Inspections are an important part of your aircraft, but there are different types of inspections to be done, and different qualifications (credentials) that may need to be held in order to perform certain inspections.
The aircraft must be inspected by the pilot prior to every flight. This is not some mundane task… look out the window next time you are at a commercial airport, and you will observe that even the pilots of major commercial airliners will still walk around and inspect their aircraft prior to every flight. Failure to do a pre-flight inspection is often listed as a contributor to severe and fatal crashes, if only to highlight by the authorities than some contributing telltale sign might have been spotted were the inspection properly done.
We are providing a pre-flight checklist (PDF) for your use. It is specific to the Powrachute Airwolf PPC, which means there are elements that may need to be subtracted or added depending on the airframe, engine type, and accessories on your aircraft. If you require the original checklist to modify for your needs (in XLSX), drop us a line.
You will notice the checklist goes in a clockwise pattern around the aircraft, and even has small ‘sanity check’ activities (like moving the riser support brackets into position) to mark your steps – useful for those of you pre-flighting in conditions prone to interruptions.
Ideally, a written checklist should be used every time. Habits are easy to form, good and bad. Forgetting to check something once can easily lead to it being forgotten again… and then again… and then – “wait, I’m supposed to check that?” Use a checklist to constantly ingrain good habits. As we joke with colleagues, “sure, wisdom comes with age, but so does senility.” We all forget things, so why not use a simple tool that mitigates that risk?
Annual Condition Inspections (ACI)
In light sport aircraft, we DO NOT do ‘annuals’. We do ‘condition inspections’ annually. It is – in our opinion – a dumb distinction between certificated and non-certificated aircraft, but some FAA people and nitpickers get all bent out of shape if you use the wrong term. We don’t care what you call it, as long as you do it.
Note that SLSA and Rotax engines add complications to the forthcoming discussion, so let’s get them out of them way here (ignore this box if neither of these apply to you).
- SLSA: The ACI must be performed by either a.) an A&P or a b.) a person holding the Light Sport Repairman Mechanic (LSRM) rating. There is also an every-100-hour inspection required if you’re using it for training, but if you’re an instructor and don’t know these rules by this point, well…
- Rotax: Technically, if you own a Rotax engine, inspections are only authorized by a Rotax-certified mechanic. These people can be both expensive and difficult to locate nearby. We know of many Rotax owners who ignore this requirement, although we cannot in good faith (or legally) openly advocate that.
Combine these two and you have a recipe for expensive maintenance bills. Note that some people will downgrade their SLSA to ELSA to alleviate issue #1 (although presently that affects the SLSA being used for solo training). Issue #2 can only be resolved by avoiding a Rotax engine, and there are other reasons beyond this for doing so. This is not a criticism of Rotax, but understand that all engines are built with different characteristics, and options like the Viking (Honda) and AeroMomentum (Suzuki) have stormed onto the LSA market for a reason.
We are providing an ACI review form (PDF) for your use. It was developed specifically using additional feedback from PPC manufacturers, but may still not include everything you need or want to do. For example, Viking Aircraft Engines has a whole list of additional activities related to their particular engine that they expect you to do at each ACI (although to be clear, a number of elements depend on certain installation configurations). Be on the lookout for other components that may also have their own ACI requirements for your specific PPC. If you require the original form to modify for your needs (in XLSX), drop us a line.
One other important thing: the ACI (and the form) is NOT a substitution for following your maintenance obligations and intervals. If the oil needs to be changed every 50 hours, and its hour 49, you need to change it… it doesn’t matter if you plan to do your ACI in another month or not. If you insist on having your ACI timing ‘line up’ with certain maintenance requirements, your only option is to do the ACI earlier. Of course, if your maintenance intervals will be longer than (happen after) the ACI time, there’s no penalty to do them earlier at the same time you do the ACI, but that’s up to you, and not the worst practice (especially if some of your maintenance rules are more like ‘every 50 hours or annually’). Consider making a chart of all the hour and time-based maintenance requirements you have and keep it with your aircraft maintenance log, so you can be sure everything gets done as time is accumulated. It doesn’t even hurt to repeat items so you always remember them (e.g., listing your 50-hour oil change at 50, 100, 150, 200, etc.). If you regularly fly the same aircraft, a sticky note in your pilot log book of upcoming maintenance activities is a easy way to keep from forgetting about them as your accumulate hours.
The Light Sport Repairman Inspection (LSRI) Rating for ELSA Owners
The whole point of getting the LSRI rating is so that you can do the ACI yourself, instead of having to pay an A&P mechanic. This not only saves you money, it also means you don’t have to necessarily transport your PPC to the nearest mechanic – on their schedule, not yours – and then hope they even know what to look for on a PPC. As apoint of note, some A&Ps will not even do ACIs on PPCs regardless for that very reason.
We’ll more or less use the FAA’s own words to explain getting the LSRI…
- The owner of an ELSA may apply for a Repairman certificate with an Inspection rating after completion of a required 16-hour training course.
- The training must be for the same class of aircraft for which the owner seeks inspection privileges.
- The rating allows an aircraft owner to perform the required annual condition inspection only on an aircraft that he or she owns. The aircraft allowed will actually be notated on the owner’s repairman certificate by registration and serial number.
- If an individual owns several similar makes and models of LSA or owns an LSA in another class, that individual’s certificate will need to list each aircraft that the repairman is eligible to inspect.
We recommend that every owner of a PPC take this course. Some things you are likely to already know, some things you may not care about for your given PPC (like 2-cycle vs 4-cycle engine maintenance tips), but you’re pretty much assured you’ll still learn something new and valuable.