Can the Owner of a Certified Airplane Do Their Own Maintenance?

What are the rules for turning your own wrenches?

If you are attempting aircraft maintenance for the first time, it’s a good idea to have an experienced aviation mechanic by your side. [Courtesy: Jonathan Welsh]

Question: I just bought a Cessna 172 to finish my private pilot certificate. I've been working on cars since I was in my teens, so I think I can do my own maintenance. But doesn’t the FAA limit what a pilot can do on their airplane?

Answer: FAR 43.3 permits a pilot to perform preventive maintenance on an aircraft they own or operate, provided it is used strictly for noncommercial operations under Part 91, so no flight instruction or scenic flights.

Under Appendix A of Part 43, you'll find a list of preventative maintenance that can be done without supervision of an A&P mechanic. Much of it has to do with replacing something already installed. For example, the pilot/owner is allowed to perform tire changes, service shock struts, lubricate wheel bearings, and replace hydraulic fluid, side windows, lights, batteries, and tray-mounted avionics with the exception of transponders, DMEs, and autopilots. They can also replace, clean, gap, or rotate spark plugs, replace prefabricated fuel lines and nonhydraulic hose connections, and clean or replace fuel and oil strainers and filters.

If you are attempting this maintenance for the first time, it's a good idea to have an experienced aviation mechanic (A&P) by your side just to make sure you're doing it correctly, have the right tools, and don't accidentally wrench yourself into a corner.

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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