Aircraft Maintenance and When to See Your Mechanic

Just like your vehicle, aircraft maintenance varies depending on the type of aircraft, how much you fly and how it’s used. A vintage, 35-year-old Cessna is going to have completely different requirements than a late-model Beechcraft Premier. However, no matter what type of aircraft you have, maintenance is an ongoing, comprehensive process. To ensure safety and an enjoyable flight, the entire aircraft should be examined, maintained and repaired (as necessary) on a regular basis.

The FAA has stringent safety standards in place, and all aircraft must abide by these regulations. Your aircraft must also be maintained after a specified number of flight time hours and of calendar months. Certain aircraft equipment even have a flight cycle limit and must be replaced as soon as the maximum usage is reached. Keeping a close eye on the maintenance requirements is the responsibility of the pilot in command of the aircraft, even if it is just a rental aircraft. Knowing the “shelf life” of your plane’s systems and hardware is an integral part of safe flight, because just one proverbial (or literal) loose screw can cause a devastating development.

What Your AMT Does

Having a skilled Aircraft Maintenance Technician (AMT), also known as an A & P for Airframe and Powerplant, in your corner is critical. Very few pilots have the knowledge, time and ongoing education to perform their own maintenance checks. You can depend on an AMT to keep your aircraft safe by inspecting components for corrosion and applying preventative materials where needed. The AMT will also lubricate parts, drain and maintain fuel systems, service hydraulic and pneumatic systems, replace components as necessary or required, and perform an inspection of the aircraft for wear and tear.

Depending on your aircraft, you may also need an Avionics Technician who specializes in communications and navigation systems. These professionals are experts in aircraft electronic systems, which is becoming more in demand as private pilots invest in newer, high-tech aircraft. Avionics is a critical component, and these techs ensure that instruments, computer systems, radar, radio communications and global positioning systems (GPS) are in top working order and in compliance with FAA standards. Technical skills and wiring expertise is a pillar of this type of maintenance.

When Check Ins are Necessary

Your aircraft should be fully inspected immediately before and after each flight by the pilot in command. However, if you only fly occasionally, it’s also important that your aircraft is well cared for even while in storage. It’s best, at the very least, to take all aircraft on short flights so that they’re not “sitting cold” for weeks or months on end-hiring a pilot in conjunction with an AMT to do this for you is a smart move, especially if your schedule doesn’t allow for frequent flights. As Keith Boman from CB Aviation notes, “We had a client who was not using his Cessna 421 and let it sit for several years. This resulted in considerable damage to the engines and a substantial decrease in the value of the plane.”

Again, just how much maintenance is required depends wholly on the aircraft in question. For the best results, safest flights and to extend the life of your aircraft choose an AMT who specializes in you type of aircraft. From pre-purchase evaluations to complete annual inspections and quick, efficient emergency repairs, you, your passengers and your aircraft deserve only the best. Ideally, AMTs come with a diverse skill set and are probably pilots themselves-after all, it takes one to know one (and to understand your concerns in the cockpit). Make sure safety is your first concern when flying.

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