10 Easy? Steps to the Maintenance Records and the Pilot Applicant
by William R. Baumheuter, II
updated February 24, 2013
I am guessing that you are planning on a career as a professional pilot. I hope this page together will help pilot applicants understand aircraft maintenance records, and why it is so important to ensure compliance. It would be a shame to blemish your FAA record with an inadvertent violation of the FAR's.
When preparing to take a Private/Commercial/ATP/CFI flight test, you should be familiar with the aircraft records. Take the time to make a status sheet for the aircraft. I have an example here that you can print out.
Step 1. Open up the Aircraft (airframe) logbook, go to the latest entry. You are looking for the ANNUAL within the last 12 calendar months. If it's on Progressive inspection (somewhat unusual for small aircraft) you should have the inspection manual to prove the intervals are met. An ANNUAL can only be performed on a complete aircraft. Don't waste time by starting to look in the earlier dated pages. Don't waste time by opening and engine or propeller logbook first. You are looking for an entry similar to "I certify that the AIRCRAFT has received an annual inspection and was found to be AIRWORTHY......"
Step 2. Look for a 100 hour inspection (if we need it) within the last 100 hours from the current tach time. The 100 hour entries could be in the Aircraft, Engine, and Propeller logbooks. If you see an entry in the aircraft/airframe logbook that says "I certify that the AIRCRAFT has received a 100 hour inspection and was found to be AIRWORTHY......" you don't need to look in the other records. If the word "aircraft" has been substituted with the word "airframe", then you will need to find similar entries in the engine and propeller records (certifiying the engine and propeller as airworthy).
Step 3. Look for the ELT 91.207D inspection within the last 12 calendar months.
Step 4. Look for the ELT battery due date. It should have been replaced within the last 2 years typically. There should be an entry that mentions the expiration date on the battery. Knowing that it expires when it reaches 50% of it's shelf life is nice to know, but it doesn't answer the question of "is the battery expired?"
Step 5. Look for the FAR 91.413 Transponder Inspection. It should have been done within the last 24 calendar months. If the aircraft is equipped with a Transponder, it must have the inspection.
Step 6. Look for the FAR 91.411 Altimeter/Encoder/Static system Inspection (for an IFR flight we need it). It probably was done at the same time as the transponder.
Step 7. VOR accuracy check (for an IFR flight, we might need it). This may be a record in the aircraft, but it could be in the logbooks. (remember, it's date, place, bearing error and SIGNATURE!)
Step 8. Open up the AD record. If the plane doesn't have any AD's that's very unusual (a joke going around is that the FAA once discovered an aircraft that did not have any AD's that applied to it!! So they quickly issued one!). You are looking for Recurring AD's but you should be aware of AD's that are not due yet; could be due at 10,000 total time, etc. Keep in mind that if an AD is not due at the time of an Annual/100 hour, the mechanic is under NO LEGAL OBLIGATION to do the inspection early, even if there is only 0.1 hour left to go!
Step 9. Airworthiness LIMITATIONS (life limits) Some planes have life limited parts. A CESSNA 152/172 do not have any such limits, but a PIPER SEMINOLE has a limit of 14,663 hours. A PIPER TOMAHAWK however has the following limits:
From the FAA type certificate for the PA-38-112 - all S/N:
(a.) The service life of the wing and associated structure has been established as 11,000 hours time-in-service (TIS).
(b.) The lower longitudinal trim springs, Piper P/N 37523 or 61916-2, have a life limit of 1,500 hours TIS.
(c.) The service life of the steel upper rudder hinge, Piper P/N 77610-03, has been established as 5,000 hours TIS.
PA-38-112 - S/N 38-78A0001 through 38-80A0198:
The service life of the forward fin spar attachment plate, Piper P/N 77553-05, has been established as 3,000 hours TIS.
PA-38-112 - S/N 38-81A0001 through 38-82A0101:
(a.) Aircraft not equipped with Piper Kit No. 764-421, the service life of the forward fin spar attachment plate, Piper P/N 77553-05, has been established as 3,000 hours TIS.
(b.) Aircraft equipped with Piper Kit No. 764-421, the service life of the forward fin spar attachment plate, Piper P/N 77553-05, has been established as 5,000 hours TIS.
PA-38-112 - S/N 38-82A0102 through 38-82A0122:
The service life of the forward fin spar attachment plate, Piper P/N 77553-05, has been established as 5,000 hours TIS.
Step 10. If anything does not work on the plane, you need to justify operating it according to part 91.213. You also need to be able to explain how you decide if the plane can be flown with inoperative equipment. If it turns out that something required by FAR is inop, the basic procedure of how to obtain a special flight permit needs to be explained. If the plane has an MEL, be ready to explain it. Most small A/C don't have an MEL. An MEL is not the equipment list in the plane's handbook.
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