Home   Articles

Airplane Maintenance 101

Whether you build or own an airplane, make maintaining your machine easier by foreseeing work you know you will have to do at some point. The following purchases/installations are suggested as a consequence to a life long of weekends spent on airports.


This will let you work on your avionics in peace without worrying about draining the battery. On a bad day it will also allow you to start an engine when the battery is weak. You can purchase plugs used to supply power to campers etc. Attach a plug and wire it so that you can get power to the bus bar or battery. Check with a mechanic to make sure that the plug is installed in such a way that the master switch still cuts out the battery in case of emergency.

These will keep you from damaging the airplane (usually the horizontal stab ribs on Cessnas) and, more importantly, your back. You find these handles on a number of airplanes. They are available as a retro-fit for factory aircraft.


Provide a secure area in the airplane where you can permanently keep these items:

Windshield polish and a clean rag - keep line-boys from scratching your windshield

Wheel chocks - light weight

3 ropes to reach tie-down lugs

Tow bar - manoeuvre the airplane properly and safely.

Oil filler spout - know that the dripping oil is not due to bad aim down the filler neck.


Gloves - cheap cotton, for the unexpectedly cold mornings.

Portable radio


Keep a Spare Parts box in your car or near your airplane.

This may keep you flying on a Sunday when every parts outlet you know is closed. You may count on help from an AME, but even he needs parts.

Spark plug - with a wrench

Brake lining with rivets, and tool

Exhaust gasket

Landing light


Oil filter


Brake fluid

A model airplane fuel pump - for the brake fluid replenishment

Syringe - to add water to the battery

Oiling syringe - for oiling hinges after washing

Assorted screws, nuts, cotter pins and fasteners - typical sizes

Batteries for GPS and Handheld radio

Air Pump and tire gauge

A copy of your airplane's Parts Manual - so you can order the right part Monday morning.


Make up an 'on-board' maintenance kit:

3/8", 7/16" wrenches and sockets

Crazy glue

.032" Safety Wire



Swiss Army knife - with Phillips screwdriver and magnifying glass

Cowl washers and screws, or similar



Engine cover for preheating in winter

Prop cover - particularly if wooden prop

Windshield cover (sunshield)


Even if you do not work on your aircraft yourself, at least provide those who do work on it with the means to keep you flying.

Top of Page

Frank Hofmann
Copyright © 2004