Who needs a maintenance schedule?

If you own any type of aircraft then the answer is – you do! A maintenance schedule is the way you keep track of the work that needs to be done next on your aircraft. In fact, unless you own a basic ultralight, advanced ultralight, paraglider or a hang glider then the law requires you to have a maintenance schedule. Most ultralight and hang glider owners have maintenance schedules, too, because it makes sense to take good care of your aircraft, no matter what type it is.

Looking at the Rules

When the CARs were introduced on October 10th 1996 they included a new requirement for all aircraft to have a maintenance schedule, except hang gliders and ultralights. CAR 605.86 spells it out clearly – a maintenance schedule is required for all certified and amateur-built aircraft, including airplanes, balloons, helicopters, gliders, airships and gyrocopters. The CAR Standard 625 that goes with that rule tells you how to accomplish that. That standard even contains a Transport Canada pre-approved maintenance schedule that private aircraft owners can use. It is all contained in CAR 625: “Owners of non-commercially operated small aircraft and balloons who choose to comply with Parts I or II of Appendix B as applicable, and Appendix C, need not submit any documents to the Minister for formal approval. The schedule is considered to be approved for their use by the Minister. Owners need only to make an entry in the aircraft technical records that the aircraft is maintained pursuant to the maintenance schedule.”

Well, reading that, it looks like all you have to do is make a logbook entry specifying that you will use CAR 625 Appendix B & C and you can forget about maintenance schedules for as long as you own the airplane, right?

What do the AMEs Say?

Some AMEs have recently pointed out that while making that logbook entry makes the airplane completely legal, it doesn’t go very far in helping you or your AME maintain your airplane properly. Just making that required logbook entry won’t tell your AME when that fire extinguisher in the plane needs replacing or whether there are any outstanding ADs applicable. What you and your AME need to see is a real schedule that shows when everything that has a time limit on it is due for inspection or maintenance. CAR 625 Appendix B & C are a great place to start in making up a usable schedule, as they list all the items that need to be covered in the annual inspection (Appendix B) and those items which are “out of phase” with the annual inspection (Appendix C).

Some help from your PC

A great aid in making up a real maintenance schedule is a spreadsheet program, such as “Excel” that allows you to make up a table of numbers. Database programs, such as “Access” work well, too. Of course you can easily do it on paper just as well. Many small commercial operators use a wallboard in the hangar work area.

What items need to be included?

There are lots of ways to draw up a maintenance schedule. The approach many owners take is to have columns for the item to be completed, the date or airframe hours last done, the “periodicy” or time between inspection or replacement and the date or hours next due. Some items will specify a date when they are due and others will be an airframe or engine time. Some specify both a calendar date and airframe hours, so your system will need some flexibility. Many owners convert engine or component times to airframe times so all the numbers are easier to compare to your current airframe time, without having to remember when that component was installed.

What things should be on the maintenance schedule?

One of the items that should definitely be on your maintenance schedule is the date of your annual inspection. This is specified in CAR 625 as being not more than 12 months following the date of the last annual inspection. That means if the last one was May 1st, 2001 your next one will have to be signed off no later than May 1st 2002 if you want to fly on May 2nd. There probably isn’t any need to specify things that are part of the annual on the schedule.

Oil changes at 25 or 50 hour intervals, as applicable, are good to include, as are any recurring ADs that have either calendar times or airframe hours, or both, when they have to be completed. A good example is the well-known Canadian AD CF 90-03R2 that requires an inspection of the aircraft muffler on all Canadian aircraft that have heaters that use muffler heat to operate. This AD requires an inspection every 150 hrs or annually, whichever comes first. You will need to use a system to track both the calendar and airframe hour limits on those types of inspections. One way to do that is to use two lines on your table.

Any recurring manufacturer Service Bulletins that you are concerned about should be entered as well, just like recurring ADs.

Another area to think about is STCs. Do any of the STCed modifications on your aircraft have special inspections or maintenance action required? These STC “Instructions for Continued Airworthiness” (ICAs) are important to keep your plane airworthy and will soon be required to be entered in your Technical Record, through an upcoming CAR amendment.

The rest of the items will come from a quick read through CAR 625 Appendix C – the “out of phase items” list. Do you have a fixed pitch propeller? They need to be removed and inspected every five years. Variable pitch props are generally required to be sent for overhaul every ten years. Once you have thought about the annual inspection date, recurring ADs and Service Bulletins, STC ICAs and CAR 625 Appendix C “out of phase items” you will probably have a complete maintenance schedule. Of course you can add any other personal items that you would like to note there, too, to make it complete. Some people keep track of things like “time since engine overhaul”, not because private owners are required to overhaul at the recommended number of hours, but just to see how close the engine is getting to that figure. It is a useful information note.

The sample maintenance schedule produced here will give you a good idea how these can be customized to the individual owner’s tastes. As you can see all you have to do is compare the current airframe hours at the top and today’s date with the column below it to see if anything is now due. The last column gives the hours left until the inspection or work is due.

C-FABC’s Maintenance Schedule – Cessna 182

Current Flying hours As of 8-Mar-02 3136.0
Item   Last done at   Periodicy   Due at   Hours until inspection
50 hour insp/oil change 3135.2 50.0 3185.2 49.2
500 hour inspection 2990.7 500.0 3490.7 354.7
Annual Inspection 4-Mar-02 365 days 4-Mar-03
Engines Hours SMOH 2185.8 1500 3685.8 549.8
Prop inspection – date 18-Feb-97 10 years 18-Feb-07
Prop inspection – hrs 2153.1 1500 3653.1 517.1
Tachometer calibration 4-Mar-02 365 days 4-Mar-03
ELT certification 26-Feb-02 365 days 26-Feb-03
ELT battery 26-Feb-01 2 yrs 31-Jan-03
Altimeter – IFR use 28-Feb-01 2 yrs 28-Feb-03
Transponder 26-Feb-01 2 yrs 26-Feb-03
Rails CF 87-15R2 – date 4-Mar-02 365 days 4-Mar-03
Rails CF 87-15R2 – hrs 3135.2 100.0 3235.2 99.2
Muffler CF-90-03R2 date 04-Mar-02 365 days 04-Mar-03
Muffler CF-90-03R2 hrs 3135.2 150.0 3285.2 149.2
Vacuum pump SEB02-3 3135.2 500.0 3635.2 499.2
Vacuum coupling SEB02-3 04-Mar-02 6 yrs 04-Mar-08
Fire Extinguisher 2001 12 yrs 31-Dec-13