Owning an aircraft comes with additional responsibilities beyond that of just being the pilot that flies the plane. The owner of an aircraft is responsible for ensuring that it is maintained and operated in accordance with FAA inspection requirements. Most of the time this means that once a year we drop our aircraft off to our maintenance shop for its annual inspection and hope that no other maintenance is needed during the year. As the owner of an aircraft, something you can do to help make sure your aircraft will receive the best possible service is to make sure proper documentation for your aircraft is in your library.
We all know that an aircraft must have a pilot’s operating handbook or aircraft flight manual on board as one of the required documents for flight. An airworthiness certificate, a valid and current federal aircraft registration, and a current weight and balance must also be included. Beyond that, many aircraft owners have little additional documentation for their aircraft.
The following documents are some of the additional documentation that an aircraft owner should have available to ensure that your aircraft is maintained properly.
Aircraft Parts Manual:
This is a manual that details all the parts of an aircraft and is typically referred to when a part is in need of replacement. Having one of these that is specific to your aircraft can save valuable time when attempting to determine the correct part for your aircraft. It can also help avoid the possibility that incorrect parts are used when conducting maintenance. These are commonly available for older aircraft from third party publishers and for newer aircraft are more commonly obtained from the manufacturer.
Aircraft Service Manual:
Commonly used by maintenance staff when completing maintenance on an aircraft, the service manual gives detailed information about how to best service an aircraft. This can also be used to estimate time requirements for various maintenance jobs. Having an aircraft make and model specific service manual for your maintenance professional will help ensure that they have the most correct information for conducting service. These are commonly available for older aircraft from third party publishers and for newer aircraft are more commonly obtained from the manufacturer.
As avionics systems have become more complex, it has become more important to have manuals for the specific systems in your aircraft. For many avionics systems, some documentation is required to be carried in the aircraft (commonly referred to as “supplements”) as the POH or AFM is required. These may be less than full manuals and it is recommended that pilots obtain and have in their library full manuals for their avionics systems. In most cases, these are available in digital format (pdf) and provided by the manufacturer.
Aircraft manuals typically detail the systems of the aircraft, but to get more detail about the engine itself it may be required to have a specific engine manual. These are commonly used in servicing engines. Like an aircraft service manual, it is a good idea to have one of these specific to the engine that is in your aircraft. These are available from third party publishers of the engine manufacturer.
It should go without saying that copies of applicable service bulletins and Airworthiness Directives is also something that any aircraft owner should have in their files.
Even a year or two in models of aircraft can result in significant changes in parts or service requirements. By having the proper manuals available for your maintenance professional you increase the potential for proper service provision.
While many maintenance shops have manuals for many common aircraft, they may not have them if you have a unique aircraft or for all make and model years of a particular aircraft. Being able to provide a parts and/or service manual can be the difference between getting good service and having your aircraft incorrectly serviced.