A pilot has to know the rules and regulations set out by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before they fly their aircraft. These guidelines for routine maintenance vary greatly depending on if the pilot must follow Visual Flight Rules (VFR) or Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), so it is always best for any pilot to read their specific rulebook thoroughly. To remember the general guidelines in aircraft maintenance, however, a pilot can use the mnemonic “AVIATE” to recall the most important rules.
- Annual: Regardless if an aircraft is following VFR or IFR flying, it must undergo an annual inspection. This is a regulation set by the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) and applies to all aircraft, no matter if they are for hire or used privately by the pilot.
- VOR: This rule only applies to IFR flying. VOR is a method of navigation that uses radio beacons and distance measuring equipment. When a pilot wants to use VOR navigation in IFR flying, they must have the accuracy of the VOR device checked every 30 days. There is a variety of ways the accuracy can be checked, allowing the pilot to cater this routine maintenance to their liking.
- 100 Hour: Applicable to certain operations that have aircraft used for hire, and especially aircraft used in flight instruction for hire, they must undergo an inspection every 100 hours of engine operation. This rule applies to both IFR and VFR flying.
- Alitmeter/Static System Check: Every 24 calendar months each altimeter and static pressure system must undergo inspection. These inspections ensure that the systems are accurate and compliant with aviation standards. This inspection only needs to be done for aircraft used for IFR flight, and never for VFR.
- Transponder: Also occurring every 24 calendar months, transponders must undergo inspection for accuracy and standards. The FAR includes further rules about when and where certain aircraft are required to have an operating transporter and the mode it needs to use. Aircraft used in both VFR and IFR sometimes require a transponder. It is a good idea for any aircraft to have a transponder in good condition for traffic avoidance, but you can check the rules if you are unsure as to whether or not you need one.
- ELT: In both VFR and IFR flying, every aircraft is required to have an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT). The ELT must undergo inspection every 12 calendar months. In further guidelines regulation maintenance for aircraft, the FAR requires that the battery of the ELT be replaced and recharged under specific conditions.
As of 2011, an estimated 224,475 general aviation crafts were active in the United States. While these guidelines can seem cumbersome, they help keep every one of that large number of aircraft safe in the sky. Just as a pilot must monitor vibration and check on their high-end engine whenever they fly, they must also keep up with routine maintenance set out by official flying guidelines.