Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Annual Inspection

679er is in for annual inspection over the Thanksgiving Holiday. I hope to drop her off for Gary (the owner) tomorrow morning prior to heading into work. The forecast is calling for winds 13gusting 28 and that's never a fun ride, even for a 14 mile hop. I'll check again this evening and then again in the morning prior to the go-no go decision. I found this article that describes the annual better then I could have so I thought I would share.

Flying on Flying
By Tom Benenson
August 2001

In Harry Met Sally, Meg Ryan is described as "high maintenance," meaning that satisfying her needs is never simple or straightforward; keeping her happy requires constant attention. Anyone who owns an airplane is familiar with "high maintenance." But maintaining an airplane so it meets the FAA's basic airworthiness requirements isn't as much about the expense as it is a recordkeeping exercise. Keeping an airplane safe—and legal—to fly does require high maintenance.

According to the FAA, the registered owner or the operator of an airplane is responsible for maintaining his airplane in an airworthy condition, including compliance with all applicable airworthiness directives (ADs), assuring that the maintenance is properly recorded and keeping abreast of current regulations concerning the operation and maintenance of his airplane.

The FAA has spelled out a number of inspections, maintenance procedures and checks that have to be completed in order for an airplane to be legal to lift off or to be used under instrument flight rules. Being legal and safe are not necessarily synonymous.

Every airplane is required to undergo an annual inspection. According to the FAA, "no person may operate an aircraft unless, within the preceding 12 calendar months, it has had an annual inspection and [has been] approved for return to service." A period of 12 calendar months extends from any day of a month to the last day of the same month the following year. Many owners schedule their inspections toward the end of a month so their airplane can be signed off and returned to service early in the next month; essentially creating a "13-month annual." That way they can spread the cost of the annual over 13 months instead of 12. Other owners stop their annual's forward progression in the middle of the winter so in the future they won't have any downtime during the flying season.

The details of an annual inspection are spelled out in the manufacturer maintenance manual and include the instructions for continued airworthiness, which address inspection intervals, parts replacement and life-limited components.

There are two exceptions to the annual inspection rule. Aircraft used to carry persons for hire or in which flight instruction is performed are required, within the preceding 100 hours of time in service, to have received either an annual inspection or a 100-hour inspection and approval for return to service. (Note that the rule applying to airplanes used for flight instruction does not require any compensation be exchanged.) The FAA recognizes that some operators may have scheduling problems for a 100-hour inspection, so it allows the 100-hour limitation to be exceeded by not more than 10 hours while en route to reach a place where the inspection can be done. There is a catch, though. The excess time must be included in computing the next 100 hours of time in service.

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