All in Pieces

That’s how my plane has been for a full week now, in the shop, waiting for parts to arrive from Piper via a supplier in Memphis via a second supplier in Montreal. Owners tend to say that the annual is the most unpredictable part of aircraft ownership — after all, it’s pretty straight forward to predict how much gas you’ll burn, how much your insurance will run, how much parking will be, how much your new Garmin 530 will cost installed (just dreaming), etc., but nobody knows whether the bill after an annual inspection will be US $1,500 or $15,000 (fortunately, mine have always ended up well in the first third of that range so far).

In fact, the annual inspection itself is very predictable — it takes about 25-30 hours for an experienced mechanic to run through the full Piper Warrior II annual inspection list properly, and maybe a couple more hours for run-of-the-mill AD and SB inspections. It’s just that most of us don’t have our (private) planes looked at in detail any other time of the year unless something is obviously broken, so it’s the annual inspection that finds most of the hidden problems. I’m considering adding an unofficial semi-annual inspection — maybe 4 hours in the shop late in the fall, when I need to change the oil and jack up the plane to get the wheel fairings off anyway. Just taking off the cowling and propeller spinner and letting the guys in the shop poke around for a few hours might find a lot of small problems before they become big ones.

After all, we get the family minivan inspected twice a year, and I can just pull over to the side of the road if something breaks on it.

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2 Responses to All in Pieces

  1. Aviatrix says:

    One of the advantages of being a pilot is to make car maintenance costs trivial. I’ve had an auto mechanic call me up to tell me that a part is necessary, but unfortunately quite expensive. And then he goes on in grave tones to tell me that it will cost $43.27, including the taxes. I have to restrain my laughter, before I approve the expenditure. And he doesn’t need to order it from Wichita, either.

  2. david says:

    I try not to look at part prices too often, because they make me realize that I could part out my Warrior (at, say, 50% of the price for the used parts) and have enough money to buy a plane worth 2-4 times as much. The little steel stiffener plate for my propeller spinner (actually, the *backup* stiffener plate) costs about US $530 list — it’s only US $175 used from Wentworth, but they don’t provide any paperwork that I can use to install it legally.

    I ordered what appears to be the last one available in North America, but Piper somehow managed to lose it in shipment to the parts supplier, so now Piper’s promising to make a new one if they cannot find it. Check back in this fall to see if I’m flying again yet.

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