Owner Assisted Annuals
Disclaimer: I am not an A&P. These opinions may not reflect those of Arizona Pilots Association.
Most of us want to keep the cost of flying as low as possible, so we can keep on flying. One way to do that is to assist in the Annual on your airplane. 91.409 requires an annual inspection of every certified aircraft.
Of course, you are going to need to find an FAA designated Inspecror of Aircraft, (IA) that is willing to let you assist in the annual. There are many freelance mechanics that will do this, and you may have to look around and ask around to find the right one.
Most of the larger repair/inspection/maintenance shops will not allow owners to assist in the annual. There are several reasons for this. One is possible liability issues where in you could blame them should you be injured in any way as you perform service under their supervision. They just don’t want the exposure. Another reason might be financial as well. After all, they may have a large facility and employees on a payroll. They do need to pay the rent, too.
To do your owner assisted annual, you will need a place to work. If you already have a hangar, you can use that. If not, you may be able to rent a space for the work. Factor that into the cost as well. There are mechanics/inspectors that will come to your hangar. They may or may not travel with their own tools, and make sure your airport management allows such work in non-commercial hangars.
You should have a well-equipped tool chest with appropriate tools. Some aircraft work may require tools not commonly found in the average garage tool box. Be prepared to purchase other tools if needed.
Know what you can do, and what you can’t do. The list of things in Appendix A to Part 43 that you can do is extensive. The list is probably longer than you want, and you may not want to do all of the things that you are actually allowed to do. These items do not need a mechanic sign off, only a log book endorsement by the pilot/owner that did the work.
There are many talented home auto mechanics in this country. They have built or restored beautiful cars. If you can work on your car, you should be able to work on your airplane. However, remember that an airplane is not a car. Actually, I think that airplanes are easier to work on than cars, but you can be the judge of that. Remember, you’ll need a willing IA if it is an annual.
If you do your owner assist annual, you will be responsible for finding replacement parts and purchasing of them. If you take your plane to a larger shop, they will likely have many of the commonly used parts on hand. You may pay a little more, but time is money also. Ordering your own parts may take you some time to get them, so add that to the time and cost of doing your owner assisted annual.
Financial considerations aside, the one thing about owner assisted annuals that you cannot put a price on is learning about your airplane. You cannot over inspect your airplane. You may not spot things that a trained mechanic will, but you will learn from every experience. Many pilots routinely change their own oil and filter, and that is a good place to start. Changing the brakes or tires, and greasing wheel bearings is another place to go. The hands on experience will make you a smarter owner, and, we hope, a better pilot.
Not all owners will want to do their owner assist annuals, and some just can’t. That is why we have good shops for maintenance, and some owners should go to those. Just remember the phrase, you cannot over inspect your airplane. Learn as much as you can about your plane!
Come to an ARIZONA PILOTS ASSOCIATION safety seminar near you. Check the web site for locations and times. And, don’t forget to ‘Bring your Wingman.’