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Fly safe with annual aircraft inspection checklists

Learn about the different types of aircraft inspections, what they entail, and when they are needed. Stay compliant with federal aviation regulations and requirements with an aircraft inspection checklist, and save yourself countless hours by digitizing your audits

What is aircraft maintenance?


Aircraft maintenance is one of the most important safety inspections in aviation. Regular aircraft inspections are essential to protect the safety of passengers.

Table of contents:

1. What to aircraft inspectors do?

2. What is the purpose of an annual aircraft inspection?

3. 7 typical aircraft maintenance checks

4. Complying with federal regulations

5. A digital solution for aircraft maintenance

What do aircraft inspectors do?

There are several different kinds of aircraft inspections. But generally speaking, an aviation inspector is evaluating:

  • Tire pressure
  • Landing gear
  • Doors
  • Meters
  • Gauges
  • Instruments
  • Wings
  • Fuselage
  • Engine
  • Propeller
  • Safety inspectors need a background in aircraft maintenance and repair. Part of their job is to oversee the work of the airplane mechanics as an additional safety precaution.

    Some of their other job responsibilities include reviewing and maintaining records, observing if pilots are adhering to safety regulations, and reviewing the causes of crashes. Since they have insider knowledge of maintenance processes, they hold a lot of sway when proposing new safety parameters.

    What are the different types of aircraft maintenance inspections?

    There are several scheduled maintenance checks regulated and mandated by the FAA.
    The timing of each is not always exact, but they generally occur at these intervals:

    1. A-check – every 2 months
    2. A checks are the least intensive out of all the checks, but can still reveal the need for vital repairs. They are visual inspections of the airplane’s exterior, as well as electrical and pressure systems. The areas included in an A-check are:

      • Filters
      • Hydraulics
      • Lubrication
      • Emergency equipment
      • Lights
      • Landing gear
      • Pressure system
      • Oxygen pressure

    3. B check – every 4 months
    4. These checks are done every 400 to 600 hours and require a more in-depth, under-the-hood investigation, but they are not quite as involved as a C or D check. B checks don’t involve disassembling any part of the plane to inspect any hard-to-see or reach places.

      IB checks aren’t always required every four months. These inspections are more relevant to older models, since aged parts are more susceptible to corrosion and damage.

      The B checks involve a slightly more thorough investigation of the engine and other airplane parts such as:

      • Sensors
      • Torquing alignment
      • Wheel well
      • Hydraulics
      • Landing gear
      • Hinges
      • Springs
      • Fluid
      • Corrosion
      • Fuel leakage
      • Drive rods
      • Stop cables

    5. C-check – every 16 months
    6. C checks are extensive inspections, during which an aircraft will not be able to fly for 3 or 4 days. In addition to everything covered in an A and B check, A C check inspects:

      • DC bus tie control unit
      • Entry door seals
      • Flap systems
      • Escape routes
      • Pressure decay
      • Engine inlet TAI ducting
      • Structural elements
      • Floor beams
      • Bolts

    7. D-check – every 8 years
    8. D checks are the most extensive inspection to date, which require the plane to be dismantled so it can receive a complete overhaul. During a D check, an inspector checks every part, system, and component listed in the A, B, and C checks in addition to inspecting the bolts and screws. Because this check is so involved, it can take up to two months to complete.

    9. 50 hour inspection
    10. The FAA doesn’t require a 50-hour inspection, but they are common nonetheless, since planes usually need an oil change at the fifty-hour mark.

      The 50 hour inspection checks:

      • Wear, tear, and gapping of the engine
      • Spark plugs
      • Cleaning
      • Repair of any damaged parts

    11. 100 hour inspection
    12. According to the FAA far 91.409, a pilot cannot fly an aircraft after 100 hours of operation unless it’s been approved by a certified mechanic.

      An aircraft may exceed its 100 hours while en route to the destination of its inspection, but not by more than ten hours. If the inspection is performed after 100 hours, that difference is subtracted. For example, if the aircraft was in service for 110 hours before it received its inspection, the next inspection would have to be scheduled after 90 hours of flight time.

      However, there are a few exceptions to the 100 hr inspection rule:

      • Aircraft that were granted a special flight permit
      • Experimental aircrafts
      • Ultralight aircrafts
      • Aircraft which hold a provisional airworthiness certificate

      100 hour inspection checklistsinclude:

      • Cockpit
      • Instruments
      • Electrical system
      • Equipment
      • Furnishing
      • Fuselage
      • Exterior
      • Landing gear
      • Hydraulic system
      • Flight control wing
      • Engine
      • Fuel System
      • Propellor inspection
      • Avionics installed
      • Deicing systems
      • Additional equipment
      • Special inspections
      • Miscellaneous items
      • Airframe
      • Life limits

    13. Annual inspection

    Annual aircraft inspections must be performed every 12 months no matter how much the plane has flown. These inspections are the same as 100 hour inspections, however each are performed on different aircraft.

    Depending on the purpose of your aircraft, you may perform either an annual or a 100 hour inspection. You do not, however, need both. An annual inspection can take the place of a 100 hour inspection but not vice versa.

    100 hour inspections are necessary for any aircraft that is used for instruction and hire. Otherwise, a private airplane only requires annual inspections.

    How much does an annual inspection cost?

    That depends on the type, size, and age of the airplane and its engine. Annual and 100 hour inspections can be anywhere from $800 to $5,800 per aircraft, not including additional repairs or parts. The bigger and older your aircraft, the higher the fee.

    What is the purpose of an annual aircraft inspection?

    Aircraft inspections are vital safety measures, but they are not just to protect the passengers onboard. Airplanes are expensive machines. A Boeing 747 costs 418.4 million dollars, not including upkeep. This is why preflight inspection checklists have to be repeated if just one step is skipped.

    Although aircraft maintenance checklists are time-consuming and meticulous, they are necessary in order to remain compliant with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Every aircraft, regardless of whether or not they are being flown privately or commercially, must receive a preflight inspection before taking off. It’s important to note that no one is exempted from these rules even if there are no other passengers on board. That’s because airplane crashes can still cause damage to surrounding areas and civilians.

    During a pre-flight inspection:

  • An airplane inspector will look at the cabin, engine, wings, propeller, and tail for signs of damage
  • If the inspection turned up any damaged components, they’ll make a plan to repair the part(s)
  • If needed, a mechanic will repair any damaged or defective mechanical, electrical, or structural components integral to safety.

You can think of inspections as an investment. The money you save by detecting problems early could be more than enough to pay for a brand new airplane. Inspections also help:

  • Prevent lawsuits

    The major airlines pay millions upon millions of dollars each year on lawsuits. In the unfortunate event of a plane crash that results in loss of life, the airlines are obligated to pay reparations to the families of the departed, averaging around 1.4 million per person.

  • Save lives

    A thorough preflight inspection could turn up any number of potentially fatal failures. If you don’t do your due diligence, you’re taking a huge unnecessary risk.

  • Prolong aircraft life

    WWII era planes are still safely flying around seventy-five years later, because superior engineering, quality parts, and upkeep all help an aircraft stay in shape. Regular repairs and general maintenance will make your machine last longer.

  • What happens if you don’t comply with federal aviation regulations?

    Aviation is one of the most regulated industries for good reason. This level of caution makes air travel the safest form of travel out there; there’s actually only a 1 in 11 million chance of dying during a plane crash. As such, failure to comply with FAA regulations results in a number of penalties depending on the severity and frequency of the violations. You could face:

    • An informal meeting with an FAA attorney
    • Temporary certificate suspension
    • Indefinite certificate suspension
    • Fines up to $400,000
    • Loss of pilot’s license

    As you can see, it is in your best interest to follow FAA guidelines.

    A digital solution for aircraft maintenance

    Lumiform’s mobile app and desktop software enables the efficient application of aircraft checklists. You can also easily adapt maintenance checklists to your specific conditions.

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