What a great deal your customer got on his last annual! He heard of a guy from a friend of a friend of a friend who would come out with a few tools in the back of a truck and do the annual in the T-hangar in just one weekend for only $300! But how good of an annual did your customer really get?
Many flight training providers and instructors provide services for customers who own their own aircraft. In some cases, flight schools also provide maintenance services and may or may not be the provider of maintenance services for other aircraft in which their staff provides flight instruction. When instructors are providing services in aircraft with which they or the onsite maintenance is not familiar, some additional risk factors may be present. Every time instructors get into an aircraft they don’t know, they are taking some level of risk that the maintenance provided on that aircraft isn’t, well, up to par.
Keeping an aircraft “legal” isn’t just about having a signature in the logbook that says an annual was completed by an IA each year. The goal is to really do good inspections and make sure the aircraft are safe for another year.
I’ll call them “pickup truck annuals,” but they could also refer to any shoddy inspections in which corners are cut in the process. I always get a little more nervous when I find out maintenance is not provided in an established business location. The temptation to “make do” with the parts on the back of the truck because it “will make it another year” instead of repairing things properly gets too strong.
Keep instructors safe in unfamiliar aircraft by considering these tips:
Making sure an airplane is ready for and safe for flight isn’t something that should be skimped on. A skipped cable inspection may miss a frayed cable that will fail and cause flight control failure. Failure to complete a proper cylinder compression test may miss a cracked cylinder that could leave an instructor and student stranded in a field at best or worse, crashed and injured in a less suitable landing location. These and many other inspection items require proper tooling and attention to detail that takes time and investment by a quality maintenance services provider. It’s less likely that a “bargain” maintenance provider is going to be able to meet these standards.
If you think the maintenance on an aircraft a customer is asking to use for training isn’t up to par, don’t provide services in it. The few dollars you may gain on a couple lessons just aren’t worth the risk. It might be time to politely decline, or, if the customer is willing, recommend a different maintenance provider for future needs. Determining the quality of maintenance that is conducted on unfamiliar aircraft is important for flight training providers for their own instructors’ safety and for the liability of the business that sends out its instructors in the aircraft.