Choosing the Right Mechanic for Your Aircraft

We all know that taking care of the mechanical health of your aircraft is step one in safety, but how do you know which type of airplane mechanic should work on your plane? Here’s a general overview of the types of aviation mechanics, according to FAA Safety Briefing, the FAA’s publication on GA news and information.

Choosing the type of airplane mechanic usually is connected to the work your aircraft needs. But often, you won’t know until the problem is diagnosed.

There are generally three types of airplane maintenance mechanics: airframe and powerplant mechanic (A&P), an inspection authorization endorsed mechanic (IA), or an FAA certificated repair station. Here’s an overview of who to go to and for what.

For general maintenance: Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic (A&P)

A&Ps, also known as aviation maintenance technicians, are usually called upon for routine aircraft maintenance, such as examining engines, conducting 100-hour inspections, replacing and repairing defective parts, repairing minor structural damage, and keeping corrosion under control.

To become a certificated A&P aircraft mechanic (14 CFR part 65), a person must be at least 18 years old, read, write, and speak English, and acquire 18 months of practical experience for either airframe or powerplant certification, or 30 months of practical experience concurrently for both airframe and powerplant.

One can also complete the training by attending an accredited part 147 maintenance school. Following training, the student must pass three tests – written, oral and practical – to become certified.

For aircraft inspections: Inspection Authorization Mechanic (IA)

An IA is essentially an FAA-licensed A&P mechanic with the additional endorsement of “inspection authority” issued on a FAA Form 8310-5 (IA card). As such, IAs are authorized to do progressive and annual aircraft inspections, in addition to a variety of maintenance and alterations than non-authorized A&Ps. The benefit of this is you can get your repair work done and sign-off paperwork done at the same time, saving time and money.

In addition to inspections, IAs can also sign for an aircraft’s return back to service after major repairs (Form 337), such as the repair or replacement of major control surfaces, spars, wing and tail surface brace struts, axle replacements, and major repairs to the powerplant.

To earn an IA designation, an A&P mechanic must train an additional three years (two years active), have available equipment and a fixed base of operations, pass an inspection-specific written test, and meet the requirements in 14 CFR part 65.91.

For large repairs: Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul Station (MRO)

If your aircraft is ever in need of major repairs on complex components, such as retractable landing gear assemblies, reciprocating and turbine engines, and auxiliary power units, the smart move may be an Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul Station (MRO), aka a repair station.

A good repair station with certified, experienced mechanics will have the specialized equipment and authorizations needed for complex repairs, such as avionics and electronics overhauls, mechanical actuators, fuel systems, and carburetors. Keep in mind that different stations might specialize in areas of aircraft maintenance, but all must adhere to the regulations and policies laid out in 14 CFR part 145.

To obtain a repair station certification, an applicant must successfully complete a five-stage process: pre-application, the formal application, document compliance, demonstration and inspection, and certification.

Reference:

http://www.faa.gov/news/safety_briefing/

Choosing a Fixed Base Operator (FBO) Services Provider

An FBO services provider allows pilots to visit distant airports and access a wide range of services from aircraft preparation and repairs to accommodations and services for the people aboard while on the ground. Having a reliable, knowledgeable, and established FBO company on call is a critical component of long-distance aviation journey. Choosing the right provider can ensure that your aircraft is in top shape and ready to fly when you are, allowing you to get some valuable downtime or focus on other tasks while you’re in town. What services can you expect when you’re dealing with a local FBO provider? Here’s a closer look at what pilots need to know.

Routine aircraft preparation and maintenance

The most important services that an FBO services provider offers are those that prepare your aircraft to get back in the air when needed. The availability of fuel – including Jet A and AvGas – is absolutely critical to a pilot’s ability to refuel and take off on schedule. If your plane has an onboard oxygen system, your FBO will be able to refill both oxygen and nitrogen as required. If you have mechanical needs, a highly trained on-staff mechanic will be available to complete a walk-through of your plane, evaluate the situation, and if needed make repairs. When an FBO doesn’t have necessary parts on hand, they’ll usually manage the process of ordering and expediting the part to their location to solve the problem. From getting your systems online and working when you’re experiencing trouble to simply handling the details of turning over your aircraft, these experts take care of all the elements of navigating the local airport.

Lavatory and potable water services

Whether you’re flying a small commercial plane or you’re enjoying the comfort of a private jet, small touches make your experience more comfortable. In-flight lavatories and the availability of drinking water are key to the in-flight experience. A good FBO company will offer a range of services including lavatory pumping and the availability of aircraft safe cleaning chemicals. In addition, they’ll be able to measure the potable water onboard and refill as needed. Often the capacity on smaller planes requires that these systems receive attention each time a flight stops to refuel.

Generalized ground support

FBOs provide a wide variety of ground support services. These include the use of air stairs to exit and enter the plane, cargo loading and unloading services, the use of GPU units to power your plane, and more. If you need your food restocked or your plane professionally cleaned before take-off, an FBO can provide that support. Tie-downs and 24/7 security and monitoring of your aircraft are also part of the standard menu while you’re parked at the airport.

Meeting space and catering

When you’re flying into town for a meeting, your aircraft may not offer the ambience that you’re seeking. Sometimes you simply want the opportunity to stretch your legs. But leaving the airport and traveling to a nearby city can be an unwanted hassle. An FBO can handle the logistics of your meetings, from providing onsite conference rooms to taking care of details such as catering your event.

Partnering with the right FBO makes long distance flights easier. By hiring the most reputable FBO services provider in any destination, you’ll ensure both the quality of your stay and your peace of mind that your plane will be ready to go the moment you need to leave.