aircraft must be maintained during the time between the required inspections.
Scheduled Maintenance Inspections
Most general aviation aircraft require an annual inspection within the preceding 12 calendar months. The annual inspection must be completed and approved by either a certified mechanic holding an inspection authorization, a certified repair station or the aircraft manufacturer. It is the aircraft owner’s responsibility to locate a qualified shop to conduct the annual inspection properly and to determine that the mechanic has the proper authorization and ability to perform the inspection.
Some of the most common items checked during the annual inspection are:
The aircraft engine is checked for oil level, missing parts, baffles, cowling damage, missing fasteners, and a compression check is completed
All of the panel instruments are checked for proper operation including gyros, compass, autopilot, and radios
The wheels are removed and the wheel bearings, brakes, tire condition and tread are inspected
A special flight permit called a ferry permit is required to fly an aircraft that is past due for the annual inspection, such as in the case of flying to another airport for the inspection.
An aircraft must be inspected every 100 hours of time in service if the aircraft is used to carry passengers for hire, or are provided by anyone giving flight instruction for hire. The phrase “for hire” refers to the person, not the aircraft such as in providing flight services for an aerial photographer.
If the 100-hour limit has been exceeded, an additional 10 hours can be added to fly the aircraft to a place where the inspection can be completed. The additional time must be taken into consideration when calculating the next 100 hours of time in service. Both the 100-hour and annual inspections require a full inspection of the aircraft and the aircraft must be certified as to its airworthiness.
Progressive inspections are a continuous inspection program where the required inspections are completed according to a predetermined schedule and are accomplished during more frequent but shorter inspections phases to minimize maintenance downtime for aircraft owners. Progressive inspections allow for the inspections to be completed during periods that are the most convenient for the owner, as long as all items required for the annual and 100-hour are inspected within the required time. Owners that benefit from progressive inspections are those owners whose aircraft experience high usage such as FBOs and corporate flight departments or where aircraft are available for hire, as inflight schools. Most aircraft maintenance manuals contain a progressive inspection schedule.
Preventive maintenance can be performed for minor or straightforward repairs, alterations, or replacement of normal standard parts that do not involve major disassembly of the aircraft. A pilot who holds a certificate issued under FAR 61 can perform preventive maintenance on any aircraft owned or operated by them as long as the aircraft is not used in an air carrier capacity.
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