In our daily contact with thousands of aircraft owners and pilots, one major theme prevails. AOPA members are deeply concerned about the high costs associated with owning and operating general aviation aircraft.
As pilots, most of us are not mechanics by training or occupation, yet many of us derive satisfaction from tinkering with mechanical things, especially aircraft. By performing routine maintenance on our own aircraft we not only gain personal satisfaction but also become better educated about the equipment we fly, making us better and safer pilots. The opportunity also exists to save a substantial percentage of the annual maintenance costs associated with aircraft ownership.
Many aircraft owners, however, never attempt to work on their aircraft for a variety of reasons. Chief among these is a general sense of intimidation by the complexity of the airplane. Another is the fear of doing something wrong and running afoul of the local FAA inspector. Similar to this is the concern by the pilot that he or she may perform some function incorrectly, potentially jeopardizing the pilot's own safety and that of passengers at some future date. These are all very legitimate concerns, and it is our hope that this booklet will help address each of them.
Probably the most common reason for pilots not to perform their own routine maintenance is the belief that the FAA will permit only such a limited amount of work to be handled by the owner that it is not worthwhile to even attempt it. In fact, there is a rather broad array of tasks that we as owners and operators of type certificated aircraft can legally perform without the ongoing supervision of an aviation maintenance professional. And, with a little additional assistance from your local aviation maintenance technician (A&P mechanic), there is not much you can't do yourself.
But hold on! Before you head off to the airport with wrench in hand to fix all those annoying little maintenance items you noticed on your last flight, it is important to fully understand your privileges and responsibilities as a certificated pilot in performing routine maintenance. The Federal Aviation Regulations spell out in some detail what pilots (who are not certificated airframe and powerplant mechanics or repairmen) may do to maintain their aircraft. These functions fall under the heading of "preventive maintenance" to distinguish them from more complex maintenance, repair, rebuilding, or alteration functions which a pilot is not permitted to perform without direct supervision of an aviation maintenance professional.
FAR Part 43 specifies who may do what to an aircraft in the way of maintenance, repair or alteration. It requires that only properly certified mechanics work on aircraft and "okay" them for return to service. However, it does allow preventive maintenance to be performed by a certificated pilot, holding at least a Private certificate, on an aircraft owned or operated by that pilot, provided the aircraft is not used in commercial service. The responsibilities for a pilot performing preventive maintenance are very similar to those imposed on the certificated mechanic performing other duties. The FARs require that anyone who works on an aircraft must have the appropriate maintenance and service information available. This means quite simply that before you set about performing preventive maintenance items on your airplane, you must first have the proper maintenance manuals available. As you read toward the back of this booklet you will find a list of sources to obtain maintenance manuals for your particular aircraft. These manuals can be fairly expensive, but we guarantee that they will save you considerable time, money, and aggravation in the future. And, you must have them!
Another commonality between the mechanic and the pilot performing maintenance is that all maintenance actions, including preventive maintenance performed by the pilot, must be recorded in the aircraft maintenance records. This should be done carefully and religiously, not only to comply with the legal requirements of the FARs, but also from the standpoint of keeping an accurate maintenance history of the aircraft. Later in this booklet you will find some suggested logbook entries that you can employ in "signing off" the work that you do.
If you stumble into a task that seems unfamiliar, don't be afraid to seek some professional advice. Get some help from your local mechanic before taking on any job you have not done before if you are not confident that you can accomplish the work successfully. And remember, your mechanic is trying to earn a living, so compensate him for his time and advice. You'll be more likely to get it again in the future that way.
This publication has been developed by AOPA staff pilots and mechanics in order for pilots to better understand what is permitted under the privileges of preventive maintenance and the obligations that are imposed when performing maintenance. We sincerely hope the information contained in this booklet will be helpful to you and wish you many rewarding hours under the cowling.
Please read carefully the following 32 items that are permitted under the privileges of preventive maintenance and the short brief that follows. They will help you better understand your privileges. Item number 30 pertains to primary category aircraft only. To understand what is required when performing preventive maintenance, you should also read thoroughly AC 43-12A, which follows those 32 items.
Preventive maintenance is limited to the following work, provided it does not involve complex assembly operations:
Date: 10/28/83 AC No: 43-12A Initiated by: AWS-340
Â§43.3, Persons authorized to perform maintenance, preventive maintenance, rebuilding, and alterations.
Â§43.5, Approval for return to service after maintenance, preventive maintenance, rebuilding, or alteration.
Â§43.7, Persons authorized to approve aircraft, airframes, aircraft engines, propellers, appliances, or component parts for return to service after maintenance, preventive maintenance, rebuilding, or alteration.
Â§43.9, Content, form, and disposition of maintenance, preventive maintenance, rebuilding, and alteration records (except inspections performed in accordance with part 91, part 123, part 125, Â§135.411(a)(1), and Â§135.419 of this chapter).
Â§43.12, Maintenance records: Falsification, reproduction, or alteration.
Â§43.13, Performance rules (general).
Â§43.17, Maintenance, preventive maintenance, and alterations performed on U.S. aeronautical products by certain Canadian persons.
(DATE) Total time__________hours. Landing bulb removed in accordance with (manufacturer) maintenance manual, Chapter___________, page________. Landing light switch placarded inoperative.
(DATE) Total time ___________ hours. Aircraft heater and control switch deactivated by capping heater fuel lines in accordance with (manufacturer) maintenance manual, Chapter__________, page_________. Heater control switch placarded inoperative.
AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.