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The aircraft inspection process is key to the proper performance and airworthiness of any aircraft. Without proper inspections, aircraft are like to run with less effectiveness and to have components and parts that wear down easily and break down in a jam.
Inspection is an important time in the life cycle of an aircraft. It is often during the inspection process that aircraft mechanics must make important decisions about the best products to use in maintaining an aircraft and keeping it looking its best. The aircraft must be cleaned ahead of time and the inspection process may conclude with an aircraft metal polish job to shine up the aircraft.
Inspections are largely the concern and responsibility of aircraft maintenance technicians and pilots who must ensure that inspections are carried out according to FAA rules and regulations as well as in accordance with manufacturer guidelines. Failure to do so puts passengers at risk and can result in huge losses or damage for the aircraft itself.
Here are the most important things to remember about the aircraft inspection process.
Several different kinds of inspections may be required.
The two most well-known inspections are called the 100-hr inspection and the annual inspection. Inspections can be scheduled based on the number of flight hours between inspections or based on a specific calendar date. The 100-hr inspection falls into the former category.
The 100-hr inspection is needed for any aircraft that carries a person for hire or for flight instructors that offer flight instruction for hire. The annual inspection applies to most general aviation aircraft and must be conducted by an aircraft mechanic holding an inspection authorization (IA) license or certificate.
As an alternative to a annual inspection, a pilot may request permission from the FAA to perform progressive inspections. These allow certain segments of an annual inspection (normally there are a total of six) to be performed overnight. This reduces the amount of down-time needed for an annual inspection so that the aircraft does not lose revenue earning potential during the inspection process.
In addition, the Pilot’s Operating Handbook provides checklists for pre- and post-flight inspections. These require a pilot to do walk-around checks before flight and to determine the airworthiness of a plane based on maintenance documents and airworthiness certificates. After each flight, the FAA also recommends that the pilot inspect the plane for any repairs or maintenance issues that should be reported to the maintenance crew.
A basic maintenance plan can usually be found in the Manufacturer’s Manual.
One of the most important aspects of the inspection process is the use of various publications to inform and guide the inspection process. The manufacturer’s manual often contains the basic instructions for carrying out the essential inspection process.
Beyond the manufacturer’s manual, other publications may need review before an inspection can begin. Aircraft mechanics must keep a close watch on periodic releases from the FAA and updates to regulations released in service bulletins in order to stay up-to-date on all the latest requirements for inspections.
Log books and checklists are also useful tools in the inspections process. These will ensure that each inspection is conducted on a timely basis and that each step in the process is meticulously accounted for.
Specific equipment may require special inspection.
In addition to the annual and other routine inspections that cover the entire aircraft, certain systems may need special inspection. For instance, the altimeter system, which shows an aircraft’s altitude above sea level, must be inspected no less than 24 calendar months preceding flights. Other flight instruments, such as the transponder, must also be inspected every 24 calendar months to check for data errors and overall efficiency.
Some inspections require disassembly or the use of inspection aids.
At times, certain flight conditions may require the complete disassembly of aircraft components or the use of inspection instruments that avoid disassembly but still allow an in-depth inspection to be completed properly.
For instance, sudden changes in oil pressure could lead to a complete engine teardown as regulated by the FAA and outlined in airworthiness documents. This process involves complete disassembly of the aircraft engine and a step-by-step check of each engine component to determine the source of the problem as well as to repair or replace parts.
An instrument called a borescope is often one of the main inspection instruments aircraft technicians use to perform in-depth inspections in places where a visual inspection is not possible. A borescope, consisting of an eyepiece attached to a flexible tube, can be inserted into small holes to inspect the insides of aircraft components.
Ultrasonic detection instruments may also be used in an aircraft inspection. These work especially well in detecting tiny cracks or minute voids that could indicate problems with aircraft components which would not otherwise be found. Parts can either be completely immersed in detections fluids and then exposed to ultrasound for inspection or the ultrasound detection instrument can be brought out for field testing of the surfaces of certain aircraft components.
All inspections require entries into the aircraft log.
Throughout the inspection process, accurate and thorough recordkeeping is key. Pilots, technicians and mechanics must make full use of aircraft logbooks to record each and every inspection as well as notes on repairs needed, maintenance steps performed, parts replaced and dates and details of each inspection. These logbooks are essential for providing the proof of inspection needed to obtain flight permits and to meet FAA requirements.
The Aviation Inspection Process
The aviation inspection process can be as simple as a quick visual walk-around or as in-depth as a complete teardown of the aircraft engine. Each inspection process is a necessary step in maintaining the overall excellent condition and airworthiness of a plane. The FAA publications, rules and regulations as well as the aircraft’s manufacturer’s manual play a huge role in providing guidance, important checklists and legal requirements for each inspection process.
For any aircraft, the maintenance process goes beyond knowing the best metal aircraft polish for keeping the aircraft shining. Each inspection is an extremely important part of keeping a plane in top condition, damage free and completely safe for each flight.