The more intimate your relationship is with your airplane, the better prepared you are to provide the airplane with a long, healthy life and, more importantly, you will be more acutely aware of when something is not quite right. You are much more likely to be able to accurately diagnose a problem quickly if you know the intimate details of the systems and, as a result, you may be able to prevent an emergency by detecting issues early.
A great time to learn more about or to get a refresher on the intricacies of your airplane’s system is during the annual inspection. Ask your mechanic if you can spend a day with him or her to help or even just observe the inspection. As a renter, it may be a little bit more difficult to get into the shop, but some mechanics really enjoy educating pilots and if you offer to help out in the shop in return for some education you may get the green light.
Your mechanic will likely be able to give you tips for specific preflight items for your airplane. He or she can tell you about common problems and failures, and how to find them. Learn about the details of the systems, what can go wrong, what the symptoms of failures may be and the best course of action should a failure occur in the air.
You may find that you enjoy the time spent in the shop and, while you may end up with a slightly more expensive annual since the mechanic spent time educating you rather than work on your airplane, you will likely find that it is time and money well spent. In the end, the visit may actually save you money because you can learn how to complete the maintenance items that you are allowed to do yourself, such as an oil change.