Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Dreaded Annual - Part 1

Every aircraft owner dreads the annual -- especially the first one! This is a once in a year occurrence that all airplanes must pass with a clean bill of health or they are grounded. The only difference with N5236G versus many General Aviation airplanes is that I want her perfect -- better than new. I am fortunate to have the money and experience to make this goal a reality.

Having an A&P (aircraft mechanics) license has given me the freedom as an aircraft owner that many would kill for but very few obtain. Unlike a pilots license that takes an average of 40-60 hours to of fun flying to earn, it takes a minimum of two years of full-time work to obtain aircraft mechanic certifications. To obtain an A&P license an applicant needs a minimum of 2-years (122 credit hours) of hands-on training from a FAA certified/accredited school, or 3-years of full-time work under the supervision of a senior mechanic. In addition to the hands-on training, an applicant must pass three written tests (General Systems, Airframe Systems and Powerplant Systems) and two practical exams (Airframe & Powerplant) administered by a FAA Certified Mechanic Examiner (AME). It is a very difficult course to pass and many, many never make it. Fortunately I did!

An A&P license has enabled me to legally do things to an aircraft that a typical owner can't do. An owner can do quite a bit more than many realize, but in general anything linked to airworthiness is off limits. FAR Part 43.1 spells it out. It is vague in some areas, but if it isn't on this list -- you can't do it on a certificated airplane unless you have an A&P:
  1. Removal, installation, and repair of landing gear tires.
  2. Replacing elastic shock absorber cords on landing gear.
  3. Servicing landing gear shock struts by adding oil, air, or both.
  4. Servicing landing gear wheel bearings, such as cleaning and greasing.
  5. Replacing defective safety wiring or cotter keys.
  6. Lubrication not requiring disassembly other than removal of nonstructural items such as cover plates, cowlings, and fairings.
  7. Making simple fabric patches not requiring rib stitching or the removal of structural parts or control surfaces. In the case of balloons, the making of small fabric repairs to envelopes (as defined in, and in accordance with, the balloon manufacturer's instructions) not requiring load tape repair or replacement.
  8. Replenishing hydraulic fluid in the hydraulic reservoir.
  9. Refinishing decorative coating of fuselage, balloon baskets, wing tail group surfaces (excluding balanced control surfaces), fairings, cowlings, landing gear, cabin, or cockpit interior when removal or disassembly of any primary structure or operating system is not required.
  10. Applying preservative or protective material to components where no disassembly of any primary structure or operating system is involved and where such coating is not prohibited or is not contrary to good practices.
  11. Repairing upholstery and decorative furnishings of the cabin, cockpit, or balloon basket interior when the repairing does not require disassembly of any primary structure or operating system or interfere with an operating system or affect the primary structure of the aircraft.
  12. Making small simple repairs to fairings, nonstructural cover plates, cowlings, and small patches and reinforcements not changing the contour so as to interfere with proper air flow.
  13. Replacing side windows where that work does not interfere with the structure or any operating system such as controls, electrical equipment, etc.
  14. Replacing safety belts.
  15. Replacing seats or seat parts with replcement parts approved for the aircraft, not involving disassembly of any primary structure or operating system.
  16. Trouble shooting and repairing broken circuits in landing light wiring circuits.
  17. Replacing bulbs, reflectors, and lenses of position and landing lights.
  18. Replacing wheels and skis where no weight and balance computation is involved.
  19. Replacing any cowling not requiring removal of the propeller or disconnection of flight controls.
  20. Replacing or cleaning spark plugs and setting of spark plug gap clearance.
  21. Replacing any hose connection except hydraulic connections.
  22. Replacing prefabricated fuel lines.
  23. Cleaning or replacing fuel and oil strainers or filter elements.
  24. Replacing and servicing batteries.
  25. Cleaning of balloon burner pilot and main nozzles in accordance with the balloon manufacturer's instructions.
  26. Replacement or adjustment of non- structural standard fasteners incidental to operations.
  27. The interchange of balloon baskets and burners on envelopes when the basket or burner is designated as interchangeable in the balloon type certificate data and the baskets and burners are specifically designed for quick removal and installation.
  28. The installations of anti-misfueling devices to reduce the diameter of fuel tank filler openings provided the specific device has been made a part of the aircraft type certificate data by the aircraft manufacturer, the aircraft manufacturer has provided FAA-approved instructions for installation of the specific device, and installation does not involve the disassembly of the existing tank filler opening.
  29. Removing, checking, and replacing magnetic chip detectors.
  30. The inspection and maintenance tasks prescribed and specifically identified as preventive maintenance in a primary category aircraft type certificate or supplemental type certificate holder's approved special inspection and preventive maintenance program when accomplished on a primary category aircraft provided.
Fortunately I do have my A&P and the first order of business was to tackle as many projects that I had the time and desire to do such as changing the oil, installing a new alternator, changing all of the air filters (engine, vacuum, etc) and building a list of things I wanted fixed, or looked at, by a professional that knows Mooney aircraft better than I do when I took her for annual.

As a licensed mechanic, I am also able to install install avionics and aircraft systems. Like many owners, there were things that I couldn't live without, so I installed a top-of-the-line Engine Monitor (EDM-700) and removed the old KMA-24 Audio Panel to install a PS Engineering PMA-7000 with with a top-of-the-line, high-fidelity stereo intercom.

I should mention, however, that installation of equipment also requires a that a mechanic that holds a more advanced certificate called an Inspection Authorization (IA) inspect the work before 36G could be returned to service. The installation I did was no different -- it was inspected and the paperwork (Form 337) was included in the aircraft records and on file with the FAA forever...

The picture above shows the newly installed JPI Engine Monitor over the right radio stack (2 1/4" round display) and the PS Engineering Audio Panel is on top of the left radio stack.

My maintenance was complete, so on to the annual...

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