Your aircraft is an investment and likely one of your costliest assets, so it’s a no-brainer to ensure that you do everything possible to keep it in top shape. Additionally, you need to ensure that it is always safe to fly.
Some things you can do yourself, but others will require the skill and expertise of others, particularly servicing and major repairs.
What You Can Do And What You Can’t Do
The federal aviation regulations are very specific in terms of what aircraft owners may and may not do when it comes to maintenance of their craft. Specifically, certified pilots are allowed to do preventive maintenance on aircraft they own or operate as long as it isn’t used for certain things, including for a:
- Domestic or flag air carrier or for commercial operations
- Foreign air carrier
- Commuter aircraft
This means that someone who owns or operates a private aircraft can do “preventive maintenance” without needing to be supervised by an Airframe and/or Powerplant (A&P) mechanic. But the regulations do also state clearly which maintenance tasks are considered to be preventive, and in addition, they demand compliance with maintenance logging. So whenever you do maintenance tasks, you need to fill in the log book so that inspections and so on are recorded.
Top Aircraft Maintenance Tips
- Vacuum the interior of your plane or helicopter regularly and wipe down all surfaces. Look out for any signs of oil or grease; these could mean something is leaking and that additional action (and likely some professional help) is needed.
- If you’re lucky enough to have leather finishes in your aircraft, this needs to be properly maintained. Wipe clean regularly, and then every once in awhile use a good quality leather-cleaning product manufactured for furniture, that will “feed” the leather and extend its life.
- If you have seats that are covered with fabric or vinyl, then clean appropriately. Fabric should be pre-treated to prevent undue damage from spills and other dirt, but check it often and clean as soon as possible.
- Check the drain holes in the fuselage and use a pipe cleaner to make sure they are all clear. If holes get blocked, the trapped water can cause corrosion more quickly than you might imagine.
- Always make sure that the instrument panel is clean and that everything is working. Most aircraft instruments are installed in units with glass across the front and can be cleaned using a good quality glass cleaner, preferably cleaner made for aviation glass.
- Check glove compartments and other nooks that might have been stacked with unnecessary bits and bobs that you or your passengers might have left behind. Clean them out and only leave things that are essential.
- Make sure you do regular oil changes as required by the manufacturer. If you do your own oil change, this will need to be recorded in the engine logbook. If you replace the oil filter, this will also need recording.
- Check and clean the spark plugs.
- Check the condition of your tires as well as the tire pressure. It is probably true to say that generally take off and landing are the two most dangerous parts of flying; if your tires are less than perfect, accidents can happen. Changing aircraft tires is one of those legal preventative maintenance tasks that pilots and aircraft owners are able to do themselves. But you will need the right tools and make sure you know exactly what to do.
- Always ensure that the fuel you use is clean.
- Have your aircraft serviced by professionals regularly to ensure the engine runs efficiently and your craft stays safe.