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Do you own a helicopter or airplane privately or part of a commercial operation? You will have to complete routine aircraft maintenance and inspection to make sure the craft maintains airworthiness. Take a look at our brief overview of the topic for more tips and information.
Aircraft maintenance is extremely important for anyone who has a plane or helicopter. These vehicles are not like cars that will often give you a buffer if you break down. There’s no shoulder to pull over on in the sky, and chances are you don’t have too much experience landing a compromised aircraft.
It’s much easier and safer to take care of everything while the aircraft is still on the ground. Take a look at the aircraft maintenance and inspection best practices we’ve included ahead for more information on the topic and to learn more about your requirements.
Inspections and Checkups
Inspections and checkups are often the first line of defense against problems in the sky. You are required to maintain and formally inspect your aircraft now and then, although it’s sometimes easy for these regulations to slip your mind.
The size and use of your aircraft will determine how frequently you need inspections and general maintenance. Like a car, though, you will need to receive a formal inspection of airworthiness once a year. Most planes and helicopters will also need one form of preventative maintenance or another after about 25 hours of flying. Some small, general maintenance is usually required after about 100 hours in the air as well.
The easiest inspection to remember is the annual one. You need to take your car in for inspection once a year, and the same goes for your aircraft. A certified repair station or A&P mechanic can officially inspect the aircraft and make sure everything is running the way it should.
Regular Operator Inspection
You shouldn’t rely solely on the professionals to inspect your aircraft and tell you if anything is going wrong. You’re the one flying the plane or helicopter, and should always do a quick inspection before taking off.
This process is as simple as making sure all of the electrical and mechanical parts are performing the way they should and giving the plane a once-over to determine if there are any faults. You will want to notice such issues before you take off to avoid a potential emergency landing when in the air.
Maintaining Your Aircraft
The first, and often the most important, form of aircraft maintenance is preventative maintenance. This will ensure that damage to the aircraft does not accrue over time and lead to more serious issues in the future.
A lot of pilots and aircraft owners will complete the preventative maintenance on their own, or hire a repair person to complete these small alterations for them.
Preventative aircraft maintenance can be both big and small jobs. You will need professional help for the major repairs since they require more specialty than the minor ones. The FAA will require a certified mechanic to assess and repair your aircraft for major preventative maintenance.
The minor jobs often require a certified technician as well, but you will be able to complete some in your hangar if you’re already familiar with the process. Of course, you still might need a certified A&P mechanic to look over your repairs to make sure the plane maintains airworthiness.
Progressive maintenance is scheduled and required for your aircraft to pass inspection. You will usually have a time frame to complete the maintenance, and our schedule will depend on the manufacturer and FAA guidelines.
Privately owned planes usually don’t have to worry about progressive aircraft maintenance as much as service planes will. For instance, the progressive maintenance for a commuter plane or an instructional plane will be far more strict than that of a plane you take out for fun on the weekends.
Still, it’s important to know your progressive maintenance schedule, so you don’t run into any problems down the line. These requirements – like preventative maintenance – will be both large and small projects. You will need to seek professional assistance in most cases as well.
Keep an Eye Out for Corrosion
Corrosion is a massive threat to any metal object, and an aircraft is no different. Older airplanes and helicopters will have more of a corrosion risk than younger ones, as will planes that have spent the bulk of their life on the coast.
Moisture triggers corrosion, which means planes in coastal regions are particularly susceptible to it. If you’re on the market for a new plane, you might want to consider staying away from older models that have spent the bulk of their time in warm, coastal areas.
You will need to inspect these planes with extra care – especially the older ones with fresh paint. The pain might look nice, but it could be covering some patches of rust that will present costly repairs in only a few years.
Rust and corrosion are natural parts of the lifecycle of any metal component. New coats of paint will help delay the process, which is why it’s important always to keep your plane properly painted, so you don’t leave it vulnerable.
You will need to periodically check both the interior and exterior of the aircraft for corrosion. Looking through the inside can be a bit more tricky since you’ll have to remove some plates, but it’s necessary nonetheless.
Some of the most vulnerable and common places on an airplane that encounter corrosion are the areas near the fuel tank, the cylinder fins, and the propeller. These can be easy to spot, and you should address the issue right away.
You should also always use best practices when storing your plane in a hangar. Don’t cut costs, here, and store it somewhere with leaks and cracks that will let the aircraft rust while you’re not using it.
There really isn’t a way to reverse corrosion on any metal object. The only thing you can do is remove the corrosion that’s there and prevent any more from forming. Prevention should always be your first matter of business since this is a lot easier than getting rid of rust that forms.
Keeping planes in dry climates is the best way to do this, although it isn’t always possible. If you live in Florida, for instance, chances are you won’t be able to store a small plane in Arizona feasibly.
Apart from that, make sure you store your plane correctly and regularly treat it with corrosion inhibitors.
Once the corrosion forms, you will have to get rid of it to ensure it doesn’t spread any further. You can usually do this with steel brushes. Be careful not to ruin the paint in the process, though.
Keeping Your Aircraft Clean
Cleanliness is a massive part of aircraft maintenance, no matter how large your aircraft might be. Whether you own a single, small plane or a whole fleet of private jets, you need to keep the aircraft clean if you want to get the most out of your piloting experience.
Make sure to regularly clean and vacuum the inside of the aircraft, as well as treat any leather seats you might have on the interior. This will help extend the lifespan of all of the interior components and make for a more comfortable riding experience.
Of course, keeping the inside of the plane clean is more of a secondary concern. You will want to make sure all of the mechanical parts are up to snuff before dedicating the weekend to vacuuming and cleaning the interior.
More important than cleaning the inside of the plane, though, is making sure the exterior is clean. This process is remarkably similar to washing your car, but you will want to take more care not to do any damage. Most of the time, rubbing dirt, grime, and dead bugs out of the paint will only drive them deeper.
A smooth cloth and a power washer are your best friends when it comes to cleaning your aircraft. You don’t have to get too fancy here, and can likely clean the whole thing on the same day that you clean the interior of the plane. Of course, this will depend on the size of your aircraft and how dirty it’s become over the weeks or months.
Keeping Your Plane’s Airworthiness
Airworthiness is one of the only things you have to worry about when owning a personal plane. Taking it for a spin a few times a week doesn’t come with too much preventative maintenance attached. You will have to ensure that the plane is safe to fly, but you won’t be putting too many others at risk if it’s not.
Those who have larger planes that they use for services and other commercial purposes will need to adhere to a much stricter schedule. A faulty plane can be extremely risky for not just you – but others on board and the ground.
Make sure to check with your aircraft manufacturer to learn about the specific maintenance and inspection needs for your plane.