April 2008 Issue

Deferring Airplane Maintenance

Making the right “fix it or fly it” decision depends on what’s broken and how you want to use the airplane.

My grandmother loved an adage. "Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today." "A stitch in time saves nine." "If you don’t find time to do it now, when will you find time to do it later?" All fine words to live by, but my grandmother never paid for an aircraft’s annual inspection. With the base price of a straight-leg single-engine airplane annual at some shops hovering around $1500—that’s the price if nothing is actually wrong with the airplane—some of the adages heard around the shop are "It flew in, it’ll fly out." "You said it was fine that way last year: why is this year different?" and the most common, "I can’t afford that—just sign it off now and we’ll get it on the next annual." To fix or not. What will it cost now versus the price later? Does it affect airworthiness? What does the FAA say about it? What’s the worst that can happen?

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