Information pertaining to Pre/Post Flight Inspections
Inspections are made to enhance aircraft reliability. Reliability refers to quality service and quality means safety for people. Inspections for aircraft safety and reliability are significant for survival of people and equipment. Since this is an integral part of aircraft operations, we have to conduct aircraft inspections systematically and apply meticulous and down-to-earth processes.
Inspections involve steps and processes and require analyses of reports from the different tasks required for aircraft operation. As inspector, I am tasked to determine the airworthiness of an aircraft. An aircraft inspection is an important activity that ranges from merely “walking around” to a meticulous inspection by way of disassembling the parts through complicated inspection tools and technique.
An inspection system requires reports and investigations conducted by mechanics, information from the pilot or co-pilot in charge of the aircraft, and reports from other personnel involved. My ultimate aim is to make an aircraft free of any accident. Irresponsible and disorganized inspection will result into a bad aircraft condition that might cause accident (Federal Aviation Administration, 2009, p. 64).
Aircraft is scheduled for inspection if it has accumulated certain flight hours, or a situation based on calendar inspection. Calendar inspection is an efficient type of management program since components have to be replaced based on the number of hours the aircraft has performed. (Aviation maintenance technician handbook, 2008, p. 8-1)
Preparation for inspection involves a lot of paperwork and availability of information as reference point. Other publications have to be accessed and read as reference guide. Information from the makers of the aircraft is also important.
We consult the aircraft logbook when looking for available data about the aircraft. The historical information of the aircraft is presented here so that when there is any incident about the aircraft, it should be present in the logbook. If there were incidents involving the aircraft, I can get firsthand information from its maintenance history.
My findings and observation will also be a part of the logbook (Aviation maintenance technician handbook – powerplant, volume 2, 2012, p. 10-1). A significant part of inspections at the Honolulu Airport is the use of checklists which list the parts that will be inspected and the steps to be undertaken. The use of the checklist will enhance efficiency.
The inspection is provided a systematic approach which covers every step of the way. Every component and section of the aircraft is given due attention. In other words, there is no stone unturned in the inspection or investigation. Any negative report from the pilot and crew is given attention and investigated. So, an inspection is also an investigation. (Krause, 2003, p. 163)
Safety and inspection practices for the Honolulu International Airport are in line with the provisions and suggestions of FAA Handbook 8083-30 Chapter 8 and AC 43.13-1B. I have already discussed above some provisions of the FAA handbook while the Advisory Circular is a must in the next paragraph.
The advisory circular emphasizes inspection of wooden aircraft which are mostly old-designed aircraft. When inspecting wooden aircraft, activities should be in conformity with Section 3 of AC 43.13-1B. Wood decay occurs when fungi develops in wood. Decayed wood has particular characteristics like softness and swelling and its color has changed.
The ultimate solution for this problem is replacement. When inspecting wooden aircraft, it must be in a well-ventilated place. Preliminary inspection has to be done before removing the covers. The presence of wood deterioration should be a primary concern in the inspection. (Advisory Circular 43.13-1B, 1998, Section 3)
Pre- and post-flight inspections are recorded in the aircraft’s logbook. The results of inspections and reports become a part of the logbook for reference by other inspectors and maintenance crews. Focusing on the history of the aircraft through the “eyes” of the logbook helps the job of an effective inspector.
Airlines have their own maintenance teams and inspectors to improve aircraft airworthiness. Each aircraft has its own maintenance program developed according to manufacturer’s specifications and instructions. This maintenance program is approved by airport authorities and by the government agency responsible for aircraft inspection and maintenance.
Each program directs the maintenance schedules for a particular aircraft inspection; the schedules include the parts and engines to be inspected. The inspections done for each aircraft from the different airlines are subject for scrutiny and approval by the government agency.
According to airport authorities, each hour spent in flight will have an equivalent of several hours’ maintenance. Each maintenance session includes a series of inspections and procedures which would depend on the time the aircraft spent on air and the various activities functions and activities the aircraft was involved.
Personal judgment and critical thinking have to be included in my report and will become an integral part of the logbook and history of maintenance of the aircraft. Basically, my report is based on personal judgment and critical thinking. This is the area that I have to be good at. I hate the horrors of accidents that I hear from other international airports.
Nothing so horrific has occurred at the Honolulu International Airport under my watch. One aircraft I inspected required a thorough inspection of the parts. The logbook stated that there were some parts replaced with what the aviation industry calls PMA (Parts Manufacturer Approval). These were replacement parts and not Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM).
It was a judgment call on my part whether to replace the PMA part with OEM as part of my recommendation. But having experienced myself with PMA parts, it was my belief that the component in question could perform like the original and was still working well and needed no replacement. The logbook for the aircraft stated that it was a first replacement and I also recorded as part of my recommendation that the PMA part in question was as good as the original and was working perfectly.
Lives of passengers depend on the aircraft’s airworthiness and the inspector’s skill and expertise. If the inspector recorded wrong judgment, it could be a cause of accident. Critical thinking and honest judgment have to be molded with experience and continuous research and education. This is a serious job requiring analytical skills allowing no mistakes.
Legality of the tasks
The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is a mandate to provide order in flight operations. The FAA has the sole authority to correct mistakes in aircraft parts and engines. Unsafe situations may exist due to poor design, insufficient maintenance, and many other causes. 14CFR specifically pushes for the regular scheduling of aircraft inspection depending on the specific functions the aircraft was made. (Office of the Federal Register, 2011, p. 33)
Inspections are performed before and after flying. But more meticulous inspections are scheduled at least once every 12 months. For big commercial airplanes it has to be after every 100 hours of flying. (Aviation maintenance technician handbook, 2008, p. 8-5)
Two types of aircraft maintenance can be conducted: one that is required for the purpose of issuing a type certification (TC) and another issued by the Maintenance Review Board (MRB). These requirements are needed to provide proof of the airworthiness of the aircraft. (Ahamadi, Söderholm, & Kumar, 2010, p. 229)
I interviewed some company personnel at the Honolulu International Airport. A pilot of a well-known carrier told me that the pilot has the authority and responsibility to determine the airworthiness of the aircraft. Pre-flight and post-flight inspections have to be done by the pilot and the crew responsible for the aircraft.
He told me that the pilot is also tasked to authenticate maintenance reports and other similar reports pertaining to the airworthiness of the aircraft. Moreover, another personnel said that post-flight inspection should also be a standard operating procedure (SOP) to be performed by the pilot and mechanic to determine any possible problem that might have occurred or might happen in the next flight.
Human factors related to maintenance inspections
Aviation maintenance technicians are subject to human factors or limitations while performing their job on repair and maintenance. Mistakes in maintenance have been attributed to these human factors and the result is accident. Maintenance people or technicians work in strenuous situations that, if not corrected, may result in errors in maintenance.
Their job requires a hundred percent attention to details. Being aware of these human factors can improve their service, while managing time and situations must also be applied. Human factors can be explained through some disciplines, like psychology, cognitive science, and even modern medicine. Clinical psychology includes knowledge, prevention and relief of stress or dysfunction in order to develop one’s personality.
Though the study is complex, it is understandable by ordinary individuals who are involved in routine but hard tasks that require full attention. Aviation technicians and maintenance people have to be taught how to address human factors, although they continuously learn through experience. (Human factors, n.d., p. 14-3)
Technicians and people in the engineering department must be provided the best training since they work in the harshest environment possible. Technical people are exposed to stress and fatigue amid a dangerous situation. They have to be trained in dealing with difficult situations, in controlling their emotions, and in getting the job done with the least mistake or error.
As said earlier, human error and negligence are one of the major causes of accidents. To reduce this, personnel have to be trained and conditioned in the course of the performance of their tasks. Everything in the flight line must have the best safety measures to ensure that no accidents occur in the vicinity of the airport, or at least, accidents are minimized to reduce costs and avoid sparing innocent lives.
The CFR further prescribes that pilots carry with them and fill in the checklist provided in the Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH) as they go on duty in flying an aircraft. (Aviation maintenance technician handbook, 2008, p. 8-5)
Airlines have different maintenance programs for their aircraft. Each maintenance program is unique in the sense that aircrafts encounter different problems in flight. The technique applied to ensure an almost hundred percent safety is to conduct inspections before and after flight.
Each inspection is recorded in the aircraft’s history and logbook. Maintenance and replacement for each component is also recorded for the next flight. Inspections are performed before and after flying. But more meticulous inspections are scheduled at least once every 12 months. For big commercial airplanes it has to be after every 100 hours of flying.
Advisory circular 43.13-1B: Acceptable methods, techniques, and practices – aircraft inspection and repair. (1998). Web.
Ahmadi, A., Söderholm, P., & Kumar, U. (2010). On aircraft scheduled maintenance program development. Journal of Quality in Maintenance Engineering, 16(3), 229-255. doi: 10.1108/13552511011072899
Aviation maintenance technician handbook: FAA-H-8083-30. (2008). Web.
Aviation maintenance technician handbook – powerplant, volume 2: FAA-H-8083-32. (2012). Web.
Federal Aviation Administration. (2009). FAR/AIM 2010: Federal aviation regulations/aeronautical information manual. New York: Skyhorse Publishing Inc.
Human factors. Web.
Krause, S. (2003). Aircraft safety: accident investigations, analyses, & applications, second edition. New York: McGraw Hill Professional.
Office of the Federal Register. (2011). Code of Federal Regulations: CFR index and finding aids. Washington DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.