What to look for in a good Mechanic and How do I know if I already have a good one?
This can be a dynamic topic, but there are certainly some markers to look for in finding yourself a good mechanic that you can really trust to keep you in the air, safe and happy. You say you already have a mechanic; well the same properties in looking for a mechanic apply to knowing if you have a good one. Let’s take a look at what traits might make up a good mechanic and what you can do to find one.
Let’s talk about looking for a good mechanic first. Just like in all professions you have marginal professionals and top of the line. Here are a few items to look for when trying to determine if a certain mechanic is right for you.
Questions for them and to yourself before selecting this mechanic.
(You may want to add a few extra qualifications on your own. These aren’t all inclusive)
1. Does he come recommended by other people?
2. Do you hear from others that he does a good job?
3. Does he have experience in your type aircraft?
4. Do you hear their name brought up favorably in conversations?
5. When you talk to them are they friendly and helpful before he wants to take your money?
6. Ask them if they have the SB’s and all the manuals for your engine and fuselage on site?
7. How many aircraft like yours has he worked on or inspected?
8. Are they willing to show you the issues they found and answer your questions knowledgably about your plane while in their shop?
9. What’s his philosophy regarding regular and preventive maintenance?
10. Is he an arrogant mechanic or open minded to your ideas, suggestions, concerns and will he research problems?
11 Do they use inspection check list, discrepancy list and do good detailed logbook label entries? (possibly ask to see a couple of his labels and check list)
12. Does he document well? It’s for your benefit as well as his and he should know that.
13. Does he give you copies of the maintenance check list or other documents for your personal file? This should be an absolute in case you need it for the FAA, insurance and the re-sale of your plane. You’re paying for the work, get it the way you want it not him.
14. Does he seem to have the proper tools and education for your particular plane?
15. Last, but not least and this item is not a real marker of the mechanic’s professionalism, but should be kept in the back of your mind. What do they charge? If the price sounds too good to be true then there may be a reason and you may get what you paid for. They may not be able to get much business from failings of the above items and try to low ball prices to drum up more business. Someone in a higher demand or better educated usually gets a little more money. Now I know this is not always true that’s why this is last and only something to consider while looking for a mechanic that you will get along with and do a good job for you.
A good mechanic will have a large portion and maybe if you’re lucky all these traits above.
The mechanic’s motto should be: I know there is something wrong with your plane (major or minor) and I’m going to find that for you to keep you safe. Due to a plane’s wear and tear, loosening of attachment items or just sitting for extended periods things change on a plane and it’s your mechanics job to find these. He needs to be a skilled hunter of problems and an organized repairman for these items.
You say you already have a mechanic then you should be able to use these questions to determine if he is good for you. If there are some areas above that you wish your mechanic would do better then sit down with them and explain that you would like these items addressed better in the future. You are paying these people good money and if they aren’t living up to your expectations then there is nothing wrong with asking them to work on your plane a little different.
In many aspects of our life we have choices as to the way we want things, but when we go to a Doctor, a Lawyer or a Mechanic we accept or expect them to tell us what we need or want.
WRONG, we should exercise the same options with these professionals and they should be receptive to our needs and you should fully expect help, understanding, your options given and consideration to your own input. You should expect a 100% job and not 50% at a fair price for the service you receive. That said if you go cheap sometime that’s all you get. Getting a good professional is not always the cheapest fare in town, but doesn’t have to be the most expensive either. Just like buying a new TV or car, shop around and get something that is quality, will last and serve you well.
This was a long story and maybe I should have started it “Once upon a time”, but I hope this helps someone in having a good sound relationship with their mechanic.
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL MY FRIENDS HERE ON OUR FORUM!
If you have a good one don't forget to give them a hug!
Let's talk about how much runway do you need to land. What is the shortest you have ever landed on? Let's here from all you other CT pilots. <br style=""> <br style="">
Here are some considerations for a short runway landing for a Flight Design CT and will differ from plane to plane and even from person to person. Landing at these short runways are at your own risk.
Many people in rural areas or overseas in the UK and Europe land in these distances on a regular basis. A challenge from our UK friends is what spurred me to practice and play with these short fields.
This question is really one that has a few different facets. For me it is 300m or 1000'. We need to look at a few things here, your own flying skills, training, runway condition, atmospheric conditions, aircraft landing configuration, approach and some good judgment when you do pick a short runway. Let’s not leave out our buddy the wind. Let's look at a few variables.
First what is the runway made of: asphalt, dirt or nice energy absorbing grass. Grass a little long would be best. Plus something to think about while you are sizing this up is how wide is it? Will it allow for a little error to the left or right, something to consider. What is on either end of this runway? Is it flat off the end of the runway or does it have tress? Can I make a flat approach or does it have to be steep due to obstructions on the ends. If only one end has an obstruction that steepens your approach then maybe the other end is a better choice to land.
Ok, here is a big item, your own personal training or practice time. When at longer runways practice and practice again hitting a specific target. Learn to set those wheels down just as close as possible to a pre-selected spot every time. Then pick a different spot and learn to hit that spot. This type of practice will always pay off especially if you ever have an engine out situation and need to land in a short distance. Most of us aren't going to have an 8K' runway below us if the engine ever goes out. If I was that lucky I would buy a lottery ticket. So when you approach this very short runway you will be able to set those wheels down in the first 10% or less of the runway and hit your exact spot. Remember any runway behind you is a waste of your runway and if you land too long may add to you pucker factor. Speaking of this pucker factor or being in the panic mode is the worst thing that can happen. When in the panic mode all logical and rational thought ceases. If you practiced like you play then you shouldn't have this problem because your mind will already be set up for this eventuality. So now you are practicing and it may be on a very long runway, but pick out two markers or the beginning of the runway to a marker to stop short by. Now what about the plane? Well landing at zero flaps and at 60 knots is not the best choice. The better choice is flaps at 30-40 and 50 knots. This will keep you slow enough to dump some of that energy quickly on approach and once you touch down. Those 30-40 nice big flaps are good air drag surfaces. Now for the approach, you will need to approach this particular short runway a little flatter on approach than you would normally tackle a nice long runway. A flatter approach, landing right at the beginning of the runway with 30-40 flaps at 50 knots should pretty much guarantee plenty of room to land. One little thing to look at in addition to this is, am I really heavy at max weight or do I weigh 150 lbs and only have half a tank of fuel and solo? This is less kinetic energy to stop. Know your brakes!! Do my brakes stop me well or do they fade with heat and I just keep coasting? Do I have to pump them. These are not conducive for short runways.
So we have looked at runway length, type of surface, flaps, speed, approach angle, brakes, weight and your skill level. Landing in 1000’ isn’t hard, but does put more demands on being a better pilot and setting yourself up for success early.
Then the inevitable happens! What if I’m too fast, too long, too high, bounce and too much brake or it just doesn’t feel right? Recognize these early!!!
Try again and fix what might have been wrong with the first approach. Take as many approaches as necessary to get it right. Don’t sacrifice safety for your pride.
Practice, Practice, Practice. Hit your target and know your plane!
Your Mechanic May Have Just Cost You $5K-$10K
The Sale Killer!!!
What your mechanic may have cost you and you don’t even know it yet.
Did you get what you paid for? (Literally)
Over the last several years I have seen many logbook entries from mechanics. Over the last several weeks I have been involved with a buyer looking for a CT. This has given me a unique opportunity to really look at logbook entries and documentation or the lack of it I should say. Almost all the extremely poor entries have come from A&P’s and not usually RLSM-A’s. Funny the A&P’s with all the extra education all make fun of us lowly RLSM-A’s, but they are the ones that consistently under perform and poorly document a 100 hour or Annual Condition Inspection. These poor logbook entries and lack of documentation will cost you dearly when it comes time to sell. From what I have seen lately it will cost you owners $5K-$10 off the top all due to lack of documentation. These are legal records and need to be treated as such. This is one of the only ways you can show either someone did something to your plane or did not. When I was on the Fire Department as a Captain and a Medic and doing reports it was essential that everything done be included in that report. I have been to court many times and if it wasn’t in writing it wasn’t done and there is little you can do to save yourself. Cry all you want that it was done, but the jury doesn’t care. Three to four people have lost plane sales in the last several weeks due strictly to poor logbooks and documentation. Their prices are falling because of it. How do you know a service bulletin was done, a compression test or a simple carb balance was done? How does the next mechanic know what the other did or didn’t do? How do you know the mechanic found anything wrong or gave additional attention to anything or fixed a problem? If he didn’t log it you may still be flying and it still may be broken and you don’t know it because he didn’t follow the inspection sheets or enter it in the logbook. Good condition items of importance like hoses may be entered and every deficiency should be entered.
There is something wrong with every single plane brought in for a 100 hour or the Annual Condition Inspection and it is up to the mechanic to find it.
Show me a logbook entry from an A&P that says he didn’t find anything and I’ll show you a poor inspection and a very poor logbook entry. I just heard from one A&P and he said he doesn’t log compression test results unless they are under 70 psi residual pressure. WOW! Where is the log that shows any decline or trend or when it totally fails? How do you go back and ask him what the numbers were last year. You are supposed to use the Flight Design’s and Rotax’s check list that’s why they went to the trouble to make one up and it is supposed to be part of the legal documentation of that inspection. You should demand that these check list be followed and signed for your own protection and your pocketbook. You should then keep them with your logbook entries. It is your only recourse in case you need legal help because the mechanic did something wrong or didn’t do something he was supposed to do. It is your legal help with the court system, the FAA and the Insurance Company. When it comes time to sell would you want to buy something that had such poor records you can’t tell what was really done or not done. Or do you want the plane that has had a serial record of each inspection, oil change, plug change and SB, ect….
You may be getting what you pay for with some mechanics, so if the price is too good to be true maybe you should walk away. Like any profession there are good mechanics and bad. Some of the good A&P’s have gone through Rotax school, some have even gone through the RLSM school. Each one of my clients from day one gets his logbook documented in detail, an original Flight Design and a Rotax inspection sheet signed, a separate discrepancy list and all given to the owner/pilot. I make notes on the inspection sheets and sign each entry so I and the owner know I have done the work and I didn’t forget something. If a 100 hour or Annual Condition inspection was done in 4-6 hours you better look for another mechanic. It can’t be done. Those who have hung around while I work know it takes days to complete a proper inspection and the more things you find or the owner has you do it could be 3, 4 days, a week or more. I would say a mechanic that knows his way around a CT and the Rotax engine and doesn’t have, but a couple of minor things to fix will take 2-3 days for an easy one and maybe more if more problems exist. You are paying good money for your inspection you should get it the way you want it and it should be done.
You should demand that the Flight Design and Rotax inspection check list be followed and signed. The logbook needs to have a lot more than “I found this aircraft to be in a Safe Condition”. Protect yourself and have your mechanic perform to the level of competency you require and deserve.
Here are a couple of examples of what I see on a too regular basis:
This is an entry in the logbook for a 100 hr. inspection minus the A&P’s signature:
(Sorry about the image quality they were a pain to attach)
Here is the Annual Condition inspection for a Rotax engine minus the A&P’s signature:
Oh and I forgot, have them make entries legible so anyone can read them. If they can’t, printing them on a computer with a sticky label works wonders.
Here are a couple of samples that are better and your own A&P or RLSM-A may word it differently, but this gives you an idea of what a logbook entry should look like. You need to list all discrepancies and items of importance or under a continual SB. By the way the Light Sport Repairman is supposed to sign his title RLSM-A and not any other way for airplanes.
12-12-2009 502.3 hrs. TTSN Maintenance on NXXXX Engine serial # XXXXX Aircraft serial # XXXXX
In accordance with the Flight Design and Rotax maintenance manuals this aircraft was inspected for its 100/500 hr. and the Annual Condition Inspection at 502.3 hrs. Rotax gearbox friction torque is 360 in/lbs. Carbs mechanically and pneumatically synced. ELT batteries due in March 2015. The oil and oil filter were changed (3 qts. Aero Shell Sport Plus 4 10-40w oil and Rotax oil filter). Oil analysis done and results due back in 2-3 weeks. Valve covers were removed and the edges sanded until the irregularities were gone and the “O” rings replaced, valve covers had a slight oil ooze on bottom. Dynon D-120 and D-100 had software updated to 5.2 version from the 5.0 software version. Engine mount bolts through the firewall were loose due to settling of the new firewall blanket. These were re-torqued to 200 in/lbs. All coolant hose clamps were tightened. Fuel line nut on the right carb loose and tightened. Push to talk switch for the radio
on the pilot side was intermittent, replaced and tested. New NGK DCPR8E spark plugs installed and gapped at .024 for cold weather. Heat conducting paste applied. Compression test: #1 – 84/87, #2 - 84/87, #3 - 84/87, #4 - 84/87. Fuel flow test at the gasolator is within FD maint manual specs and screen cleaned. Engine run and idle set at 1800 +/- rpm, mag drop is approximately 80 rpm on each ignition position. Next inspection due at 600 hrs. or the Annual Condition Inspection before 12-31-2010. All SB’s and logs current. I certify that this aircraft has been inspected in accordance with an annual condition inspection / the 100 hr. check and was determined to be in condition for safe operation on 12-15- 2009.
John Doe RLSM-A LSA Cert. XXXXX issued 5-28-08
11-09-2009 696.6 hrs. TTSN Maintenance performed on NXXXX Engine serial # XXXX Aircraft serial # XXXXX
In accordance with the Flight Design and Rotax maintenance manuals this aircraft was inspected for its 700 hr. / 100 hr. inspection. Left lower engine mount starting to show signs of cracking. Check at 800 hr inspection. The exhaust system was inspected for cracking. Gasolator cleaned and fuel flow test conducted as per Flight Design maint manual and passed. Lubed all bell cranks and bearings. ELT tested and batteries replaced, expire March 2016. All hoses in engine compartment in good condition. Rotax gearbox friction torque is 435 in/lbs. Carbs mechanically and pneumatically synced. Engine run and idle set at 1800, mag drop is 70 rpm on each ignition position. Compression test done for differential: #1- 85/87, #2- 84/87, #3- 85/87, #4- 84/87 psi. New aluminum fuel filter and metal sweep fuel line tube installed as per FD SB-ASTM-CTSW-06 and FD compliance paperwork sent to FD. Oil cooler retaining nuts loose and tightened. Removed, cleaned and oiled K&N air filter. The Dynon D-100 and D-120 had 9 pin update cables
and plugs installed and the software was updated to 5.0 from 1.7 version. New fuel sight tubes installed. Installed a Rotax approved Tanis engine preheat system (model TAS100-52, serial #43322). Letter of Approval sent to FD. Installed FD approved front and main new Aero Classic tires. Front end wheel has shimmy. Replaced front end suspension alignment pin and took excess play out of dampeners to stop shimmy. Oil pressure sender remote mounted on the fire wall as per Rotax instructions and fire sleeved oil line. All SB’s and logs current. Next inspection due at 796 hrs. or the Annual Condition Inspection 11-30-2010. This aircraft was found to be in safe condition for operation and placed back in service 11-13-2009.
John Doe RLSM-A LSA Cert. # XXXXXXX issued 5-28-08
I hope this personal reflection on buyer beware and how logbook entries will affect you and follow you even after your plane may have been sold or purchased. I hope this article will prove useful to all my CT friends out there!
FLY SAFE AND FAR,