Airplane in Hangar

Taking Control of Your Aircraft Maintenance

Aircraft Maintenance is a Business Transaction - Treat it Like One.

Owning an aircraft involves significant responsibility, with aircraft maintenance taking centre stage. Aircraft maintenance should be treated as a crucial business transaction. In the same way you would scrutinise the work of a home contractor or a landscaper, your aircraft deserves no less attention. It’s time to shift your approach and ensure transparency in the maintenance process.

Be the Owner-In-Command

In Europe, the norm is often outsourcing the management of aircraft airworthiness to Continuing Airworthiness Management Organisations (CAMO). While this may seem convenient, it often leads to a hands-off approach. Step up and actively manage your aircraft’s airworthiness. Equip yourself with sufficient knowledge about your aircraft and its maintenance to make informed decisions. After all, you should be not only the Pilot-In-Command but also the Owner-In-Command.

Be Part of the Aircraft Maintenance Process

Few owners actively manage their aircraft’s airworthiness and an even smaller number engage in pilot-owner maintenance. Regardless of whether you manage the airworthiness yourself or delegate it to an organisation, your active involvement in the decision-making process is crucial. You should have a clear understanding of the (scheduled) maintenance tasks and a defined communication procedure when unexpected issues arise.

Five Rules for Effective and Efficient Aircraft Maintenance

Rule #1: Select the Right Shop

Choosing the right maintenance shop or mechanic is the first step in taking control of your aircraft maintenance. This involves due diligence, checking reviews and online forums, and interviewing potential candidates. Ensure the maintenance shop or mechanic you select is competent, communicative, and cooperative.

Rule #2: Demand a Written Estimate

Insist on a written estimate for all (scheduled) tasks and associated costs. This includes establishing a clear procedure for the aircraft maintenance process and the way the mechanic communicates with you. The process should follow a sequence of inspection, approval, and repair. Provide clear written guidelines to the mechanic, ensuring only approved maintenance tasks are performed.

Rule #3: Don't Fix What Isn't Broken

For non-commercial operations with other-than-complex motor-powered aircraft (Part-NCO), you don’t need to follow time-bound maintenance parameters for components. This is only required when specified in an airworthiness limitation section of a maintenance manual or instructions for continued airworthiness, or specified in an airworthiness directive.

Avoid unnecessary repairs and establish a condition monitoring system that initiates maintenance when required, not on a fixed schedule. Keep in mind that it’s not sensible to maintain a component on a fixed timetable when its condition can be monitored, and maintenance can be scheduled only when the condition monitoring tests indicate it’s actually required.

Remember that manufacturers sometimes issue Service Bulletins recommending additional checks or replacements, which might not be strictly necessary for maintaining airworthiness, even if they use words like “mandatory” etc. Only when a service bulletin has been made mandatory by the civil aviation authority by issuing an airworthiness directive is it mandatory for Part-NCO operation.

Rule #4: Confirm the Issue Before Repairing

To avoid wasted resources, identify the cause of an issue before attempting to fix it. This is primarily the owner’s task. If you’re unsure, involve the maintenance shop or mechanic in troubleshooting, but set clear boundaries for their involvement. This can save you from unnecessary costs and repairs.

Rule #5: Don't Exceed What's Necessary

Sometimes, maintenance providers may suggest a complete overhaul when a repair would suffice. Resist the urge to overhaul or replace components unless absolutely necessary. Make informed decisions taking into account service bulletins and expert advice. Consider repairing components instead of replacing them – a smart way to save costs without compromising the safety and functionality of your aircraft.

Picking Up Your Aircraft Post-Maintenance

Coordinate with the maintenance shop or mechanic to pick up your aircraft when it’s ready. Avoid busy times like Friday afternoons. Never pick up your aircraft outside the maintenance shop’s or mechanic’s business hours. Make sure you review all paperwork and performed tasks with the mechanic or the shop’s accountable manager. This ensures no tasks have been overlooked or additional ones performed without your knowledge.

Pre-Flight Inspection and Line-Up Check

Conduct a detailed pre-flight inspection and line-up check before the first flight post-maintenance. This includes checking panels, cowlings, control surfaces, joints, connections, screws, and screw locking devices. Make sure the control surfaces have free and correct movement. Look out for leakages, open caps, or anything out of the ordinary. Run the engine and check for normal operations and indications.

Post-Maintenance Test Flight

Plan a local test flight before heading back to your home base. Maintain the mindset of a test pilot and be ready to abort the take-off if necessary. Check all aircraft systems including avionics and only decide to proceed to your home base when everything is working as expected. This is an opportunity to detect any issues that may have been overlooked during maintenance.


Taking control of your aircraft maintenance empowers you as an owner and ensures the safety of your aircraft. With these guidelines, you’ll be well-equipped to make informed decisions about your aircraft’s maintenance and airworthiness. Be the Owner-In-Command and embrace your role in aircraft maintenance.

About Quest Aeronautics

Quest Aeronautics is a state-certified engineering office for aviation, dedicated to shaping the future of general aviation by providing innovative and cost-effective solutions to enhance aircraft performance and operations. With a focus on CS/FAR-23 and experimental/amateur-built (E/A-B) aircraft, Quest Aeronautics provides a range of services including flight testing, aircraft operations and maintenance consulting, high-quality aviation products, and tailored support for E/A-B projects. Collaborating with industry-leading partners, Quest Aeronautics is committed to delivering unparalleled support and expertise to individuals and organisations in the general aviation market.

About Author

Sebastian, the founder of Quest Aeronautics, is a driven and enthusiastic individual with a passion for aviation. Before delving into aviation, he gained valuable experience as a chemical process engineer and laboratory technician. Sebastian holds a Master of Science in Engineering and a commercial pilot licence, with several fixed-wing aircraft ratings under his belt. He has also completed an introduction course for fixed-wing performance and flying qualities flight testing at the National Test Pilot School in Mojave, CA and is compliance verification engineer for flight.