Modern aircraft operate under extremely strenuous conditions for long hours with maximum efficiency to ensure a safe flying experience for everybody on board. Hence, all civil, military, and commercial aircraft must undergo inspections to optimize their longevity and safety after specific periods. Most inspection programs in the United States are approved and regulated by authorities such as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in compliance with the standards set by Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, better known as the Federal Aviation Regulations.
Aircraft inspections encompass repairing and replacing components exhibiting less than satisfactory performance. Inspections are generally divided into four levels, namely A, B, C, and D. Such inspections are performed at prescribed intervals depending on the average flight time and flight cycles (where one flight cycle equals one landing and takeoff.) Moreover, several airworthiness authorities establish their own regulations to ensure aircraft safety and preserve capital and energy optimization while maintaining rigorous maintenance under their aegis. In this blog, we shall delve into the detailed requirements of all levels of aircraft inspection performed today.
For an aircraft, possessing airworthiness as recognized by a legal, regulatory authority is crucial in determining its safety for flight. Airworthiness requirements consider predefined standard parameters of all aircraft components to deem them safe for regular operation. Some parameters include the structural integrity of the design, provisions for a crash landing, presence of hydraulic systems, and overall aerodynamic efficiency. Determining the range of the selection criteria for all inspections is the onus of different airworthiness authorities worldwide.
The FAA mandates four components of aircraft checks (A, B, C, and D checks), each increasing in its level of complexity. Each of these levels is concerned with the rates of inspection, specific aircraft parts to check, and duration between checks. These inspection levels were designed according to the standardized maintenance programs built off the schedule of Boeing’s Maintenance Steering Group (MSG) for improving and maintaining the safety of their B747-100 aircraft.
Tasks are often categorized into ‘blocks,’ as well as are referred to as an ‘overhaul cycle’ or progressive maintenance for coordinating various activities. While A & B checks are dubbed ‘lighter checks,’ C & D checks are called ‘heavy checks,’ and a detailed description of each is given below.
Traditional heavy-level checks can render an aircraft inactive for standard service for several weeks, or even months, at a time. This is why heavy-level checks are segmented into phase checks which involve the inspection of specific components or systems after every 200-800 flight hours. Such phase checks incorporate maintenance for older aircraft or VIP planes and involve corrosion control, aging system checks, and additional structural inspections. Such phase checks save time and lend flexibility to the maintenance of aircraft.
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