An overview of aircraft maintenance, what every owner should know by Ken Dufour, ASA, MAM, ATP, CFI

By Andrew Myers

September 9, 2020 Educational

Maintenance means the preservation, inspection, overhaul, and repair of aircraft, including the replacement of parts. The purpose of maintenance is to ensure that the aircraft remains airworthy throughout its operational life. A properly maintained aircraft is a safe aircraft.

Although maintenance requirements vary for different types of aircraft, experience shows that most aircraft need some sort of preventive maintenance every 25 hours or less of flying time, and minor maintenance at least every 100 hours. This is influenced by the kind of operation, climactic conditions, storage facilities, age, and construction of the aircraft. Maintenance manuals are available from aircraft manufacturers or commercial vendors with revisions for maintaining your aircraft.

While the requirements for maintaining your aircraft are contained in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR), it is essential for every aircraft owner to remember that specific maintenance requirements are available from the aircraft manufacturer.

An aircraft owner is required to keep aircraft maintenance records for the airframe, engine, propeller, and appliances.

These records must contain a description of the work performed on the aircraft, the date the work was completed, the certified technician’s signature, the type of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certificate, and the certificate number and signature of the person approving the aircraft for return to service.

Responsibilities of the Aircraft Owner

All recordkeeping is primarily the responsibility of the aircraft owner. The airframe and powerplant (A&P) technician are responsible for the work he or she performs. The owner of an aircraft must also ensure that maintenance personnel makes appropriate entries in the aircraft maintenance records indicating the plane has been approved for return to service. The owner’s aircraft records shall also contain the inspections required pursuant to Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 91, section 91.409.

Proper management of aircraft operations begins with a good system of maintenance records. A properly completed maintenance record provides the information needed by the owner and maintenance personnel to determine when scheduled inspections and maintenance are to be performed.

Aircraft maintenance records must include:

  • The total time in service of the airframe, each engine, and each propeller;
  • The current status of life-limited parts of each airframe, engine, propeller, rotor, and appliance;
  • The time since the last overhaul of all items installed on the aircraft, which are required to be overhauled on a specified time basis;
  • The identification of the current inspection status of the aircraft, including the time since the last inspection required by the inspection program under which the aircraft and its appliances are maintained;
  • The current status of applicable Airworthiness Directives (ADs) including, for each, the method of compliance, the AD number, and the revision date. If the AD involves recurring action, the time and date the next action is required; and
  • A copy of the major alterations to each airframe, engine, propeller, and appliance.

These records are retained by the owner and are transferred with the aircraft when it is sold. At the end of this article is a maintenance records checklist you can use to document compliance with the applicable maintenance requirements.

CAUTION: Keep in mind that as a result of repairs or alterations, such as replacing radios and installing speed kits, it may be necessary to amend the weight and balance report, equipment list, flight manual, etc.

Logbooks

Most maintenance performed on an aircraft is recorded in the aircraft logbooks. As an aircraft owner, it is essential to ensure that your aircraft’s logbooks are complete and up to date at all times. The plane logbooks outline the maintenance history of your aircraft, and any prospective buyer will want to review the aircraft and all maintenance performed. Also, any A&P or certified repair station performing maintenance on your airplane will want to check the prior maintenance performed on the aircraft.

For information on aircraft appraisals please contact VREF or Jason Zilberbrand, ASA.

The above article is intended to provide an explanation and augment in pilots or technicians' language, topics to introduce aircraft owners and operators with supplemental information for our VREF subscribers. It is intended as guide. Contact your nearest FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) or FAA.gov for additional information. The data/information is obtained from numerous FAA and other industry sources. It is edited and believed to be accurate. VREF does not warrant the accuracy of the source material and assumes no responsibility to any person in connection with the use of this VREF article. Permission to reprint this article is granted, so far as the context of the information remains intact and appropriate credit is given to VREF, Inc.