It is well known that aircraft are regularly subjected to stringent testing in order to screen for any defects in their structure or function. These inspections may vary depending on the particular aircraft, in addition to the number of flight hours since its last assessment. In this blog, we will discuss the several types of aircraft inspections, highlighting what goes into them and how often they should be carried out.
Before every flight, cabin crews work diligently to ensure the plane is in proper condition by checking the cabin and exterior for any discrepancies. The cabin inspection includes document verification and cockpit checks. Examples of necessary pre-flight documents include registration certificates, operating handbooks, weight and balance data, and radio station licenses, among others. This portion of the inspection is typically handled by the pilots, who also ensure the avionics are in working order. Additionally, an exterior inspection should also be included to check for any visible damage, loose fasteners, tire pressure, oil leaks, and fuel quantity. If at any time a crew member discovers an issue with any of the items listed above, they may suspend the flight until rectified.
Unscheduled Aircraft Maintenance
While most aircraft inspections occur at regularly scheduled intervals, they are also required any time a crew member notices a problem at any time from pre-flight to after-flight. If the issue is found during the pre-flight checks, the aircraft must be grounded until it is brought to a certified MRO and repaired. During flight, incidents may range from an alternator failure to ineffective landing gear operation. If the defect immediately threatens the ability of the aircraft to continue operating safely or may lead to a significant problem later on, the plane should initiate a landing sequence to ensure adequate maintenance.
After 50 hours of flying, it is necessary for there to be a thorough check of the engine for any signs of wear or loose components. At this time, it is highly recommended that the engine's oil be changed and spark plugs removed and examined. In addition to these actions, other suggestions may be found in the aircraft's operating manual.
All aircraft must undergo a 100-hour inspection, the contents of which are outlined in FAR 91—409 b. This complete gamut of testing begins with an inspection of the flight controls and surfaces during a brief taxiing period. The maintenance crew member facilitating the test will ensure the controls move smoothly, while another member may visually inspect the flight surfaces as they are actuated. Following this test, the maintenance crew will remove all cowlings, hoods, and fuselage panels so that they can best inspect the internal components of the aircraft. A full 100-hour inspection may be completed in as little as 10 hours or may take as long as 2-4 days.
Annual inspections are also mandated by the FAA and are considerably more involved than 100-hour inspections. In addition to all action items listed above, annual inspections also include a more thorough examination and testing of engine components, review and replacement of parts that have been identified in an airworthiness directive, and assessment of avionic systems. Finally, a qualified member should review all aircraft logbooks from the prior year.
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