Flying Editor Emeritus Richard Collins once told me he preferred not seeing his airplane all torn apart during its annual inspection. And there is certainly no stauncher advocate of doing maintenance right. He just chose to keep the elbow grease at arm's length, and it worked just fine for him. Owner participation in the annual inspection ranges from those who simply make a phone call once a year; to the owner who does most of the actual work with the AI supervising and signing the logbooks.
Many owners establish a hierarchy of squawks — those that need to be corrected compared with 'nice to haves.' You might call it an ABC list. With a comprehensive list of work prepared on the printed agenda, the next step is ensuring fluid communication with the shop as the annual progresses. That way, you can make budget decisions as the inspection progresses.
It's true that maintenance surprises don't always present themselves in a convenient sequence. For example, if the annual looks like a benign one, you might decide on a C-level, nice-to-have upgrade like replacing a faded headliner when the cabin is dismantled. Only later will you discover that an expensive repair is needed on the landing gear, after the interior has been reassembled. But if you have a list, and you're talking with the shop manager regularly, the risk of such surprises can be minimized.
Finally, for renter or shared-ownership pilots, it makes good sense to take the 'ownership' part to heart. If all the stakeholders regard maintenance as if it were their special responsibility, then chances of a squawk falling through the cracks can be reduced.
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