When you’re a full fledged pilot, you should be able to walk up to any aircraft you are rated to fly and be able to start to determine its airworthiness. Even if it involves using outside resources such as the opinion of an Airframe and Powerplant certified mechanic to help understand more difficult to determine situations. Your job as pilot in command is clear, and it is to make the determination of whether the aircraft is legally airworthy for flight, and safe to fly.
Many times airworthiness is the last thing learned by pilot candidates for their checkride, “Oh yeah let’s look at the actual logbooks,” your instructor will say. In actuality it should be one of the first things you learn how to do. The responsibility is yours and it is one of the most important judgment skills we need to learn to be able to fly safely for a lifetime.
It does not take very much at all for an aircraft to be unairworthy. Many airplanes fly on a regular basis, illegally, without being airworthy. There is a difference between flyable and airworthy.
Just because the plane can fly doesn’t mean it’s airworthy.
Sometimes even a simple logbook entry error can make an airplane unairworthy.. Sometimes worse things such as neglected maintenance, illegal repairs, or unapproved modifications to the airplane make it illegal for the airplane to be flown without a special flight permit.
In this section we will deal with the main question, “How do we make sure the airplane we are going to fly is airworthy?”
Elements of this question can be broken down as follows:
What do we need to look for when preflighting the aircraft?
What documents have to be on board the aircraft?
What routine maintenance has to be accomplished to make the airplane legal to fly?
Who can work on the aircraft?
How do we record and track maintenance?
What items or equipment can be inoperative on the aircraft?
What do we do if we find something inoperative on the aircraft?
Focus your thoughts around these questions as we explore the material and relate them to the scenarios that you encounter throughout.