Aircraft maintenance bills are an unfortunate constant in this world. Between annuals, scheduled maintenance, and repairs from mechanical problems, aircraft repairs can be pricey. But there is hope, and it comes in the form of self-help. Owner-performed and owner-assisted maintenance are two great ways to not only save money on repair and inspection bills, but also learn the intricate details of your aircraft.
Although the FAA doesn't give owners and pilots carte blanche when it comes to preventive maintenance, there are a number of things, 32 to be exact, you can repair or replace on your aircraft without the aid of a mechanic. The list is found in FAR Part 43, Appendix A.
According to the regulations, aircraft owners and operators can do such seemingly simple tasks as replacing the data card in the GPS or relatively complex tasks such as replacing prefabricated fuel lines and changing the oil. Part 43 also stipulates that the person performing the maintenance be a private pilot or better (except in situations with a light sport aircraft) and complete the appropriate logbook entries. Also, it is obviously good practice to receive proper training from a mechanic and have the maintenance manual for the aircraft prior to beginning the work.
Although the list of preventive maintenance items that pilots are allowed to perform is quite lengthy, the real savings come during the annual inspection with owner-assisted maintenance. Owner-assisted maintenance is exactly what it sounds like — pilots helping their mechanic complete the work. The practice is growing in the industry as more pilots discover the benefits of working side by side with their mechanic.
Although the annual is the most common time to assist your mechanic, theoretically you could help on any job. As long as your mechanic is open to the suggestion and he or she supervises your work, there's no limit to what you can do. This often saves pilots hundreds of dollars a year, and the benefit of learning the aircraft from the inside out is immeasurable.
The next time you are faced with an expensive annual or even a simple fabric patch, try the DIY route and get your hands dirty. You'll save money and learn in the process. For more information on which items the FAA allows you to fix through preventive maintenance, or what else you can do to lower your maintenance bills, give AOPA's Pilot Information Center a call at 800/USA-AOPA. The trained staff of professionals includes mechanics who are eager to help.
Answers to frequently asked questions about your AOPA membership
Q: Can I update my AOPA membership and pilot information online?
A: Visit our home page and look for the My AOPA Membership link in the left column. After you click on it, you'll be asked to log in, for your security, with your AOPA member number or your username and password. You'll then be able to view and update your current membership information and options. You can do it as often as you need to and whenever it's most convenient for you.
Q: Can I e-mail my membership information to Member Services and my credit card number to renew my membership?
A: For your own security, we urge our members not to put their credit card information in an e-mail to us. You can renew your membership online through our secure server, or you can call us to renew or mail your renewal to us. We provide an after-hours automated phone renewal option that takes a few moments using your touch-tone phone. Have your membership number and your credit card handy when you call 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672).
Q: I don't fly that often. Do I really need the AOPA Legal Services Plan?
A: Pilots who fly less frequently can find themselves unaware of subtle FAA rule changes and new regulations, making them more vulnerable to violations. The plan provides valuable services such as reviewing your hangar, tie-down, and lease agreements. For just $29 a year — roughly 55 cents a week — you can have the peace of mind you deserve every time you fly. Learn more or enroll in the plan by visiting the Member Products section of our Web site, or call our Member Services Representatives at 800/872-2672, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Eastern time.
Phone: 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672), from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time from Monday through Friday
E-mail: [email protected]
Web: Update your personal information, renew your membership, and much more by clicking on My AOPA Membership in the left column of our home page.