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Airplane DIY's, Saving Money Using Your Aircraft's Service Manual

Many of us like to save money, when we have the time and opportunity to do so.  Airplane ownership costs can be effectively reduced by several maintenances that you can do yourself, and these are listed in an aircraft's service manual.  If you are mechanically inclined and looking to keep your plane in good running order while learning more about and understanding your plane's inner workings, doing the upkeep yourself will help.  Time invested in your aircraft's care can also keep you in a positive frame of mind for increased flying enjoyment.  

First, get the service manual for your aircraft (if you don't already have it).  It will list the maintenances that you can do yourself and the one's that have to be done or overseen by a certified aviation mechanic.  Read it, taking note of the repairs and regular maintenance schedules required and what you are allowed to do by yourself.  Copy the specific procedures you can do and catalogue them into sections based on hours of operation, quarterly, yearly, and seasonally.  Outline maintenance procedures for the service work to be done in a systematic manner detailing what replacement parts and fluids, etc. that are needed to accomplish the task.  List the proper tools required.  Keep a tool box with all the necessary quality tools you will need to do the service projects that you can do for your aircraft.  Make a chart that can be easily referenced for regular upkeeps to be done, when they are to be done and were completed.


Keeping an inventory of parts listed that you may soon need for an upcoming maintenance or repair can be beneficial allowing you time to shop around, keeping your radar up for a better priced deal that may present itself.  This way you are being proactive and can find a good less expensive part than just having to buy it right away at an increased cost to get your plane flying again.  The whole purpose is to be able to enjoy flying as much as you like with as little interruption from down time as possible and keeping costs down.

Visit and make friends with certified mechanics at your airfield or nearby fields who work  regularly with your model of aircraft and take them to lunch so you can ask them pertinent questions to understand more about your plane.  Learn about what types of concerns they may see regularly in the general aircraft of your type, how to address them, and when to seek their expertise.  Relationships also build trust, talking to, and listening to a mechanic that you can communicate with and relate to insures your confidence in their skills. Plus, we are never too old to learn new helpful information.

If you share a plane, ask those with whom you have joint ownership to participate in an informal inspection day so that one person can be at the controls with the plane grounded and move the necessary flaps, rudders, etc. while someone else inspects and manually checks control throws and neutral positions.  Noting any unnecessary sticking, ensuring smooth unhindered movement at joints and along cables with secure attachments and no loose screws or nuts.  Remove and clean inside any removable service panels and inspect what can be inspected in these areas.  Check screw tightness on all applicable panels and visually inspect rivets and overall skin integrity throughout the plane. Remember a good No. 2 Phillips screwdriver is a vital pilots tool.

Keep your plane clean inside and out, this way you will be alerted if spots appear that were not there before, this also makes you aware of your planes overall condition mentally.  We tend to notice something out of place or wrong when we become very familiar with anything and it is kept clean and in order.

Learn how to inspect your plane more thoroughly and address issues that you find before they become critical and require more costly repairs by a licenced engineer.  Looking for tell-tale signs of wear, cracked or leaking hoses, battery leaks or battery box corrosion, oil or hydraulic fluid spots where no spot should be can be a clue to a problem.

Know and record the type of oil that is good for your aircraft's engine use for in season flying in hot, warm, and slightly cooler weather, and what is recommended for cold weather flying or off-season winter storage.  If you will not be flying during the colder winter months, know what you can do to insure you prevent and reduce moisture by condensation in engine parts and lubricated joints even when stored in a closed hanger.  Keep the fuel tanks full to help eliminate moisture from accumulating and maintaining fuel bladder integrity.  Make sure all oils and fluids are well maintained, and your aircraft fuel is not over a year old if it is avgas and less than six months if it mogas, if you will not be flying for a long time.

Know the pressure your landing gear tires should be maintained at and have a reliable tire gauge in your tool box to check them periodically.  Record all oil and fluid changes (of course) and possibly the amounts used when checking and maintaining oil and fluid levels for future reference.  This can alert you to leaks if you are having to replace a lot of oil or fluid.  Your do-it- yourself reference book can be compiled easily during the off season winter months and keeps you looking forward to your next flying days.

Now, with savings in your aircraft's operating costs from working on your plane and the knowledge your plane has been well maintained, enjoy all the flying time you can, as your savings allows you an excuse to spend a little more for time in flying.  

Lan Lerio
Lan Lerio