By Doug Hereford, A&P/IA
In the world of Special Light Sport Aircraft (S-LSA), it is FAR Section 91.327 that requires periodic inspections, and like any inspection in aviation, the purpose is to uncover unsafe conditions.
How does one go about discovering unsafe conditions on an S-LSA?
Your first answer is probably: “Condition Inspection, right?” Yes and no.
Once a required Condition Inspection has been completed, in order to approve the aircraft for return to service, the person who performs the inspection must make an aircraft maintenance record entry certifying that the aircraft is in “a condition for safe operation.” This singular requirement is the driving force behind several realities for the inspector. Let’s examine them.
First: The inspector is not in a position to make this certifying statement unless the inspection procedures used are of the scope and detail necessary to completely inspect the entire aircraft. We start with an inspection checklist, and in the case of S-LSA, this checklist must be one provided by the aircraft manufacturer. This means that there is no such thing as an “abbreviated inspection.” It’s either a Condition Inspection of the entire aircraft, or it is not.
Second: The inspector must ensure that the aircraft is in compliance with all other legally required items of maintenance that exist to correct unsafe conditions. (This responsibility is imposed by FAR Section 43.15(a)(1). Section 91.327 defines these items as “Safety Directives” (SDs), and FAR Section 39.3 defines these items as “Airworthiness Directives” (ADs).
Third: Arguably the most important reality for the inspector is the fact that because he or she alone certifies the aircraft to be in a condition for safe operation, he or she bears the sole responsibility for ensuring that it is so. It is the inspector’s judgment, which will ultimately determine whether or not the certifying statement is made, approving the aircraft for return to service.
The first and third maintenance reality seems to be fairly black and white: use a checklist, and the inspector is responsible. Ok, but what about Reality Two: the need to find out about and comply with all other legally required maintenance items? Here’s where things begin to get difficult.