Private plane owners are responsible for the condition of their aircraft. Pilots must complete thorough pre-flight inspections for every flight to determine if the aircraft is safe. The pilot is also responsible for staying up to date on regulations that apply to operating and maintaining the aircraft. The pilot must keep an approved flight manual or a listing of limitations on the aircraft’s operations and current registration and airworthiness certificates in the plane.
Just Because You May Doesn’t Mean You Should
In the case of private planes, the owner and pilot are often one and the same. That doesn’t mean, however, that pilot-owners should try to perform all the maintenance tasks on their planes.
Federal Aviation Regulation 43 lists specific private airplane maintenance tasks you can do yourself if you are licensed under FAR part 61 and use your aircraft for non-commercial purposes. If it’s not on the list, don’t try it—you’ll be violating regulations and endangering yourself and any passengers who may fly with you.
Manuals and Recordkeeping
Additional sections of FAR 43 lists the manuals you must possess. These regulations also list the requirements for record keeping, a critical step for passing inspections and maintaining the resale value of your aircraft. The manuals should provide detailed instructions, and listings of the proper airplane lubricants for permitted oil changes and greasing tasks.
Don’t try maintaining your own plane if you’re not confident about it. Team up with a respected airframe and power plant (A&P) mechanic to teach you how to do what you’re allowed to do.
Specific Preventative Maintenance Tasks You Can Do Yourself
FAR 43 allows section 61 licensed pilots to perform tasks like:
- Changing oil and air filters: consult the manuals to ensure you use the correct filter replacements.
- Changing landing gear tires: the manual will provide specific torque measurement for the bolts on the wheel, and it may include specifications for tire pressure.
- Changing navigation and landing light bulbs.
- Lubricating or applying corrosion protection so long as it doesn’t require disassembly.
- Cleaning and greasing wheel bearings.
- Minor repairs to interior fabric.
- Replacing batteries.
Performing the private plane maintenance tasks you can do yourself helps you get to know your aircraft better, understand its strength, as well as the surprising fragility of certain parts. It helps you appreciate the precision with which your trusted A&P mechanic performs more complex tasks that require the A&P license. If you can convince an A&P licensed mechanic to mentor you and help you learn basic preventative maintenance, remember them when it’s time for major inspections and scheduled maintenance you are not permitted to do.