Understanding Owner-Performed Preventative Maintenance

April 4, 2022
April 4, 2022 Jean Diaz

Pilots who perform preventive maintenance on their aircraft can learn a great deal about the inner workings of engines and airframes, as well as all their associated systems and components. But if this is your first foray into aviation maintenance, it’s a good idea to review some of the basics of what’s required before you get started.

First, you’ll need to know exactly what kind of maintenance you can legally perform on your aircraft. If you hold at least a private pilot certificate issued under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 61 and your aircraft is not used under 14 CFR parts 121, 129, or 135, you may perform preventive maintenance on your own aircraft. To see a list of the 31 items a pilot can perform without supervision, see Appendix A in 14 CFR part 43 (bit.ly/43AppA).

Examples include:

  • Removal, installation, and repair of landing-gear tires
  • Replacing or cleaning spark plugs and setting of spark plug gap clearance
  • Replacing and servicing batteries

Before you start changing tires or batteries, be sure you understand an often overlooked detail that can affect your eligibility to perform these tasks. 14 CFR section 1.1 defines preventive maintenance as “… simple or minor preservation operations and the replacement of small standard parts not involving complex assembly operations.” The keyword here is complex.

Due to differences in aircraft design and accessibility of certain components, a procedure like changing an oil filter may be a simple job on some aircraft but complex on others. Similarly, changing a tire might require you to perform the more difficult task of removing and reinstalling the brake assembly. Owners and pilots must use good judgment in determining whether a specific function appropriately qualifies as preventive maintenance. When in doubt, talk to a mechanic.

Be sure you also understand all facets of the work you plan to perform, along with careful attention to all applicable regulations. Pilots performing preventive maintenance are bound by the same regulations as any certificated aviation maintenance technician. This includes making certain you have all the available tools, equipment, and test apparatus necessary for any maintenance task and all associated reference materials and manuals. In particular, 14 CFR section 43.13(a) states that each person performing maintenance — pilot or mechanic — is required to use “the methods, techniques, and practices prescribed in the current manufacturer’s maintenance manuals … or data acceptable to the Administrator.”

Source: https: https://www.faa.gov/news/safety_briefing/