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Aircraft Annual Inspection Checklist

Learn how about the different types of aircraft inspections, what they entail, and when you need to do them. Stay compliant with federal aviation regulations and requirements with the information listed below. Utilize Lumiform's free aircraft annual inspection checklist to successfully conduct and supervise regular checks.

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What is aircraft maintenance?

Aircraft maintenance is one of the most important safety inspections par excellence. The most important reason aircraft undergo rigorous inspections is to ensure airworthiness in order to protect the souls of every passenger and crew member on board.

Aircraft maintenance can be defined as checking and repairing all critical and noncritical structural, mechanical, and electrical components to safeguard the aircraft against mechanical failure. To ensure an aircraft is safe for flight, various inspections are carried out at highly regulated intervals.

With an aircraft checklist, aircraft maintenance can be carried out efficiently. As a matter of principle, each aircraft is subjected to various checks before each flight as well as once a day and once a week. Due to the documentation that an aircraft checklist automatically comprises, all steps and relevant information are recorded without gaps. In this way, optimal security can be created on board.

In this article, the following will be addressed:

1. Why an annual maintenance check?

2. 3 types of pre-flight control

3. 7 typical aircraft maintenance checks

4. Complying with federal regulations

5. A digital solution for aircraft maintenance

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What is the Purpose of an Annual Aircraft Mainenance Check?

There is an extensive number of required aviation inspections and maintenance checks a plane undergoes each year, and they are not just to protect the passengers flying onboard. Airplanes are expensive pieces of flying equipment. A Boeing 747 costs 418.4 million dollars and even more to upkeep. With that information, it’s easy to understand why airplanes are constantly getting delayed considering the fact that an entire preflight inspection checklist has to be repeated if just one step is skipped.

But money is just one of the reasons for the annual checkup. There are several other pertinent motives that will be covered in the section below.

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 involve property damage and civilian causalities if they happen in densely populated areas—which is where most of the major airports happen to be located. Preserving human life is the primary goal of these maintenance checks.

To prevent mechanical failures during flight, the following are performed during the walk around:

  • Inspection
    This entails everything that is appraised and tested prior to takeoff. An airplane inspector will look at the cabin, engine, wings, propellor, and tail for signs of damage.
  • Overhaul
    An overhaul is very similar to an inspection, but with a distinct difference: the overhaul does not encompass preventative maintenance.
  • Defect rectification
    If the inspection turned up any damaged components, then this is the step where a plan is made to repair the part.
  • Repair
    At this stage of the process, a mechanic will repair any damaged or defective mechanical, electrical, or structural components integral to safety.

You can think of inspections as an investment. Yes, there is an initial upfront charge to conducting them—employees need to eat, after all—but the rewards offset by the initial costs could be more than enough pay for a brand new airplane.

  1. 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. You can’t put a price on human life, but the average is around 1.4 million.
  2. Save lives
    A thorough preflight inspection could turn up any number of potentially fatal failures. If you don’t do your due diligence when it comes to an external and internal look-over, then you’re pricing a human’s life at 30 minutes—because that’s as long as a precheck takes.
  3. Prolongs aircraft life
    Planes built during the WWII era are still safely flying around seventy-five years later. This is no coincidence. Superior engineering, quality parts, and upkeep all play a role in the longevity of an aircraft. A little cash expended here and there for repairs and general maintenance will make your dollar last longer.
  4. Saves money
    Not only do inspections save money by preventing lawsuits and prolonging the useful years of an airplane, but it also will prevent the grounding of cargo and travelers, ultimately saving the transport industry beaucoup bucks.

In short, an aviation maintenance inspection is gauged on the same scale most businesses use to determine their level of success: how much time, money, and lives did they save?

Now, that we’ve established just how safety conscious the aviation industry is, let’s get to the nitty-gritty of aircraft maintenance requirements. The FAA has page after page detailing specific regulations with subsections and exemptions. In the midst of all that industry jargon and technical speech, it can be a challenge to find the pertinent information relevant to you and your needs.

What are the Various Maintenance Inspections?

Pre-flight inspection is a complex and continuous process that must be fully documented and carried out with the highest precision. According to HAW Hamburg, a distinction is made between three maintenance principles: Driving to failure, condition-based and predictive maintenance. These three types are broken down below:

  1. Use until break:
    Parts are used until they are defective. This method is only used for aircraft parts that are not essential for flight safety.
  2. Preventive maintenance:
    During this pre-flight inspection, parts are checked according to the guidelines of the aviation authorities or airline. This takes place at different intervals, which are determined according to the component and the probability of failure. During the last maintenance before a possible failure, the component will be replaced as a precautionary measure.
  3. Condition-based maintenance:
    Condition-based maintenance is carried out at fixed intervals, which are determined according to the condition of the component concerned. Since this condition analysis is a complex and demanding process, this maintenance method has been used sporadically up to now.

What do aircraft inspectors do?

Before we dive into the various maintenance checks an aircraft is subjected to in order to meet federal safety regulations, it might be useful to know just what exactly an aviation inspector is looking for.

Their general job description is to keep aircrafts safe and operational so cargo and passengers can keep moving. However, their main responsibility and number one priority is safety.

Some of their daily tasks include monitoring the safety of:

  • Tire pressure
  • Landing gear
  • Doors
  • Meters
  • Gauges
  • Instruments
  • Wings
  • Fuselage
  • Engine
  • Propellor
  • In addition to conducting daily safety checks and inspections, they also have a background in the nuts and bolts and inner workings of 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 among other tasks. Since they have insider knowledge on the whole overview of aircraft maintenance operations, they hold a lot of sway when proposing new safety parameters.

    In short, aircraft inspectors are the last line of defense between the open skies and an unexpected emergency or crash landing. For that reason, they are invaluable members of the world of aviation.

    What are the Different Types of Aircraft Maintenance Checks?

    In addition to the three different maintenance principles already mentioned, there are also regular checks. These are scheduled maintenance checks regulated and mandated by the FAA. The periods may be subject to deviations, but there are generally the following check intervals:

    1. A-check - every 2 months
    2. The A checks are the least intensive out of all the checks, but it’s still important to do a thorough review as they can still reveal potential repairs that could be vital to keeping the plane airborne. A checks entail a visual inspection of the airplane’s exterior as well as reviewing electrical and pressure systems. An aircraft audit maintenance checklist might look something like this:
      • Change the filters
      • Hydraulics
      • Lubricate
      • 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 it’s not quite as involved as a C or D check. The inspectors will not disassemble any part of the plane to inspect any hard-to-see or reach places.

      It also might be of some interest to know that not all aircrafts require a B check to be performed every four months. These inspections are more relevant to older models just because aged parts are more susceptible to corrosion and breakage.

      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. As the C cheks are more extensive, they will put an airplane out of commission for up to three or four days. In addition to encompassing everything that’s performed during an A and B check, they also inspect these systems:

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

    7. D-check - every 8 years
    8. D checks are the most extensive inspection to date as they require the plane to be dismantled in order for a complete overhaul to be performed. During a D check, an inspector will look at 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 the philosophy in the aviation industry is that it’s better to be safe than sorry. Planes usually need an oil change at the fifty-hour mark anyway, so it might be advantageous to get the inspection done and out of the way.

      What systems are checked during a 50 hour inspection?

      • 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 it may not exceed this time limit by more than ten hours. These additional hours have to then be subtracted from the subsequent 100 hours. 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

      What does a 100 hour inspection checklist look like?

      Items under the following categories are appraised:

      • 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 inspections, as the name suggests, must be performed within a 12 month period, regardless of how many flight hours.

    But what’s the difference between an annual inspection and a 100 hour inspection?

    There isn’t a difference between the inspections, only the aircraft’s purpose.

    Since they are so similar in nature, it can be a little tricky to distinguish which inspection you need to remain compliant with federal regulations. You do not, however, need both. An annual inspection can take the place of a 100 hour inspection but not vice versa.

    Naturally, the next question would be: Why wouldn’t a pilot just get an annual inspection and do away with the 100 hour inspection completely?

    The answer is that a 100 hour inspection is necessary for any aircraft that is used for instruction and hire. Otherwise, a private airplane only requires an annual.

    You can check out our free 100 hour inspection template and download it.

    How much does an annual inspection cost?

    That depends on the type, size, and age of the airplane and its engine. The cost of an annual and 100 hr inspection can be anywhere from $800 to $5,800 per aircraft, and any additional repairs or parts are not included in the base price. The bigger and older the machine, the higher the fee.

    To recap, besides the daily preflight checks the FAA mandates a series of scheduled maintenance checks every two, four, and sixteen months, and then another one every eight years. That’s not to say you shouldn’t get an unscheduled maintenance check in case the aircraft is not performing up to its usual standard.

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

    As you may have already guessed from the number of inspections, aviation is a highly regulated industry. Although it can be exacting at times to keep up with the industry’s countless rules and constant government supervision, there’s a good reason for it.

    Because of the industry’s extreme caution, airplanes are the safest vehicle of transportation out there. You’re 2,000 times more likely to die in a car accident than a plane crash. The chances of dying in a plane crash, actually, are 1 in 11 million. With those odds, you’d be more likely to die via meteorite.

    Failure to comply with these regulations will result in a number of penalties depending on the severity and frequency of the violations.

    • 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 the private and public sector's best interest to adhere to the rules laid out in the FAA’s official documentation.

    Related app uses

    A digital solution for aircraft maintenance

    The mobile app and desktop software enables the efficient application of aircraft checklists. Aircraft maintenance can be adapted to current conditions and specifications in a time-saving solution.

    No more checks are skipped and all data collected is reliably stored and summarized in a report. In this way, vulnerabilities and potential safety gaps can be detected at an early stage. This promotes flight safety and ensures that maximum aircraft safety can be achieved. Benefit from further advantages:

    • Continuous increase in quality and safety: The flexible checklist toolbox allows you to continuously optimize internal inspections and processes. Since Lumiform guides the auditor through the audit, there is no need for training.
    • The flexible checklist builder from Lumiform helps you to convert any individual paper list into a digital checklist without much effort.
    • In addition, we offer more than 9,000 ready-made templates to help companies get started digitally in no time.
    • Using the super intuitive mobile App, you and your teammates conduct check in the field with ease and in no time.

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