Maintenance Records, or Lack There Of

Oct. 21, 2020
Everything about my airplane is right here in this box of stuff.

I have always been drawn to vintage aircraft, old classic homebuilts and other unique or old flying machines. I have owned a few over the years and have flown and worked on many more. Those of you who maintain small vintage general aviation aircraft know that most have seen numerous repairs and/or alterations in the form of equipment upgrades, engine changes, fabric recovering, metal tubing and sheetmetal repairs to name a few.

Having re-engaged with some maintenance and restoration on a few of these cool old birds, I’ve found myself spending considerable time reviewing decades of logbook maintenance entries and searching for a Form 337 for an old Major Alteration in a box full of miscellaneous paperwork provided by the owner, most having nothing to do with maintenance.  OK…OK…take a deep breath.

Working in the airline industry for a large part of my career, I was accustomed to maintenance records that document, well, everything on everything! During my nearly 20 years in airline quality assurance, I would regularly review, check, audit and sample maintenance records to ensure they contained all the required information. In my role as previous editor of Aircraft Maintenance & Technology, following procedures and understanding regulatory requirements was inherent in articles and Inspection Authorization (IA) training programs.

I was recently presented with a missing documentation situation and concluded there were three things that could be done. 1) Ignore it, which is not really the right thing to do. 2) Make my own maintenance entry stating something about a previously installed unit or accomplished action, which may be okay in some cases and at least there would be some documentation of the action. 3) After a thorough inspection to ensure the action was done in accordance with applicable data, complete and submit the required Form 337 on this previously accomplished Major Alteration. This as you know requires additional time and work — maybe a lot — on the part of the IA or shop.

It also provides correct documentation, approval and a more complete maintenance record for the aircraft owner and the next mechanic, IA or shop. A good working relationship with the local Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) can be extremely helpful at times like this. If in doubt, ask the FAA what the right thing to do is. After all, you are attempting to make something right for the owner where some previous mechanic or owner did not.     

I would like to add, when reviewing airplane records from more recent years, it's clear maintenance documentation is better these days than decades ago. I’ll attribute this to the good efforts by you the mechanic, FAA inspectors, FAASTeam programs, Part 147 schools and industry best practices, which in-turn, has raised the overall quality of aircraft records on the cool old birds from what it was in the past.  

Keep ‘em flying safely, Ron        

About the Author

Ronald Donner | Aviation Consultant | AMT

Ronald (Ron) Donner has spent his entire life devoted to aviation and he holds FAA certificates as an A&P/IA, and a Commercial Pilot with Single and Multi Engine Land, Instrument Airplane and Glider ratings. Ron has worked in a variety of maintenance related roles, both technical and management in general aviation as well as with a major airline. Ron was the recipient of the 2012 National Air Transportation Association (NATA) Aviation Journalism award.  

Contact: Ron Donner

Chief Editor | Aircraft Maintenance Technology

[email protected]


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