Owner Assisted Annual Inspection






In this neck of the woods, we prefer owners who are active participants in the Annual process.  This keeps costs down as well as educating the owner in the systems of their airplane.  The ideal goal is a sharp owner that can recognize potential problems and bring these to the attention of their A&P before they become major repairs once a year at Annual time - or worse.


The first Annual of the airplane is one of great concern to the A&P IA as one of the biggest misnomers is the Log book notation "All ADs Complied With".  I can't think of any first-time non-complex aircraft that we have been involved with over the past five years in which this statement was actually 100% true or correctly documented.  Hence there is the need for great scrutiny in the research and examination of all AD and Service Bulletin compliance.


But it all starts with very organized record-keeping by the airplane's owner.  Everything pertinent to the aircraft should be kept in one or more three-ring binders with tabs separating each section.  It doesn’t make sense for the owner of the aircraft to pay an independent A&P $45 - $75 per hour or independent A&P IA $60 to $95 an hour to shuffle through your paperwork mess.


We recommend putting everything into various spreadsheets to keep things simple and also recommend that the owner scan all logs into a computer (which is also very simple task that prevents loss and even makes a future sale easy).


Once the owner has everything pertinent disassembled in the aircraft as per the Service Manual or A&P's direction, the A&P IA arrives and performs a review of all the paperwork (again, if organized and complete, this usually takes an hour) and then inspects the aircraft, typically following the Service Manual procedures unless the type is frequently inspected by the A&P IA.


The A&P IA will do an engine run-up and instrument check first as this can be a big show-stopper.  Then the drained oil, filter/s, cylinder compressions, exhaust/heating systems, hoses, lighting, electrical, flying surfaces, fuselage, landing gear, and so forth are inspected.


A list of discrepancies, commonly called the Squawk List, is dictated to the (anxious) owner.  Usually there are three types of Squawks identified, airworthiness mandatory squawks, recommended squawks and squawks to be carefully observed at future intervals and inspections for change.  This is above and beyond simple owner tasks such as spark plug cleaning and the oil change done at every Annual.  


The Squawk list is photocopied, distributed and the original is kept by the A&P IA.  In our area, the A&P IA’s Annual Inspection and final sign-off typically costs $550 - $675 on simple single-engine airplanes such as the Ercoupe.


The owner works with his local A&P to correct each squawk.  Some repairs are owner allowed (see FAR 43.3g) whereas others must be performed by the A&P or done by the owner under the careful watch of the A&P.  Tracking down usable tagged, PMA or new OEM parts is often a tedious task best left to the owner under the guidance of the A&P.  This can take weeks in some instances.  You may wonder why your local FBO charges list price plus for parts but once you go through this process you will clearly understand what is involved in procuring even the most basic-seeming part (especially for planes older than a decade).


You will pay the A&P his hourly rate for parts research, advice, training, observation, actual repairs as well as any transportation costs of components and himself to the airport.  The repairs done by the independent A&P, FBO A&P, FBO Repair Station, Avionics or Instrument Repair Station are separate from the Annual Inspection, final review and sign-off by the A&P IA.  Shipping and handling are not usually included and some States charge sales taxes.  All of this work is pay as you go.


Although many repairs and replacements can be signed off by an A&P, others require the A&P IA to inspect and sign-off them.  Final ignition timing, propeller installation, carburetor tuning and instrument checks are usually done by the A&P IA.  In our area, our A&P IA's usually insist on also checking all final torques and performing the safety-wiring.


If you are so privileged, the A&P IA will allow you to do some of the minor safety wiring under his eagle-eyes but he won't hesitate to reach in some tight spot and snip your laborious work to have you start all over, correctly this time.  Then all the covers, trim, hatches, interior pieces are reassembled by the owner while being observed by the A&P or A&P IA.


Once everything has passed, it is traditional here to take your A&P and A&P IA (and the buddies that helped) to dinner.  After the dinner table is cleared the spreadsheets are signed, Logs are signed, backs are patted all around and the A&P IA is handed his check.


Rare is the case where all this happens in less than two weeks and I've personally seen it go past 18 months (43 initial squawks that grew to 164 squawks by the end).


Christopher Koch

Buffalo, New York