Just like with a car, you don’t want just anyone performing maintenance and repairs on your aircraft. However, unlike the car repair industry, it can be a lot tougher to find reliable, quality aircraft maintenance companies. That doesn’t make it less important to you or your vehicle. Before you decide where to take your aircraft for inspections and maintenance, try these tips to make the search for quality easier.
When you are looking for an aircraft maintenance company, make sure you check the location. The last thing you want is to find a good match for your aircraft’s needs, only for it to be several states over, or even in another country. If you are using a database, which can be easily found online and are great resources for getting a lot of results quickly, make sure to use a location keyword. This way, you can quickly and easily see what options are nearby, and work from there.
Keep your Aircraft in Mind
However, location isn’t the only important factor. It’s also important that the maintenance company you decide to go to has familiarity with your model of plane. If you find the best-rated, most experienced company near you but they only service commercial jets, you probably need to find a better fit. Before you schedule an appointment to get your aircraft fixed or tuned-up, call ahead or research the company’s website to ensure they will be able to take care of your specific plane.
Your airplane is an expensive and personally important investment. You want to make sure that whoever works on it is qualified to repair it safely and effectively. There are a few professional certifications you should look out for. The first is authorization from the Federal Aviation Association (FAA). This is the bare minimum for licensure and required for anyone working on aircraft maintenance. If someone has Inspection Authorization (IA) from the FAA, they can perform and sign off on your required yearly inspections and on any major repairs.
The FAA provides certifications for both airframe and powerplant mechanics, although most technicians are certified in both. A & P technicians inspect aircraft and diagnose, perform, and oversee basic and preventative maintenance. They also keep records of aircraft details—like total time in flight and time since the last inspection—for all aircraft they inspect and for all repairs they perform.
Additionally, you can look for affiliation with the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA), which focuses on recognizing aircraft maintenance technicians and promoting ethical repair practices. PAMA provides additional courses that support the required certification from the FAA, which can give certification as an aircraft maintenance engineer.
Check Out Your Options
Before deciding where to take your aircraft, go to the company in person to see it. Take a look around and talk with the owner and anyone else who would be doing maintenance on your plane. This is a good way to decide if the place is right for you. You should keep an eye out for the general organizational level and cleanliness of the space and see what other kinds of aircraft they work on regularly. Additionally, maintenance hangars should be on the larger side. Unless you’re working with a newer and smaller company, they should have space for at least two or three airplanes to be worked on at once. While smaller companies often offer a more personal experience—technically due to a smaller staff, but often also because of company values—a larger company will have more resources at its disposal. Taking a walk through the company lets you see if they have experience regularly servicing aircrafts similar to yours, if the people who work there will take good care of your aircraft, and if you want to work with this size of the company.
Ask for Recommendations
Chances are, your fellow pilots know and frequent good repair places in the area. Talk to someone else who stores their plane near yours or ask someone involved in a local flying group. If they don’t know a good company close to you, they probably know someone who does and will happily pass on the information. If you don’t have connections to the local pilot community, reach out to clubs or groups nearby to see if they are able to share recommendations with you.
Talk to the Employees
If possible, chat with the maintenance technicians when you visit or drop your aircraft off. This helps both of you put a face to the name on the other end of this service. With aircraft repair, as with most other service industry jobs, the workers are more likely to remember you—or at the very least appreciate you—and go out of their way to help you if you are friendly and kind to them.
Take a Trial Run
Before you take your aircraft in for more serious maintenance, repairs, or an inspection, try taking it to this company for a routine oil change. This will give you a good feel for the relationship between you and the maintenance technician or company owner. If you get along well and work well together, this is a good shop for you. However, you might have personality clashes or disagreement on timelines. While they are the professionals in this situation and you should go with their judgment on repairs in general, it’s helpful to have a feel for the working relationship you would have. If there are serious personality clashes or communication issues—which does happen, not everyone can get along with everyone else—you are probably better off looking for a different shop.
Quality aircraft maintenance and repair is important—to you and to us. If you are looking for a maintenance company in your area, please contact us. We would love to help you find the right fit for you. Or, if you’re in our area, schedule an appointment to see how we can help you.