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Car Maintenance VS. Aircraft Maintenance


It is commonly said that the life of a vehicle depends on how the owner maintains it. The same is true for privately owned aircraft. Owning an aircraft is not as common for individuals as owning a car is, therefore aircraft maintenance may seem more complicated than it should be. Fear is the number one factor that stops first-time aircraft owners in their tracks before even attempting to perform any routine maintenance tasks themselves.


Fears may include but are not limited to: comprising the pilot’s own safety and his or her passengers, encountering trouble with a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inspector, or creating a larger problem that then becomes an expensive fix. With these fears in mind, it’s understandable why first-time aircraft owners may feel intimidated by performing any maintenance on their own plane, even if just simple routine tasks; however, similar to car maintenance, there are several upkeep tasks that can be easily approached and performed, even by beginners.


Almost all car owners are aware of the regular routine maintenances that need to performed to ensure the safety and quality of the vehicle. Such vehicles maintenance include:


  • Changing the oil every three to five thousand miles depending on the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation
  • Frequent tire checks for appropriate air level
  • Having tires rotated to ensure the longevity of the tires
  • Annual or Biannual brake check inspection
  • Engine checks
  • Changing of wiper blades


And last, but not least in importance, is taking immediate action whenever any type of issue or concern with the vehicle arises. Preventive maintenance is considered by car and aircraft mechanics alike to be the most important type of maintenance there is. Prolonging or procrastinating when it comes to having a problem checked allows time for the problem to worsen and potentially cost you much more in repair costs down the road.


Being aware and vigilant goes hand in hand with preventive  maintenance . No one knows a vehicle or aircraft better than the owner themselves. Being familiar with your own aircraft is beneficial, especially in regards to safety. As an aircraft owner, the more time spent flying the plane and getting familiar with all of its components will help you become more knowledgeable on what is considered “normal” for your plane and what is considered “abnormal.”


There is also a sense of personal achievement that comes with being able to “fix” and take care of issues with your own aircraft or vehicle. Routine maintenance assures that pilots and passengers can fly safely. Because of this, there are numerous resources online that can help aircraft owners perform basic maintenance on their planes. There are some maintenance tasks and repairs that the FAA requires only to be completed by professional aircraft mechanics, but there is a nicely sized list of almost 32 tasks that are considered “preventive” in nature and can be performed by even first-time plane owners.


In order to do any maintenance on an aircraft, the following three criteria have to be met before starting:


  • The certified pilot must own the plane that he or she is performing work on
  • The plane cannot be one that flies commercially
  • Any maintenance performed must not involve any complex assembly


Similar to the guidelines for a vehicular oil change, aircraft require maintenance after so many calendar days and/or the number of flight hours. Some simple maintenance tasks that aircraft are in need of include:


  • Tire checks and changing as needed
  • Cleaning and replacing spark plugs as needed
  • Repairing cowlings and fairings
  • Tuning shock struts
  • Battery checks and replacements
  • Ensuring lubrication of parts


The FAA also includes the following tasks as part of routine aircraft maintenance:


  • Overhaul
  • Frequent inspection and upkeep of the aircraft
  • Performing repairs as preventative measures or as needed
  • Preservation of the engine and aircraft overall


Before performing any of the above-mentioned tasks among the 32 others, it is always best to consult the service manual of your aircraft. For example, how tire changes on a plane are performed will heavily depend on the individual aircraft that’s being serviced, as there are different jacking procedures for different aircraft.


If servicing shock struts, there is a specific recommendation the FAA makes; sometimes the air is needed, sometimes oil, and in some cases, both. Certain manufacturers recommend not using air on the struts, but instead nitrogen. Nitrogen prevents any corrosion on the struts from taking place.


Even updating or replacing fixtures inside of the cabin need to meet certain requirements, such as ensuring all material used meets the burn test requirements. These are just a few insightful examples of certain maintenance tasks that you may consider performing yourself.


Like a car, performing routine maintenance tasks that are simple can often save aircraft owners both money and time. However, it is best to know your limits just the same as a car. If any maintenance tasks seem to require extensive work that you are unfamiliar with or uncomfortable performing, then it is best to consult a professional, a certified aviation mechanic.


Just as there are 32 tasks deemed OK for certified pilots to take care of themselves, there is also a list of over FAA-mandated tasks 40 tasks, which need to be completed by a certified aviation mechanic. In addition to knowing one’s own limits, one of the most important things an aircraft owner can do in response to maintaining his aircraft is to stay up-to-date on regulations and service bulletins straight from manufacturers.


Instead of feeling intimidated by performing aircraft maintenance on your own, feel empowered by the fact that many private pilots do it themselves and that there is a wealth of resources and information available for free both online and at local libraries.


Get in touch with our team of airplane mechanics today! Our team is made up of the best aircraft maintenance technicians in the Twin Cities area – ready to help you keep your plane in perfect condition, so you never have to stay grounded. From annual inspections to troubleshooting, repairs and more, we have the capacity to meet your unique aircraft maintenance needs.


The experience we offer gives pilots confidence in their aircraft and sets future expectations for a higher level of service. At Citadel Aircraft Maintenance, we will always treat our clients’ planes like our own.


Get in touch with our team for a free quote on your aircraft’s maintenance needs.


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