Owner Assist to Reduce the Bill (Side-effect: Intimate Knowledge of Your Aircraft)

Smart business as well as living an organized life usually involves a certain amount of budgeting and knowledge. Ownership of a personal aircraft is a large financial responsibility that demands attention on the part of the owner. This astuteness of an aircraft owner is also mandated by the FAA through the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), though I believe that the most important reason for knowing your aircraft for reasons ‘over and above’ mere regulation compliance is the confidence that the safety and security of you, your passengers and the people and property that you are flying over is properly protected by your aircraft being maintained in an airworthy as well as a flightworthy condition.

The CFR, from the FAA reads as follows: “...as an aircraft owner you are responsible for compliance and familiarity with the applicable 14 CFR part(s) concerning the operation and maintenance of your aircraft...As an aircraft owner, you should be familiar with the provisions of 14 CFR Part 43, Maintenance, Preventative Maintenance, Rebuilding, and Alteration, and 14 CFR Part 91, General Operating and Flight Rules.”

14 CFR FAR Part 91 allows its followers to get away with a lot in maintenance...okay that sounds bad and this article is not meant to cause discomfort to its readers, therefore let me illustrate what I am trying to say by looking at the maintenance responsibilities of an owner who allows his aircraft to flown under 14 CFR FAR Part 135 instead of 91:

• All Airworthiness Directives and Mandatory Service Bulletins must be complied with
• An Annual Avionics Check in addition to the Transponder, Altimeter and VOT checks required every 24 months and 30 days (VOT) respectivel
• The aircraft must be reweighed every 36 months

These three line items on first perusal appear fairly reasonable to most FAR Part 91 owners, until the Service Bulletins for your aircraft are pulled off the shelf and reread. Now you will find that every five or seven years and/or every 4,000 to 5,000 hours your propellers must be overhauled including the associated prop speed governors. Also the TBO of your engines become hard-time-line targets that cannot be crossed without OEM approval, worse for you yet, you will be mandated to overhaul base upon calendar time (10 to 12 years) as well as the hourly requirements.

So with this said, and hopefully it has not been too much of a shock for the readers who haven’t had an engine or propeller overhaul within the last 25 years, the primary reference that an Inspection Authorized FAA A&P Mechanic (I.A.) will use to get your Annual or 100 Hour Inspection started with is to check what compliances are required based upon the certification of your aircraft are specified in the FAA issued Type Certificate Data Sheet (TCDS) for the specific model of your aircraft, plus any modifications to this base ‘birth certificate’ document through a Supplemental Type Certificate. You can download the TCDS for your aircraft straight from the FAAs website by clicking the following web-hyperlink: https://rgl.faa.gov/Regulatory_and_Guidance_Library/rgMakeModel.nsf/MainFrame?OpenFrameSet

As an example let’s take a look at TCDS A7SO for a mid 1990’s Piper PA-34-220T Seneca IV (start at page 7 on the TCDS.) The basis of the certification of this aircraft was in accordance with FAR 23, amendment 6 and Parts: 23.207, 901, 909, 959, 1041, 1043, 1047, 1143, 1305(b)(c)(h)(p) and 1527; plus many, many more references. When you follow the aforementioned references by looking them up and following them into further referenced documents, you will learn in detail what the true limitations are for your aircraft. Unfortunately it is rather like a scavenger hunt because all of the requirements are interlaced with each other, with one reference quoting another. Certainly in the pre-internet days this type of research was gruelling; now though after a couple of hours reading the body of all quoted references you will build an excellent dossier on your aircraft.

Now back to the main premise of this article: ‘reducing your bill.’

Unfortunately there are few, if any deals in life. As Sir Isaac Newton stated in his third law of motion, (my words follow) ‘for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction’ thus applying this physical law to ourselves - one easily sees that if a good result is hoped for, then an amount of effort must be input to the situation to achieve a good outcome. Fortunately for any aircraft owner willing to roll his or her sleeves up and get a little grimy, during the performance of the next 100 Hour and Annual Inspection on your aircraft, then this is possibly a time when you get to meet one of those very rare: ‘few deals in life.’

Apart from following the 31 items list of allowable maintenance functions that can be performed by the owner of a non-experimental or sport pilot category aircraft (read a previous article that I wrote for Globalair.com here on this topic: https://blog.globalair.com/post/Owner-Performed-Aircraft-Maintenance.aspx you are legally able to perform almost anything else on your aircraft as long as you are able to comply with 14 cfr FAR 43.3 which reads as follows: “Persons authorized to perform maintenance, preventive maintenance, rebuilding, and alterations....

...(d) A person working under the supervision of a holder of a mechanic or repairman certificate may perform the maintenance, preventive maintenance, and alterations that his supervisor is authorized to perform, if the supervisor personally observes the work being done to the extent necessary to ensure that it is being done properly and if the supervisor is readily available, in person, for consultation. However, this paragraph does not authorize the performance of any inspection required by Part 91 or Part 125 of this chapter or any inspection performed after a major repair or alteration.”

So how does this translate into a money savings for you after your Annual or 100 Hour inspection has been signed off?

Shop around for a knowledgeable, good natured and willing I.A. who won’t mind supervising you in the teardown and re-put-together of your aircraft before and after the inspection, as well as showing you how to do simple minor repairs yourself that he/she is willing to inspect and approve after these tasks have been completed under his/her tutelage and supervision.

Average labour rates per man-hour is $100+, so why not save yourself several hundred dollars by ‘owner assisting’ on your next major maintenance event so you can ‘reduce the final bill’ as well as reaching and exceeding the knowledge that you are required to have regarding the maintenance of your aircraft as specified by the FARs?