Owner Participation in Annual Inspection & Aircraft Maintenance
Owner participation in annual inspection is a widely debated topic and there are differing views on this. Here’s our view. Although, as an owner, you cannot perform any part of the annual inspection, even under an IA’s supervision, there is absolutely no reason why you cannot as an owner participate in annual inspection for the maintenance portion of the annual inspection.
The responsibility of an aircraft owner is to ensure that all required maintenance and inspections are conducted on his (or her) aircraft. Federal Aviation Regulation 91.403(a) says that “The owner or operator of an aircraft is primarily responsible for maintaining that aircraft in an airworthy condition …” and FAR 91.405 says that “Each owner or operator of an aircraft (a) Shall have that aircraft inspected as prescribed in subpart E of this part .”
The purpose of any aircraft inspection is to ensure the continued airworthiness and safety of the aircraft. Private aircraft that are not operated for hire need a complete inspection only once every calendar year, regardless of the number of hours the aircraft has flown. This inspection is called an Annual Inspection (most pilots refer to it informally as an annual) and is specifically required by FAR Part 91.409(a)(1). FAR Part 43, Appendix D defines the scope and detail of an annual.
Only an airframe and powerplant (A&P) mechanic who holds an Inspection Authorization rating (IA), or a properly certificated repair station operated under FAR Part 145 can perform an annual inspection or a 100 hour inspection. No one else can do an annual or 100 hour inspection, even under an IA’s supervision.
Although you cannot perform any part of the annual inspection, even under our IA’s supervision, there is absolutely no reason why you cannot participate in the maintenance portion of the inspection. With the IA’s approval and supervision, you can perform any or all of the maintenance and routine service functions that accompany an annual inspection, but our IA cannot delegate the actual inspection to anyone.
As the aircraft’s owner/operator, you are entitled to perform various maintenance functions without being under the direct supervision of an A&P or IA. FAR Part 43, Appendix A, Paragraph C, “Preventive Maintenance,” lists these functions. You can “preinspect” these items entirely on your own and correct any problems found before your IA begins the annual inspection. You should be aware, however, that depending on your relationship with our IA, he may repeat some or all of these maintenance items to ensure you’ve performed them correctly and in an airworthy manner.
Examples of maintenance items associated with an annual inspection that you can help with include the removal and installation of all cowlings, fairings, inspection panels, wing tips, etc., cleaning the aircraft and engine, and the removal of the aircraft interior.
Take advantage of all the opportunities you get to know your aircraft better with us. Our IA will have and use a model-specific checklist for the annual inspection and will have many more specific items to check out.
Owner participating in the annual inspection process can be an educational experience and can save you money by decreasing the amount of time that we have to spend on it. It will also decrease the down time on the aircraft, and give you an opportunity to monitor and understand the maintenance process and any specific concerns with your aircraft.