Aircraft maintenance is one of the most important aspects of standard aircraft operations. The maintenance crew is responsible for ensuring that the plane is working optimally, allowing pilots to safely traverse the sky. Over time, the aviation industry has solidified a rigorous set of standards that require both specialized knowledge and refined mechanical skills when conducting inspections.
With the onset of aerospace advancements, aircraft have become more elaborate, thus two broad categories of aircraft inspections are actively used today. These include scheduled and unscheduled inspections. It is typically during impromptu inspections that the AIP team catches the most problems.
Scheduled inspections, on the other hand, refer to any preventative maintenance that the cabin crew or technicians partake in at specified intervals. These inspections include annual examinations, 100-hour inspections, preflight checks, and progressive assessments, all of which guarantee that aircraft are airworthy.
Annual inspections are necessary for all aircraft, including those used for recreational purposes, flight instruction, or hire. The specifications for annual inspections are outlined in the FAR 43 Appendix D, and they call for the inspection of flight controls, avionics checks, testing and inspecting the engine, review of aircraft logbooks, and flight surface checks.
While 50-hour inspections are not mandatory, aircraft technicians and owners should always consider them since they are required to change the oil every 50 hours anyways. This inspection also necessitates looking at the engine for wear, tear, gapping, cleanliness, and the surveying of the spark plugs. If the maintenance crew finds that there are damaged components, it is at this point that they can replace or restore the assembly.
Regardless of the stressors an aircraft is subjected to, the FAA mandates that they undergo 100-hour inspections. The regulations for such inspections can be found under FAR 91. 409b provisions. The maintenance crew is tasked with inspecting all the major components, as well as removing all fairings, cowlings, access doors, and inspection plates. During this inspection, one can expect the technical crew to remove windows, brakes, cargo and cabin doors, the skin and fabric of the airframe, the tires, flight control surfaces, landing gear, and struts.
The next important part of the 100-hour inspection includes the examination of the cockpit and cabin. This will help the crew detect malfunctioning seat belts, loose objects, and loose controls. More than that, fuel switches, battery flight controls, the yoke, and avionics are tested for functionality.
Preflight checks are also an important aspect of aircraft maintenance. They consist of a checklist which includes walking around the plane, inspecting flight control surfaces, and fuselage components. If anything abnormal is detected, it can result in flight cancellations or rescheduling, if deemed necessary. Equally as important, progressive inspections also take place for aircraft with tight schedules, those of which are carried out every 25 or 50 hours.
With regard to unscheduled inspections, these typically include the examination of the sheared vacuum pump, low landing gear struts, and more. While these types of inspections may catch failures or malfunctions, they tend to disrupt a flight. It is important to note that there are no specific guidelines maintenance crews adhere to when carrying out such inspections. Nonetheless, aircraft benefit from these assessments, ensuring they are in safe and reliable condition.
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