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Why You Should Check Your Airplane's Logbook, Every Time

It's easy to forget the importance of checking aircraft logbooks before you fly. The hard reality is that if you fly an un-airworthy airplane, you've broken federal regulations. Needless to say, that's bad for your certificate and your career. Take the following story as an example.....

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Don't Trust... Verify.

The following NASA ASRS report was submitted by a 3,000 hour CFI in early 2015:

An aircraft purchased by the FBO where I instruct was signed off as airworthy by the Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) mechanic/repair station from which it was purchased. This was after an extensive repair and rebuild of the aircraft following a landing accident. The aircraft was represented as airworthy in the aircraft airframe logbook after the repair/rebuild.

After the first flight in the aircraft (by another pilot) it was found that the trim control was operating backwards from what is normally expected in this aircraft. There were also several discrepancies found regarding the elevator hinges and horizontal stabilizer that were identified. These discrepancies were remedied by the original A&P mechanic after being notified of them.

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After those repairs I subsequently flew this aircraft on over 30 separate occasions over a span of 8 months while believing that it was in airworthy condition based on the airframe logbook entries, the repairs made to the original squawks on the trim, elevator hinges, and horizontal stabilizer, and my own preflight inspections.

The aircraft was later sent to a different maintenance facility for compliance with a recently issued Airworthiness Directive (AD) as well as having a 100 hour/annual inspection performed. During the course of this annual inspection there were numerous discrepancies found with the aircraft and the previous airframe logbook entries. It was subsequently determined by the maintenance facility that at least part of the aircraft repair/rebuild had not been accomplished properly, had not been documented properly, and was not airworthy. In addition, there were several ADs that were found not having been complied with.

FAA

I unknowingly had flown, instructed, and allowed students to fly solo in this aircraft when it was not in an airworthy condition. The un-airworthy repair was not visible or discernible during normal preflight inspections and could only be determined by disassembly of the aircraft by a knowledgeable mechanic. I believed at the time that the aircraft had been repaired properly and the airframe logbook entries represented the airworthy state of the aircraft and compliance with ADs.

A Tough, If Not Impossible, Situation

Obviously, this is a tough and very unique situation. Most, if not all of us, would have a hard time identifying the issues with this aircraft.

Fortunately most of the time, maintenance issues aren't this complex. It's often a missed annual inspection, or missed 100 hour inspection that's the problem. And a quick check of the aircraft logbook before your flight can tip you off if there's a problem.

If it's an airplane you've never flown, especially from an FBO you're unfamiliar with, make sure to review the maintenance records for the airplane. Be polite, but don't feel bad about asking to see the aircraft logbook. You're responsible for determining that the aircraft is ready to fly, and checking the logbook is a part of it.

If you find discrepancies, bring them up to the maintenance department (in a nice way), and don't fly the plane before corrections can be made.

If you haven't already, review FAR Part 91, Subpart E to reference all of the inspections and logbook entires that are required prior to flight.

Spending those few extra minutes before the flight can prevent some major headaches down the road.

FAA

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and commercial pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He holds multi-engine and instrument ratings, and is an aviation student at the University of North Dakota. He's the author of the articles, quizzes and lists you love to read every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures at http://www.swaynemartin.com.

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