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Learning to fly sport and recreational aircraft
Owner-pilot maintenance of RA-Aus aircraft
Rev. 5 — updated 1 December 2014
In the Sport and Recreational Aviation context 'maintenance' means any task required to ensure — or that could affect — the continuing airworthiness of an aircraft, including any one or combination of inspection, adjustment, preservation, overhaul, repair and defect rectification. It includes replacement of materials, parts or the components of an 'aeronautical product'.
Incorporation of manufacturer-specified modifications is included as a maintenance task but own design — or redesign — of modifications/alterations is not.
In General Aviation most aircraft maintenance and authentication must be performed by Licenced Aircraft Maintenance Engineers or other specialists although pilots entitled to do so may perform some maintenance/servicing tasks specified in Part 4A of the Civil Aviation regulations . The RA-Aus maintenance system differs in that owner-pilots may perform and authenticate the maintenance on their own aircraft, except any aircraft operated by a Flight Training Facility.
Note that the 2007 Technical Manual section Accreditation of persons suitable to conduct maintenance currently states that RA-Aus pilots are automatically granted minimum qualification RA-Aus 'Level One Maintenance Authorities' but RA-Aus pilots are now no longer automatically granted RA-Aus Level One Maintenance Authorities with receipt of their Pilot Certificate.
Practically all pilots-in-training do not own an RA-Aus aircraft nor do 60% of RA-Aus pilot certificate holders and those non-owner pilots have no need for any maintenance authority qualification. It is probable that, during 2015, all RA-Aus aircraft owners who hold a current Pilot Certificate and who elect to maintain Level 1 maintenance accreditation will be required to complete a syllabus of competency-based training and some form of examination to demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the required tasks before being granted Level 1 maintenance accreditation under revised rules.
To facilitate maintenance, four levels of RA-Aus Maintenance Authority certification are available to members:
Maintenance authentication is the action of a suitably qualified person annotating the aircraft maintenance log book underneath the listing of all maintenance carried out at that time and formally indicating that the work conducted is to the standard specified in the RA-Aus Technical Manual. The authentication is made by signing the aircraft maintenance log book, printing name and initials, RA-Aus membership number, aircraft/engine hours and the date.
The authentication act is equivalent to signing a maintenance release (i.e. releasing the aircraft for normal flying operations or certifying that the aircraft is fit to fly) even though in most cases the aircraft owner is both the accedited maintainer and the pilot. This can constitute quite a character challenge — and test of responsibility and discipline — when the pilot personality is itching to go and the maintenance technician personality knows there are a few minor things that need attention.
The daily inspection [DI], before the start of flying operations on each day that the aircraft is to be flown, may be completed by the owner-pilot with an L1 maintenance authority or the holder of an L2 authority. A log book authentication is required.
Where there is a group-owned aircraft one owner must be appointed to be responsible for — and control of — all maintenance on that aircraft. That one person is to list in the log book all maintenance carried out and sign-off the authentication.
Owner-operated aircraftMaintenance to owner-operated RA-Aus aircraft is the sole responsibility of the owner(s).
The selection of appropriate maintenance schedules and the qualifications and experience of persons to complete the maintenance on the non-LSA privately-built and amateur-built categories in CAO 95.10 and CAO 95.55, is the responsibility of the owner.
Maintenance conducted on the factory-built and the LSA kit-built aircraft categories in CAO 95.32 and CAO 95.55, shall be in accordance with the manufacturers' maintenance/service manuals and schedules including all supplementary service instructions, service letters and service bulletins issued from time-to-time.
Where such a schedule does not exist or a copy cannot be obtained, the Technical Manual's 'Maintenance schedules and periodic inspections' document must be followed.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration produced a substantial 613 page A4 size advisory circular AC 43.13-1B titled 'Acceptable methods, techniques and practices — aircraft inspection and repair'. Such methods are acceptable when there are no manufacturer repair or maintenance instructions. The AC generally applies to relatively minor repairs. A PDF version of the book is included in the RA-Aus Members' CD or a hard copy may be purchased from the RA-Aus shop. For an example of the contents the safetying section of AC 43.13-1B is available in html format in the 'Builders guide to safe aircraft materials'.
Note: an example of a manufacturer's service manual can be downloaded from the Jabiru website. Scroll down the left-hand frame of their home page, click 'Manuals' then scroll down to 'Aircraft technical manuals' and click 'J160 J170' — it is a 15 MB pdf file.
A solo check flight after scheduled maintenance in accordance with the manufacturer's schedule is mandatory before the aircraft is used for hire-and-reward. Successful completion of this check flight is to be recorded in the aircraft log book and signed for by the Level 2 accredited person who conducted the technical work and the pilot who conducted the flight.
Engine controls, engine accessories, propellers and flight controls are regarded as critical maintenance items and should be checked by an independent person after any maintenance. This applies to both owner-operated aircraft and hire-and-reward aircraft.
Recrational aircraft owners or potential owners may find portions of this handbook informative.
"The Aviation Maintenance Technician Handbook – General was developed as one of a series of three handbooks for persons preparing for mechanic certification with airframe or powerplant ratings, or both. It is intended that this handbook will provide basic information on principles, fundamentals, and technical procedures in the subject matter areas common to both the airframe and powerplant ratings. Emphasis in this volume is on theory and methods of application. The handbook is designed to aid students enrolled in a formal course of instruction preparing for FAA certification as a maintenance technician, as well as for current technicians who wish to improve their knowledge. This volume contains information on mathematics, aircraft drawings, weight and balance, aircraft materials, processes and tools, physics, electricity, inspection, ground operations, and FAA regulations governing the certification and work of maintenance technicians. New to this volume is a section addressing how successful aviation maintenance technicians incorporate knowledge and awareness of ethics, professionalism, and human factors in the field."
Note: the chapters are contained in large PDF files.
The FAA advisory circular AC 43.13-1B 'Acceptable methods, techniques, and practices — aircraft inspection and repair' (~ 650 pages and incorporating the 2001 changes) is available from the RA-Aus online shop for about $50. It is bound together with the FAA advisory circular AC 43.13-2A 'Acceptable methods, techniques, and practices — aircraft alterations' (~ 100 pages). Some of the information in this book — manufacturer's part numbers for example — may be out of date.
The next module in this 'Joining sport and recreational aviation' series discusses the legislative framework that enables Australian sport and recreational aviation
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