Plane and Simple: Basic Aircraft Maintenance

Okay, so you finally have your light aircraft. Maybe you worked hard to get here and be a proud owner of one, but know that the hard work may have just begun. To keep flying, you need to keep maintaining it. This article is an excellent place to start. 

Two things can destroy your aircraft- misuse and neglect. As an owner, it is your sole responsibility to check and preserve your aircraft’s airworthiness. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) defines airworthiness as “when an aircraft or one of its component parts meets its type design and is in a condition for safe operation.”


It is also your responsibility to: 

  • Have a Registration Certificate and Airworthiness Certificate displayed 
  • Have an FAA-approved flight manual or operational limitations 
  • Know regulations concerning operation and maintenance of airplane and engine 

Aircraft Maintenance  

Maintenance in aviation involves the “inspection, overhaul, repair, upkeep, and preservation of an aircraft and engine, including replacement of parts” as defined in 

According to the FAA, most aircraft need preventive maintenance after 25 hours of flying and minor maintenance every 100 hours.   

You can perform preventive maintenance on your aircraft as long as you have a pilot certificate issued under 14 CFR Part 61. (CFR stands for Code of Federal Regulations.) If you are sure you can do the job properly, always log: 

  • Description of the work performed or references to data  
  • Date of completion 
  • A signature, certificate number, kind of certificate held by the person doing the work 

Some of the preventive maintenance tasks a 14 CFR Part 61-authorized aircraft owner can do are: 

  • Remove, install, and repair landing gear tires 
  • Service landing gear wheel bearings (cleaning and greasing) 
  • Service landing gear shock struts (adding oil, air, or both) 
  • Replace defective safety wire or cotter keys 
  • Lubricate items not requiring disassembly other than removal of nonstructural items (cover plates, cowling, and fairings) 

To view the complete list and gain more information on the matter, read the FAA document “Maintenance Aspects of Owning Your Own Aircraft.” 

Aircraft Inspections 

The FAA requires that aircraft go through the Annual Inspection and the 100-Hour Inspection.  

The Annual Inspection must be carried out within the 12 calendar months by a certified aviation inspector who is an A&P (Airframe and Powerplant) mechanic with an inspection authorization or the aircraft’s manufacturer. 

If your aircraft is used to transport passengers or in-flight classes, it must be inspected every 100 hours of use by an A&P (Airframe and Powerplant) mechanic with an inspection authorization or the aircraft’s manufacturer (hence the term 100-Hour Inspection). 

An Annual Inspection can count as a 100-Hour Inspection, but a 100-Hour Inspection cannot be considered an Annual Inspection.  

As owner and pilot, it is your responsibility to conduct daily and pre-flight inspections. 

Other Maintenance References 

  • Airworthiness Directives (aka AD Notes) 

AD Notes provide aircraft owners with unsafe conditions. They specify the airplane model or component deemed unsafe by the FAA, and the conditions under which such aircraft may still be used. Compliance is of utmost importance. 

  • Service Bulletins 

Aircraft manufacturers may — from time to time — release material that advises aircraft owners of updates that may help improve the condition or performance of the aircraft. They also provide remedies to common issues and concerns.  

No matter how well you care for your aircraft, it is not above the force of nature. Aircraft corrosion may occur because of the environment up in the air or on land, the age of the aircraft, where you park it, and how it is cleaned.  

Maintenance is the lifeblood of your aircraft, whether you use it privately or for business. Don’t skip it, don’t skimp on it, and make sure to log everything as if you are taking care of a baby — because you are.