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Buying & Maintaining Amateur-Built Aircraft

Buying an amateur-built aircraft can be a great way to go if you don’t have the inclination to build one. But, if you didn’t build the plane, will you know how to take care of it?

Each amateur-built aircraft is unique and not as standardised as manufactured aircraft. That is not a bad thing, I have seen many amateur-built aircraft constructed to a better standard than manufactured aircraft. It does however add more work to developing inspection checklists and understanding the quirks that specific aircraft may display.

I have heard the statement often that anyone can maintain an amateur-built aircraft with a Level 1 maintenance authority. That is true, yes, but only if you know what you are doing. Because you can, certainly does not mean that you should. For example, if you have never welded anything in your life, trying it for the first time on your aircraft will never be a good idea.

However, owning your own amateur-built aircraft could mean that you are the most competent person to look after it, provided that you have the skills or the willingness to learn them. As the owner and pilot, you will not take any shortcuts or miss any inspections. As the owner, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of all the aircraft’s components, quirks and distinctive traits. Additionally, you will have a heightened intuition to detect any potential malfunctions, often well before they manifest as serious problems.

What the Tech Manual Says About Maintenance Requirements

As an amateur-built aircraft owner, you may perform and record maintenance activities carried out only on your own aircraft which are not used for hire and/or flying training. Completion of the RAAus online Level 1 training course is required.

To qualify for a Level 1 (L1) Maintenance Authority, members must successfully complete the RAAus assessment available through the L1 Maintainer Training and Assessment Site within the RAAus website, or via an alternately arranged paper-based assessment.

Maintenance of owner operated amateur-built aircraft is the sole responsibility of the owner. An appropriate maintenance schedule must exist for the aircraft. The selection of appropriate maintenance schedules, the qualifications and experience of persons to complete the maintenance is the responsibility of the owner. The maintenance schedule should be that provided by the aircraft/kit/engine/component manufacturers. When an aircraft does not already have an available maintenance schedule, the maintenance schedule in CASA Schedule 5 shall be used.

Tips When Purchasing an Amateur-Built Aircraft

To prevent unexpected setbacks and disappointment when purchasing an amateur-built aircraft, it is important to take certain precautions. Follow these guidelines to avoid
any potential problems.

Firstly, it is recommended to obtain a prepurchase evaluation from a knowledgeable person who can inspect the logbooks and aircraft. This could be someone
recommended by the builder group or the manufacturer. Failure to do so may result in discovering serious hidden problems down the line.

Secondly, spend time with the current owner to discuss their inspection procedures and any irregularities the aircraft may display. Even if the owner did not construct the aircraft or perform maintenance, you can still gain valuable insights.