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Preventive Maintenance: Here's What You Can Fix On Your Plane

As a certificated pilot, you can fix over 31 maintenance items on your airplane. Here's what they are, and how the process works.

WHEN Can You Fix Your Own Airplane?

As a pilot certificated under 14 CFR Part 61 (private pilot, sport pilot, or higher certificate), you can perform specified preventive maintenance on any aircraft that you own or operate. This does not apply to airplanes that you don't own or operate.

Additionally, according to 14 CFR Part 43 you can only conduct this maintenance when the aircraft is NOT used under 14 CFR Part 121, 127, 129, or 135. Authorized preventive maintenance cannot involve complex assembly operations. But what exactly does this mean?

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WHAT Can You Fix?

According to 14 CFR 43 Appendix A, Part C (wow, that's a mouthful!), "preventive maintenance is limited to the following work, provided it does not involve complex assembly operations." There are currently 31 items listed that you're allowed to work on yourself.

Here's a short-list of the most common examples of preventive maintenance (refer to the full regulation for a comprehensive list):

  • Remove, install, and repair landing gear tires.
  • Service landing gear wheel bearings (for example, cleaning and greasing).
  • Service landing gear shock struts (for example, adding oil, air, or both).
  • Replace defective safety wire or cotter keys.
  • Lubricate items not requiring disassembly other than removal of nonstructural items (for example, cover plates, cowling, and fairings).
  • Replenish hydraulic fluid in the hydraulic reservoir.
  • Replace safety belts.
  • Replace bulbs, reflectors, and lenses of position and landing lights.
  • Replace or clean spark plugs and set spark plug gap clearance.
  • Replace any hose connection, except hydraulic connections.
  • Replace and service batteries.
  • Make simple fabric patches not requiring rib stitching or the removal of structural parts or control surfaces.
  • Replace any cowling not requiring removal of the propeller or disconnection of flight controls.

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Just Because You're Allowed To, Should You?

The FAA leaves you room to self-assess whether or not you're qualified to "perform the work satisfactorily and safely."

If you don't come from a mechanical background, one of the best things you can do is work with a local A&P to get trained on a few preventive maintenance items before you take matters into your own hands. Just because the regulations allow you to do the maintenance yourself, doesn't mean it's necessarily a good idea, at least right away.

Required Maintenance Logbook Entries

If you do perform the work yourself, you're responsible to record entries in your aircraft maintenance logbook. Each entry must include the following information:

  • A description of the work performed, or references to data that are acceptable to the Administrator.
  • The date of completion.
  • The signature, certificate number, and kind of certificate held by the person performing the work. The signature constitutes an "approval" for return to service only for the work performed.

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The Benefits Of Maintaining Your Airplane

A well-maintained aircraft is a safe aircraft. Learning the ins-and-outs of basic preventive maintenance will help you spot mechanical problems before they impact the safety of your next flight.

And beyond that, once you're comfortable working with a few small items on your airplane, you start saving money in basic preventive maintenance costs.

Do you perform your own preventive maintenance? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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