If you’re a new or potentially new aircraft owner, asking who can perform preventive maintenance on an aircraft is an essential question. When the safety of yourself and others relies on several factors, maintenance is one of the most critical aspects.
However, finding the right person or group to work on your aircraft is essential. Doing so will better ensure that the job is done correctly and adheres to aviation safety standards.
What to know upfront is that any Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) mechanic can perform maintenance. But they need an FAA Inspection Authorization (IA) representative to sign off on any maintenance.
Why? There are too many moving parts of an aircraft to rely on one person to be held responsible for its maintenance – especially when you’re dealing with new A&Ps who don’t have much hands-on experience. There are even significant maintenance differences and experience requirements between vintage and newer aircraft. Asking who can perform preventive maintenance on an aircraft is easy. But the answer isn’t so clear-cut for any aircraft.
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8 Things To Know When Looking For Preventive Maintenance On An Aircraft
The following are eight things to consider when considering who can perform preventive maintenance on an aircraft.
Routine Versus Preventative Maintenance
For scheduled routine maintenance, you’ll have an A&P perform the work, and an IA will sign off on it before returning it into service. The A&P mechanic and the IA are two different people. The difference between routine and preventative maintenance is that the latter means that as an owner or pilot, you will have found something during your pre or post-flight check that has to be corrected. It may not even be something that requires an actual mechanic to update. So, you need to make sure that you know the difference between the two when evaluating the work that needs to be done.
Potential Safety Hazards After Maintenance
Here’s the truth…Anyone can build an aircraft. But you will never get it certified if it will affect the general public or someone other than yourself.
When it comes to manufactured aircraft, the danger behind maintenance is that it’s being torn apart and put back together again with the hope that everything will work the same when it’s back in service. But many people don’t know that most aircraft accidents occur when they’re fresh out of maintenance. This is why it’s critical to go to the right people and have the work signed off by an authorized person.
Who Flies An Aircraft To Have Work Done?
Regarding maintenance, there is still the matter of flying or moving the aircraft back and forth to have the maintenance done and then back to where it should be. This is where hiring a ferry pilot is a good idea rather than risking your own life to move it yourself. A ferry pilot is specifically hired to drive an airplane from one location to another, particularly when it is dangerous to do so.
The FAA will grant the ferry pilot a one-way ticket to get the work done somewhere that’s authorized to work on the aircraft. This special ferry permit allows an aircraft to fly even though it’s mechanically not airworthy.
Avoiding a Lawsuit
Another crucial aspect of taking all of the proper precautions regarding aircraft maintenance is avoiding a lawsuit. In aviation, you can either make the decisions or you’re not allowed to – it is that black and white. For example, any A&P can do maintenance, but they need an inspection authorization (IA) designation to sign off on it. An authorized sign-off means all work done adheres to FAA standards.
Additionally, you want to ensure that everything is documented down to the last detail in your logbooks and signed off by the proper authorities. Again, any A&P can perform aircraft maintenance, but not all can sign off themselves on the work done. In fact, they usually don’t want to anyway, so they don’t end up responsible for something that could go wrong.
Following these rules best ensures that you have the right equipment that follows all the necessary regulations. It can be the difference between a safe flight and an incident occurring over a public space such as a park or school. Lawsuits can go far beyond the pilot, owner, and maintenance worker involved, and if something were to happen affecting the general public, you could face substantial lawsuits for years to come.
Minimum Requirements for A&P
The following are the minimum requirements to be an A&P:
- Must be able to read, write, and speak English
- You have to be 18 years of age or older
- Must have gone to an approved FAA maintenance school
- Must have 30 months of experience and have passed the test
As you can see, the requirements are not heavily restrictive and detailed. Knowing this information is key because anybody who is an A&P can do the essential maintenance. However, signing off on a logbook is not within their rights and can cause them to lose their license to practice.
Minimum Requirements For An IA
According to AvTech Exams, the requirements to be an IA include the following:
- Hold a current valid mechanic certificate with both A&P ratings, adequate for a total of 3 years
- We are actively engaged in maintaining aircraft certified and IAW FAR 65 for at least two years before the date of application.
- Have a fixed base of operations
- Have available equipment, facilities, and inspection data necessary to inspect after major repair alterations properly
- Pass the IA written exam
Having an A&P and IA work on an aircraft encourages a checks and balances system, reducing errors and future incidents.
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A Future Full of Potential Solutions
The real challenge aircraft owners face regarding maintenance is finding someone with the knowledge and experience to continue maintaining older or vintage aircraft. Remember that many of these mechanics retire or otherwise move out of the profession after some time. Furthermore, turbo and twin-engine aircraft require more mechanical work that is tough to grasp for newer mechanics.
All of this information can feel overwhelming. But the good news is that top-notch trade schools like Rock Valley College Aviation Career Education Center, Embry Riddle, and other A&P-focused schools offer proper training for the next generation of aviation mechanics. Additionally, they will be getting more technology training as aircraft manufacturers continue to implement advanced equipment in newer aircraft.
On top of fantastic programs and active campuses, future aviation mechanics will be in high demand moving forward. Campus tuition can be on par with many non-aviation-focused universities. But the starting salary range for aviation mechanics is from $66,769 to $88,447, much higher than the average starting salary for most post-graduates across the country at $55,260 a year.
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