Aircraft longevity is crucial to the aerospace industry. Even though maintenance may seem daunting, pilots should be paying close attention to flight hours and overall operations to keep the plane running for the unforeseeable future. In this article, we will be covering important steps of maintenance.
The annual inspection is the most obvious but also most important to plane health. An authorized mechanic once a year will perform essentially an overhaul on an aircraft. They will conduct a detailed inspection from the seats, to the interior panels and trim, to the engine will be inspected and checked for signs of damage, fixed, and reassembled. Once put back together, the plan will be taken for a test flight and correctly certified to operate for at least another year.
Oil changes are just as important on planes as they are on cars. Each different type of aircraft has a specific oil and time frame. Light aircraft such as Cessna Aircraft, Piper, or Cirrus need their oil changed every 50 hours of operation, on ground or in the air. Maintenance is key, especially oil maintenance, for an aircraft when you consider that it performs at its highest capacities of temperature and pressure every time it flies.
Airplanes that are specifically used at a flight school or commercial establishment have to undergo the hundred-hour-inspection. This inspection runs the same procedures as the annual inspection. The only difference is who authorizes of the paperwork. In an annual inspection a certified individual holding an Inspection Authorization must sign off, whereas any mechanic can perform the hundred-hour inspection.
For an aircraft or any part that encounters an immediate issue that requires attention, an Airworthiness Directive, or AD, is issued. An AD has a specific time frame or operating hours attached to it where the maintenance needs to be completed by that time. If the maintenance is not completed by this deadline, the aircraft will be grounded until the AD is followed, per the FAA. If a problem is not deemed an emergency, the manufacturer will issue a Service Bulletin, or SB. The nomenclature of an SB is the same as an AD; however, the main difference is the FAA enforces the AD. A SB is more of a suggestion by the manufacturer so there are no legal repercussions if a customer does not comply. The SB usually is a precursor to the AD.
Since it is a very rigorous inspection and maintenance processes there are different inspection levels labeled A, B, C, D checks. The A check is the quickest inspection. The inspection usually takes 1 day, taking that aircraft out of service for a day. It occurs every 500 hours, 250 flights, or the agreed schedule that the FAA has approved.
The B check is required every 6 months. It can take anywhere from one to three days. Some airlines use a progressive inspection program, which allows them to add items from B checks into the A check inspection to save time out of operations.
The C check is essentially the same as an annual check and covers the same bases but occurs every 2 years since the A and B checks are more frequent. They take a week to complete and is more thorough than the previous checks. It often allows the airline to upgrade their interior with new entertainment and seating systems.
The D check is also known as the heavy check and is the most extensive out of all 4 checks. This occurs once every 10 years and will remove the aircraft from service for months. An aircraft can only take a few heavy checks in its lifetime, before being scrapped for parts. This is a full investigation of the whole aircraft, down to the paint.
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