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What is an Aircraft Maintenance Check?

Aircraft maintenance checks are periodic inspections performed by technicians on every commercial or civil aircraft after a defined period of time or usage. As part These procedures help determine the airworthiness of an aircraft and ensure the safety of its next flight and the crew and passengers it is carrying.

This article will briefly discuss 1) essence of aircraft maintenance; 2) 3 major types of aircraft maintenance checks ; and 3) free 100 hour/annual inspection checklists for streamlined aircraft maintenance checks.

Essence of Aircraft Maintenance Checks

As an inherent responsibility part of aircraft ownership required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) no aircraft operator/owner is exempted from aircraft maintenance checks. Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) specifically states that “the owner/operator of a civil aircraft is primarily responsible for maintaining that aircraft in an airworthy condition, including compliance with FAA Airworthiness Directives (AD)”. Aircraft maintenance checks involve a series of activities, such as inspection, overhaul, reformation, defect rectification, and repair that help ensure air transportation is as safe as possible. In a nutshell, here are 4 key reasons why aircraft maintenance checks are essential to aircraft operators:

To prevent mechanical failures and ensure flight safety

In aviation history, mechanical failures account for almost a quarter of all fatal accident causes; the rest are due to sabotage, weather, and human error. Aircraft maintenance checks help identify hazards early on, and ensure that only the safest aircraft are utilized to guarantee the safety of the passengers and flight crew.

To preserve the life of the aircraft and maintain a record of safe performance

Aircraft are designed to operate for certain cycle limits, a determinant of the airframe’s lifespan. Through regular aircraft maintenance checks, aircraft owners can keep engines working at their best level and ensure that the aircraft’s safety design are sustained throughout their lifespan.

To minimize aircraft downtime

Every second is valuable in aircraft operations. By regularly maintaining engines, aircraft can suffer from less downtime and major repairs, which can benefit operators on their bottom line.

To keep repair costs at bay

Repairs are often more expensive than maintenance activities, which is why keeping up with regular aircraft maintenance check schedule is beneficial as it saves operators from costly repairs.

2 Major Types of Aircraft Maintenance Checks

According to 14 CFR, aircraft maintenance checks revolve around two broad types of inspections: scheduled and unscheduled. Here are the differences between the two types of aircraft maintenance checks and the types of inspections under them:

1. Scheduled Aircraft Maintenance Checks

Scheduled aircraft maintenance checks comprise of preventative maintenance activities performed according to defined intervals, as required by the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR). Operators often develop and customize checklists (or job cards) to record deficiencies discovered during inspections. Four types of aircraft inspections are covered under this type of check, namely:

  • 100 Hour Inspection 
    Aircraft under 12,500 pounds (except turbojet/turbopropeller-powered multi-engine airplanes and turbine-powered rotocraft) utilized for commercial operations must have undergone a 100-hour inspection within the preceding 100 hours of time in service (FAR 91.409b). During the 100-hour inspection, plates, access doors, cowlings, and fairings are disassembled, and all major aircraft components are inspected, including the engine, cabin, avionics, batteries, and flight control system. Aircraft used for flight instructions for hire (e.g. Cessna 172 and 150), when supplied by a flight instructor, is also subject to 100-hour inspection. This inspection must also be completed by an A&P mechanic.
  • Annual Inspection

    As per the FAA, every airplane is required to undergo an annual inspection to be legal to operate,regardless of whether they are used for hire, flight instruction or for recreational use (FAR 91.409a) . For the inspection to be valid, it must be accomplished according to FAR 43 Appendix D by a qualified Airframe and/or Power Plant (A&P) mechanic holding an inspection authorization (IA) within the preceding 12 calendar months.

    Example: If the aircraft’s annual inspection is endorsed on October 15, 2019, the next annual is due before November 1, 2020; if not, the aircraft may not be flown without authorization.

    What’s the difference between 100 hour and annual inspections? The coverage of the annual and 100-hour inspections are identical, however, the 100 hour inspection can be performed by a mechanic without an IA, while an annual inspection requires a mechanic which holds an IA. Further, the annual can substitute for a 100-hour inspection, but not vice versa.

  • Progressive Inspection
    If an operator’s aircraft fleet are utilized heavily every year (e.g. flight school,corporate, and FBO fleets), they may opt for a progressive inspection plan to minimize maintenance downtime with the same end results. The progressive inspection is a complete inspection of the aircraft, conducted in stages, with all stages to be completed in a period of 12 calendar-months.Unlike a 100-hour or annual inspection, this plan enables more frequent but shorter inspection programs, as long as they are approved by the FAA. Although, progressive inspection plans must begin with either an annual or 100-hour inspection; inspections after the initial inspection should then follow the schedule according to the approved progressive inspection program.
  • Preflight Checks
    Preflight checks are conducted by pilots or student pilots prior flights to verify if an aircraft is safe for departure. With the help of a checklist, they conduct walk-arounds to inspect major components of the aircraft and note if there are any defects that need immediate repair.

2. Unscheduled Aircraft Maintenance Checks

Some aircraft maintenance checks can be sudden and unforeseen, especially when there are problems found during the pre-flight, progressive, annual, or 100-hour inspection. Unscheduled aircraft maintenance checks can be corrective and preventive in nature, as they trigger the necessary immediate repairs while also helping implementing solutions in anticipation of potential faults.

Streamline Aircraft Maintenance Checks

Documenting aircraft maintenance checks with pen-and-paper can be time-consuming as it requires extensive hours for manual re-entry of observations and organizing data into a professional report. As 90% of aircraft maintenance checks are visual, it is essential that these inspections are performed as efficiently as possible, contributing to improved productivity and standardized processes in the long-run.

With iAuditor, the world’s #1 mobile inspection app, aircraft mechanics can streamline aircraft maintenance checks and have an electronic logbook of inspections that allows them to:

  • Minimize aircraft downtime with efficient, streamlined aircraft maintenance checks
  • Encourage efficient inspections during aircraft line maintenance checks and contribute to faster turnaround
  • Take pictures of noted structural findings, notify the back office, and immediately document and apply corrections
  • Upload annotated images of noted defects during maintenance checks for improved visual reference
  • Save time on manual data re-entry and auto-generate comprehensive reports of accomplished maintenance work
  • Save crucial aircraft maintenance data in iAuditor’s secure cloud storage and easily recover them when reviewing maintenance history of a certain aircraft
  • Worry less on complying with maintenance recordkeeping and easily access up-to-date files through iAuditor’s electronic storage
  • Encourage faster work order completion with more visible data


John Derick Flores

SafetyCulture Staff Writer

Dirk is a contributing writer for SafetyCulture who has 3+ years of experience being a Safety Officer in an international airline. Over the course of his tenure, he worked on projects involving training management, ramp safety inspections, quality & safety certification audits, and safety promotion programs. Further, he is interested in maximizing the power of technology to help make the world a better place.