So, should I wait for a check engine light to go on, or what?
If you have a car, you probably follow the manufacturer's suggestion to have it serviced regularly. Or at least you should. For the most part, that's up to your own discretion. You take it for regular inspections? Great! Not every state requires regular vehicle safety inspections and stickers.
But aircraft maintenance isn't like car maintenance-there isn't any leeway in ignoring that proverbial "check engine light." Maintenance, checks, and modifications are all mandatory. There are designated "airworthiness authorities," like the FAA or EASA that closely monitor aircraft operators to make sure all maintenance is done on time and properly.
Aircraft maintenance can include the overhaul, repair, inspection, or modification of an aircraft or its components.
Routine checks are periodic inspections that must be done on all commercial and civil aircraft after a certain amount of time or usage.
Aircraft engines must undergo maintenance after a set number of flight cycles; this number varies depending on the engine type.
It isn't surprising that aircraft maintenance is highly regulated. Consider the negative effects of your car's engine seizing up in the middle of a trip along the interstate-now picture that same scenario, but replace the car with a commercial airliner in the middle of a transatlantic flight. Yikes.
There are a number of reasons why planes don't just fall out of the sky all the time, but what they can all really boil down to is safety. Traveling by air is technically safer than traveling by car when you look at the numbers. One of the reasons air travel is so safe is the strict upkeep of aircraft.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is a specialized agency within the United Nations that sets global standards to ensure safe and orderly growth of international air transport. These standards are then implemented by national and regional bodies around the world. For the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates all aspects of civil aviation, including airworthiness and safety.
When an aircraft is undergoing routine maintenance it may include the task of ensuring compliance with airworthiness directives. An airworthiness directive (AD) is a notification to owners and operators of certified aircraft regarding a known safety deficiency with a particular model of aircraft, engine, avionics, or other systems that exist and must be corrected. Certified aircraft with outstanding ADs are not considered airworthy.
The ICAO defines the licensed role of individuals who perform aircraft maintenance. These can be maintenance technicians, engineers, or mechanics; all titles essential perform the same role, although different countries use different terms to define individual levels of qualification and responsibilities.
Recognized licenses for aircraft maintenance personnel include the following:
- Aircraft Maintenance Engineer (AME), also License Aircraft Maintenance Engineer
- Aircraft Maintenance Technician (AMT)
- Aircraft Maintenance Mechanic (AMM)
Aircraft maintenance personnel in Europe must comply with Acceptable Means of Compliance (AMC) Part 66, Certifying Staff, issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).