The Different Types of Aircraft Inspections

A maintenance technician performing a Pre-Flight inspection

Every aircraft needs inspections, and each type of aircraft has different inspection requirements. When there is no one-size-fits-all approach to inspections, you need a reliable aircraft maintenance technician to keep the requirements, technicalities, and schedules clear. The different types of aircraft inspections range from scheduled to unscheduled to inspections for continued airworthiness, and each are required at different times depending on your specific aircraft.

At Winner Aviation, we’re here to help make sense of the different types of aircraft inspections, and we’re here to help you navigate the right schedule for your aircraft.

Scheduled Inspections

Scheduled inspections are likely the aircraft inspections that you’re most familiar with—they are the ones that are required by the FAA and that have to routinely and consistently occur. Scheduled aircraft inspections refer to preventative maintenance that either the cabin crew or maintenance technicians should perform at regular intervals—either annually, 50- and 100-hour inspections, pre-flight checks, or phased inspections that ensure an aircraft is airworthy.

Annual Inspections

Annual aircraft inspections, as the name implies, happen once every twelve months. An annual inspection is required for all aircraft, whether they are used recreationally, for flight instruction, or for hire.

Annual aircraft inspections are more in-depth than preflight and 100-hour inspections. An annual inspection includes all of the inspections performed in other aircraft inspections such as flight control and avionics checks, testing and inspecting the engine, review of aircraft logbooks, and flight surfaces inspections.

During an annual inspection, the aircraft maintenance team will note any problems or issues found in a plane and will repair them to restore airworthiness before it flies again.

50-, 100-, 150, and 200-Hour Inspections

Piston aircraft inspections are typically covered under the 50- or 100-hour inspections, while most turbo airplanes are covered under 100-, 150, or 200-hour inspections.

All aircraft that are operated for flight instruction or hire must undergo these inspections. 

Besides an oil change, these inspections can include inspecting the engine for wear, tear, and gapping; cleaning and examining the spark plugs; inspection of all major components of the aircraft; and more. The aircraft maintenance team will remove the windows, brakes, cargo and cabin doors, the skin and fabric of the fuselage, the tires, the flight control surfaces, the landing gear, and the struts for inspection. They will then inspect the cockpit and cabin to repair any potential issues. The maintenance team will also test all avionics, switches, battery, flight controls, and yoke to ensure efficiency and safety.

The maintenance manual of your specific aircraft will have clear, detailed instructions for what should be inspected during a 50-, 100-, 150-, or 200-hour inspection.

Phased Inspections

Continuous inspections, or phased inspections, are utilized when an airplane with an inflexible flight scheduled can’t sit for a long period of time in a maintenance hangar, or when a maintenance manual specifically dictates it. A great example of this is the King Air Phased Inspections

It’s important that you talk with a maintenance provider to make sure they cover the different avenues of inspections.

Pre-Flight Inspections

A pre-flight inspection is performed by the cabin crew before the plane takes off to ensure that nothing has malfunctioned or is defective. Pilots should use a pre-flight inspection checklist so that the pre-flight inspection is consistent and nothing is forgotten.

A pre-flight inspection typically includes walking around the aircraft and visually assessing the flight control surfaces and fuselage for any wear or tear. During a pre-flight inspection, the battery, cabin, avionics, and cockpit should also be inspected to ensure everything is properly functioning.

Your aircraft maintenance team can also perform a more in-depth pre-flight inspection. This is often required for larger class airplanes or 135-charters. The maintenance team will check the engine oil levels, lights, service the hydraulics, service the oxygen, and perform a visual walk around for leaks and damage.

Special Inspections

Some aircraft maintenance manuals have what’s called a Chapter 4 and Chapter 5, which call for “special inspections”. Chapter 4 inspections are mandatory through the FAA and can include retirement items on landing gear or the removal/replacement of certain bearings.

Chapter 5 inspections, on the other hand, are not mandatory by the FAA but are recommended. 

Unscheduled Inspections

Unscheduled aircraft inspections can happen anytime a component has malfunctioned or there is a concern for error—in essence, unscheduled inspections are unforeseen maintenance.

Unscheduled inspections typically occur when an issue is found during a pre-flight inspection, or when a problem is found during an annual, scheduled, hour, or phased inspection, or after a flight malfunction.

Typically unscheduled inspections are brought about by adverse flight conditions like lightning strikes (which are becoming increasingly rare), bird strikes, hard landings, or excessive turbulence.

It’s important to note that some maintenance manuals will classify special inspections as unscheduled inspections.

When or if you experience a malfunction or spot an issue during a pre-flight inspection, it’s important to have an experienced MRO to call.

Instruction for Continued Airworthiness

Because aircraft technology is continuously evolving, some technology upgrades aren’t covered in a maintenance manual. That’s when inspections for continued airworthiness come into play—those upgrades will have their own, separate guidelines.

Similar to maintenance manuals, these instructions for continued airworthiness (ICA) will include detailed descriptions of the airplane and systems, servicing information, and highly specific maintenance instructions. ICAs are produced as part of a product or part’s certification and, when properly implemented by aircraft operators and maintenance teams, they work to ensure that the product or part remains airworthy during its life.

All of these manuals and documents can be considered as part of an instruction for continued airworthiness:

  • Airworthiness directives and service bulletins
  • Aircraft flight manuals
  • Airworthiness limitations section
  • Cabin crew operating manual
  • Flight crew operating manual
  • Configuration maintenance and procedures document
  • Certification maintenance requirements
  • Aircraft maintenance manual
  • Schedule maintenance program
  • Component maintenance manuals or component overhaul manuals
  • Illustrated parts catalogues
  • Wiring diagram manuals
  • Weight and balance manuals
  • Electrical load analysis
  • Supplemental structural inspection document
  • Nondestructive testing manual
  • Key safety information

A maintenance team that is experienced with ICA’s and your specific aircraft parts and systems is vital to the overall airworthiness of your aircraft.

Contact Winner Aviation For More

Navigating the different types of aircraft inspections can be tricky. At Winner Aviation, we are highly experienced with maintenance manuals, FAA requirements, and directives that are necessary to keep your aircraft in proper shape.

Contact us today to talk about your aircraft and its upcoming maintenance. We can even work with you to combine inspection schedules, if possible, to save on labor costs.

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