It’s been four years, almost to the day, since I bought my 1979 Piper Warrior II, and it’s time for another annual inspection (I’ve moved it up from May to December to avoid missing good flying weather, so this is the second annual in 2006).
So far, everything looks good, but this is not going to be the stereotypical owner-pilot annual inspection progress posting. Instead, I wanted to mention that while people refer to the Cherokee as a relatively simple plane, this is the first year that it has actually seemed simple to me.
I was able to talk to my AME (mechanic) on his level instead of forcing him to stoop to mine, and I knew — not just academically, but from real experience and sense of touch — what nearly every exposed part was and how it was supposed to work. A couple of weeks ago, I prepared a short spreadsheet of the extra work I wanted done and my estimated hours for each item, and the AME agreed that my estimates were in the right ballpark. Today we walked through the inspection snag sheet quickly and efficiently. I approved a small amount of extra work based on the findings during the initial inspection, then drove my altimeter down to the instrument shop for its biennial recertification.
It really is a different experience when you understand what’s under the cowling and behind the interior panels. Early bush pilots had to take care of their own planes, but from what I understand, a modern commercial pilot flying (say) a Cessna 182 is not even allowed to change her own oil unless she also happens to be an AME. I’m not sure this is a good thing: maybe a month or two helping on a shop floor (fetching buckets of propwash or what-have-you) would be a good addition to the commercial pilot syllabus.