The Pilots and Planes of Double M Aviation: Cessna 414

Flying for Fun

At Double M, we enjoy hearing from our customers about what makes general aviation special to them. We recently sat down with Tom Dillon, the owner and pilot of a Cessna 414 that we have maintained since 2017. We wanted to know how he got started in aviation, what he enjoys most, and why owning a Cessna 414 is so special to him.

How did you get into aviation?

My father did aerial photography and I started riding with him when I was five years old. At nine years old, I began hands-on flying in an AT-6, and my first airplane was a Mooney M-18 Mite that my father bought me for my 16th birthday.

I soloed at 16 out of Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport after a few hours of working with an instructor who was an old family friend. He helped me smooth out some of the rough edges I had picked up from my flying with my dad. I got my commercial rating at 18, and had my airline transport pilot certification by the time I was 25.

Although my family’s business is in photography, a high school friend connected me with a job as a charter pilot, where I flew a Seneca out of Fort Lauderdale to the Bahamas and back for day trips.

What do you enjoy most about your airplane?

I mostly enjoy the ride. The wings on the newer models aren’t so rigid, so they act kind of like shock absorbers. It makes the ride more comfortable. Also, I wanted a pressurized, air-conditioned, turbocharged airplane without paying a fortune for it and that is the Cessna 414. Way back in the day I flew one for a charter company, so it is kind of coming full circle.

How long have we been maintaining your airplane and how did you find us?

It’s been about two years now. It was luck, really. A friend (another longtime customer of Double M) referred me to you. Now you can’t get rid of me. It took some work on your part, but I have never had a plane run this good.

Why do you fly? And do you have any future plans with the Cessna 414?

After my first piloting job flying day trips to the Bahamas, I made my way up the ladder to fly commercially. But I don’t really enjoy the business side of aviation. So I started a Part 135 and went back to flying to the Bahamas and circling the islands for day trips. I did that for about five years before deciding to sell.

More recently, I’ve been assisting with dog rescues by transporting dogs, over a thousand of them so far. And I use the plane to fly between Central Florida and my new house in North Carolina. But most of the time I fly just for giggles, it’s my best flying yet.

To learn more about our inspections and to schedule an aircraft inspection or maintenance, call us at 863-940-3450.

Don’t Buy Without A PPI

This may seem like common sense, but we’ll say it anyway.  Never purchase an aircraft without having a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) performed.  Would you purchase a car, or a home, without an inspection? We’d bet not.

At Double M Aviation, we specialize in aircraft inspections, as well as maintenance and repairs, and our aviation maintenance technicians perform PPIs on a regular basis. So what’s involved in performing a PPI?  

What is it?

A PPI is an inspection that consists of a comprehensive review of an aircraft’s airworthiness, first via paperwork items such as the logbooks, airworthiness directive compliance, and other important documents. Second, it delves into a visual inspection of the engine, airframe, and avionics for functionality and condition.

A quality PPI is critically important because it provides you with all the information you need in order to make a smart, informed decision on the purchase of an aircraft.  So what steps should you take to get the best, and most reliable, PPI? To answer that question, we will walk you through a typical PPI by referencing some common inspection items. Keep in mind that each aircraft is unique and each PPI is extensive. As such, please remember that the items referenced below may or may not be applicable to your specific aircraft. A quality shop will tailor the inspection specifically to you and your aircraft’s needs.

Quality Shop
It’s important to look for a credible shop with a solid reputation. Our team is not only a reliable resource for aviation maintenance, but proudly operates a center that provides superior service. We recommend checking out our Finding a Maintenance Facility page on our website for more information. 

First order of business — the paperwork check. 

Are you being provided the following?: 

  • Valid airworthiness certificate
  • Current registration
  • Weight and balance with a current equipment list
  • The Pilot’s Operating Handbook

Are they all in good order? A thorough inspection examines the airframe, engine, and propeller logbooks, documents pertaining to the aircraft’s maintenance history, airworthiness directive compliance, and looks closely at entries suggesting repairs due to a previous incident or accident. One final thing: a quick title search, just to ensure that there are no liens that may impact your financing or salability in the future.

The next part to a successful inspection is a little more physical. The technician will look at the engine and check for the following: 

  • Is it clean and dry?
  • Is the engine compartment spotless? (If so, this could mean that the engine was repainted for some reason).
  • Any fluid leaks or signs of fluid leaks?
  • Are the baffles misshapen or eroded? This could be a red flag that suggests improper engine cooling over an extended period.
  • Are there any signs of corrosion, leaks, worn gaskets, or loose connectors? This is critical. 

Lastly, your inspectors will administer a cylinder compression and battery check.

The next step in a proper PPI is to check out the empennage. Inspectors will observe multiple points throughout the empennage, including, but not limited to: the horizontal and vertical stabilizer attach points, elevator/stabilator hinges, the rudder trailing edge, and overall skin condition to note any minor dents or signs of damage or previous repairs. The condition of the paint is observed as well. Paint not only makes the airplane visually appealing, it plays a vital role in protecting your aircraft from corrosion and harmful UV rays. 

Wings, Ailerons, and Flaps
Are the leading edges of wings and trailing edges of ailerons and flaps in good order? Are there dings which will need repair in the future? Are there any wrinkles, warps, or chafing rivets? Particular attention will be paid to clean, freshly painted or waxed aircraft because it may be more of a challenge to spot any problem areas. Lastly, the underside of the wings near jack points should be inspected for dings, and the wingwalks or strut steps examined for dents, corrosion, and any worn-off rivet heads.

The fuselage, including doors, hinges, and latches, should be checked for proper functionality and free from rust or corrosion. Do the doors close easily and with a tight seal? The skin will be examined for wrinkles or warping, and the belly inspected for scrapes, dents, replacement panels, and patches that would indicate previous damage history. Any previous damage should have been properly repaired and recorded in the logbook entries. 

Landing Gear
Almost done! It’s time for inspection of the landing gear. Struts are checked for leaks and proper extension. What is the condition of the brake discs and rotors? Last but not least, how worn are the tires? You want to safely land an airplane on these tires, so don’t just kick them; get a professional to examine them thoroughly for wear, dry rot, and/or cracking. 

Cabin and Cockpit
The final phase of the PPI involves examination of the cabin and cockpit. Seats and seat backs, tracks, seat belts, and shoulder harnesses must all be examined for wear and tear. Was the interior recently replaced or should you be budgeting for new seats and carpet in the near future?  

Remember, a small investment of time and energy during a PPI could save you from surprise major expenses later, and can save you from operating an aircraft that is not airworthy. Remember, too, that there is no replacement for experience, and when it comes to maintaining and inspecting aircraft, you can be sure that at Double M, your aircraft is in the most capable hands.

To learn more about our inspections and to schedule an aircraft inspection or maintenance, call us at 863-940-3450.


The Nuts and Bolts of Annual Inspections

As an aircraft owner, you know how seriously the FAA takes airworthiness…and for good reason.  As summarized on the AOPA website, FAA regulation states, “The pilot in command of a civil aircraft is responsible for determining whether that aircraft is in condition for safe flight. The pilot in command shall discontinue the flight when unairworthy mechanical, electrical, or structural conditions occur.”

Scheduled Maintenance is Key
We believe that the key to keeping your aircraft airworthy, and “in condition for safe flight,” is proper, preventative maintenance.  And that preventative (scheduled) maintenance is the key to a no-surprises, low-cost annual inspection.  

Scheduled maintenance not only keeps your aircraft airworthy, but it also helps you better manage your maintenance and repair costs. If, for instance, you have a 10-year prop overhaul due, along with your 10-year fuel and replacement of oil hoses, you can time that work in such a way that it doesn’t fall at the same time as your magneto’s midlife inspection. At each annual completed by Double M, we provide you with an aircraft maintenance/inspection summary sheet, to aid in tracking and scheduling the timing of higher-cost services. Our technicians then review the sheet to help you determine a maintenance/service schedule that is right for you and your aircraft.

The Details
The annual inspections we perform at Double M Aviation are more detailed than your average 100-hour inspection. The annual does, however, include all of the inspections performed in the 100-hour, such as, review of all the aircraft logbooks, AD research, and testing and inspecting the engine, flight surfaces, fuselage, and landing gear. If obvious defects and/or problems are found during the annual inspection, they are noted so that they can be repaired, and the aircraft airworthiness can be restored.

What it all comes down to is the old saying, “time is money.” Every owner usually has these goals in mind: maintain their aircraft by the most cost-effective means possible, get the best, most reliable professionals to keep their aircraft safe, and of course, enjoy flying as often as possible!  Let our professionals at Double M work with you on your aircraft inspections and maintenance. 

There’s no replacement for experience, and when it comes to maintaining and inspecting aircraft, you can be sure that at Double M, your aircraft is in the most capable hands. 

To learn more about our inspections and to schedule an aircraft inspection or maintenance, call us at 863-940-3450.


ABS Discontinues Center of Excellence Program

Over the past five years, we have diligently worked to make aviation practical, accessible, and most importantly, safe for all of our customers. Our team is not only a reliable resource for aviation maintenance, but proudly operates a center that provides superior service.
Since 2017, our facility has been an American Bonanza Society (ABS) Center of Excellence — a full-time fixed base recognition that meets society-set standards for mechanic training, shop equipment, manuals and documents necessary to inspect and maintain Beechcraft aircraft, including Barons, Bonanzas, Debonairs and Travel Airs.

Although the ABS has discontinued its Center of Excellence classifications for aviation maintenance facilities, we will continue to uphold all standards, qualifications and components set by the Society.

Among those qualifications and standards, our facility:

  • Employs at least one full-time Aircraft Maintenance Technician (AMT) who have graduated from the ABS Maintenance Academy.
  • Maintains a list of local Certificated Flight Instructors (CFIs) accredited as instructors in ABS’ Beechcraft Pilot Proficiency Program.
  • Ensures the facility is staffed with personnel who have superior Bonanza-Baron knowledge and experience and provide reliable, high-quality service to a substantial Bonanza-Baron customer-base.

Moving forward, we will continue to strive for and accomplish the best in aircraft care with quality workmanship, despite the discontinuation of the ABS Centers of Excellence.

Double M is dedicated to offering reliable work backed by a guarantee of maintaining your aircraft to the highest standards. There’s no replacement for experience, and when it comes to Beechcraft maintenance, we have the necessary experience to ensure your aircraft is in the best hands.

Any aviation repair and maintenance facility should have a certain set of criteria on which they base their work.

Among our services and benefits, we offer:

  • A facility located in a safe, general aviation-friendly airport.
  • An active continuing education and training program for our technicians.
  • A significant vendor list for aircraft parts, accessory overhaul, paint, avionics, and others.
  • One or more highly-rated and qualified pilots on staff to perform pre- and post-maintenance test flights.
  • Necessary shop equipment and tools as defined in an American Bonanza Society minimum equipment list.

In addition to inspecting and maintaining Barons and Bonanzas, our technicians perform 50-hour, 100-hour, progressive and annual inspections on many types of single and multi-engine general aviation aircraft. Those include piston and turbine-engine aircraft (Beechcraft, Cessna, Piper, Mooney and many others).



Reaching for the Sky: A recap of SUN ‘n FUN 2019

For the past three years, Double M Aviation has helped high school and college students interested in aviation reach for the sky – literally.

This year was no different as Double M helped goals and dreams take off through its annual hangar party and raffle held during the SUN ‘n FUN International Expo & Fly-In. The fly-in is one of the world’s largest aviation events, bringing aviation to the general public while simultaneously raising funds for the Aerospace Center for Excellence.

During its 2019 hangar party & raffle, Double M Aviation raised $7,100, nearly $6,000 more than was raised last year. One hundred percent of the funds raised during the event go directly to the Lakeland Aero Club, a nonprofit high school flying organization that teaches students how to fly and restore antique airplanes.

“We are proud to support the Aero Club because it gives the younger generations a chance for hands-on experience in the aviation maintenance and pilot fields. It’s important to us to bring the next generation into aviation,” said Audrey Baxcajay, who has worked for Double M Aviation since 2015.

This year’s hangar party boasted an attendance of more than 300 people, including customers, vendors, and friends and family of Double M Aviation staff. In addition, representatives from local companies such as Sheltair Aviation – Lakeland and Mohawk Brand Agency were at the event to lend their support.

“It’s a big event for them and I’ll support them however I can,” said Austin Beyke, owner of Mohawk Brand Agency. “I also contribute in-kind sponsorship for some of the hangar party items for the auction, and I am honored to have the opportunity to give back.”

It’s all part of keeping the Lakeland Aero Club relevant, functioning and mostly, fun. The club was founded in 2010 by James Ray and became active in 2012 as an after-school activity. It is open for ages 14 to 24 and there are currently about 65 active members.

The Lakeland Aero Club has used the funds to support field trips to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for the annual EAA AirVenture Conference, and for tools and supplies for servicing the club’s Piper Cub and other various airplanes the club members maintain, said Baxcajay. For 2019, the club also plans to build a Zenith 750 Cruzer in support of Able Flight.  

The club is housed in a 12,500-square-foot hangar-clubhouse next to a runway at SUN ‘n FUN. It currently has three flying airplanes, five project airplanes, and a full motion flight simulator in which young pilots have logged more than 1,200 flight hours. “We’re grateful to have the chance to help the future success of the Lakeland Aero Club,” said Baxcajay. “We want to see it continue to grow and thrive.”

To see more photos, please take a look at our photo gallery below: 

When Mandatory Service Bulletins aren’t Mandatory

Pilot vs. Maintenance Technician: Licenses and Ratings

Understanding Scheduled and Unscheduled Aircraft Maintenance

All aircraft need periodic inspections and maintenance in order to ensure they are airworthy and safe to fly. Some of that maintenance is pre-scheduled and known to both the pilot and aircraft technician. Other types of maintenance are sudden and unscheduled, which can be due to problems found by the pilot or by the A&P performing an inspection. For pilots and aircraft owners, it is important to understand the differences between scheduled and unscheduled aircraft maintenance.

Understanding Scheduled Aircraft Maintenance

Scheduled aircraft maintenance is preventative maintenance that is performed at regular intervals. This type of maintenance generally includes 100-hour inspections, annual inspections, and progressive inspections as well as preflight checks to ensure the aircraft is airworthy and ready to be flown.

1. Preflight Checks

Every pilot is required to perform certain preflight checks in order to make sure the aircraft is ready to be flown and that there are no obvious defects or malfunctions. When a pilot or student pilot performs a preflight check, he or she must use a checklist in order to ensure nothing is forgotten. Preflight checks include walking around the aircraft and inspecting all the major components of the fuselage and flight control surfaces for defects, wear and tear, and other deformities that may impede the safety of the flight. The cockpit, cabin, avionics, and battery are also checked and tested for proper operation and function prior to the flight. If any abnormalities are found, the pilot does not depart and instead contacts a maintenance technician for repairs.

2. 50 and 100 Hour Inspections

Aircraft that are flown for hire or for flight instruction are required to have 50-hour checks and 100-hour inspections. It’s important to understand that the 50-hour inspection isn’t FAA mandated. However, aircraft owners should still consider it due to the fact that the oil must be changed every 50 hours. In addition to changing the oil, the 50-hour inspection may also include examining, cleaning and gapping the spark plugs and checking the engine for wear and tear. If any excessive wear and tear or problems are found, those components are replaced in order to maintain the aircraft’s airworthiness. This is also a good time to address any problems or minor maintenance issues noticed by the owner or pilot of the aircraft.

100-hour inspections are required by the FAA, and those regulations can be found under FAR 91.409b. During a 100-hour inspection, all inspection plates, access doors, cowlings and fairings are removed, and all of the major components of the aircraft are inspected. This typically includes the fabric and skin of the fuselage, the windows, cabin and cargo doors and the flight control surfaces as well as the tires, brakes, struts and landing gear.

Inside the aircraft, the cabin and cockpit are inspected for any potential issues such as loose controls and objects and seat and seat belts malfunctions. The avionics, yoke, fuel switches, flight controls and battery are also inspected and tested. The engine and engine area are also inspected and routine maintenance is performed, such as cleaning the spark plugs and changing the oil. If defect or damage is found, repairs are made to ensure the aircraft remains airworthy in accordance with all applicable FAA regulations.

3. Annual Inspections

Annual inspections are performed once every 12 calendar months and are required for all aircraft, regardless of whether they are used for hire, flight instruction or for recreational use. FAR 91.409a sets up the requirement for an Annual Inspection while FAR 43 Appendix D outlines the detail and scope of the inspection itself.

Annual inspections are typically more detailed than 100-hour inspections. The annual commonly includes all of the inspections performed in the 100-hour, such as, review of all the aircraft logbooks and testing and inspecting the engine, flight surfaces, flight controls and avionics. If obvious defects and/or problems are found during the annual inspection, they are noted so that they can be repaired and the aircraft airworthiness restored.

4. Progressive Inspections

Progressive inspections are also known as phase inspections, and they are typically utilized when an aircraft can’t afford to spend a lot of time in the maintenance hangar due to its flight schedule. These inspections also occur at regular intervals. For example, a progressive inspection may be performed every 25 or 50 hours. During each inspection, certain components of the aircraft are examined and tested for proper operation. The inspections are also performed in an organized manner so that all of the requirements for 100-hour and annual inspections are completed on-time.

Understanding Unscheduled Aircraft Maintenance

Unscheduled aircraft maintenance occurs anytime a component has malfunctioned or is suspected of malfunctioning, and by definition, this maintenance is unforeseen. It can occur after the pilot finds a problem during the preflight inspection, as the result of an in-flight malfunction, or as the result of problems found during 100-hour, annual, and progressive inspections.

Examples of unscheduled maintenance could be anything from a worn tire, low landing gear strut, or sheared vacuum pump to in-flight issues such as a rough running engine or high magneto drop during run-up. Upon discovery, the pilot would report the problem to the A&P technician and fill out a maintenance request. At this point, the aircraft would be grounded until the problems are repaired and the aircraft is deemed to be airworthy by the technician.

Getting Your Scheduled and Unscheduled Maintenance Performed at Double M Aviation

Our A&Ps at Double M Aviation in Lakeland can perform all of your scheduled and unscheduled maintenance in a timely and affordable manner. We offer 50-hour, 100-hour, annual, and progressive inspections as well as efficient responses to all unscheduled maintenance. Every aircraft is personally flown by our IA after each scheduled inspection so you can be confident that your aircraft is airworthy and ready for your next flight.

To learn more about our inspections and to schedule an aircraft inspection or maintenance, call us at 863-940-3450.

Aircraft Categories and Classes Explained

One of the most common questions in the aviation community, especially for beginning pilots and mechanics is: What are the aircraft categories and classifications? According to the FAA, an aircraft category refers to the “intended use or operating limits” of a particular group of aircraft. The classification of the aircraft refers to a group of aircraft with the same types of characteristics. However, the class and category is dependent on whether you are talking about pilot certificate ratings or aircraft categories and classes.

Aircraft Categories

Aircraft categories are different depending on whether you are talking about the aircraft or the pilot’s certificate.

Pilot Certificate Categories

  • Airplane – Engine-driven, fixed-wing aircraft
  • Lighter-Than-Air – Aircraft that uses a gas that is lighter than air in order to rise and remain in the air.
  • Powered Parachute – A powered type of aircraft that has a flexible wing, frame and wheels. The wing is not in the proper position or ready to provide lift until the aircraft is moving.
  • Rotorcraft – Flight is maintained by one or more spinning rotors.
  • Weight-Shift-Control – Also known as a hang glider. This aircraft contains a motor but is only directionally controlled by changes in the center of gravity rather than by control surfaces.

CFR 14 Aircraft Categories

When we talk about aircraft categories in relation to the size and maneuverability of the aircraft, we are talking about the categories as they are listed under CFR 14.

  • Acrobatic – These airplanes have no flight maneuver restrictions other than limitations posed by certain flight tests. They have a maximum of nine seats, not including pilot seats and that weigh no more than 12,500 pounds.
  • Commuter – defined as a multi-engine, propeller-driven aircraft with 19 or fewer passenger seats and weighing less than 19,000 pounds.
  • Experimental – Issued under a special airworthiness certificate. These aircraft are typically used for research and development, crew training, exhibition, air racing and market surveys. They can also include amateur-built or kit-built aircraft, and they can be light sport or unmanned aircraft.
  • Light Sport (LSA) – Operates under a special airworthiness certificate. This is any sport aircraft that does not fall under the designations of kit-built, gyro-plane or transitioning ultralight.
  • Limited – reserved for military aircraft that have been converted and/or modified for civilian use.
  • Normal – Aircraft contains nine or fewer seats and has a maximum takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds or less. Not approved for acrobatic flight.
  • Primary – These aircraft have special airworthiness certificates, and they are manufactured in accordance with a production certificate.
  • Restricted – Aircraft designed for a specific use, such as agriculture, forest services, aerial surveying and weather control.
  • Transport – More than 10 seats weighing more than 12,500 if jet engine. If piston-engine, greater than 19 seats and a maximum takeoff weight of more than 19,000 pounds.
  • Utility – Contains nine seats or less not including pilots and has a maximum takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds or less. These airplanes are approved for limited aerobatics.

Aircraft Classifications

When we talk about aircraft classifications, we are talking about groups of aircraft that have similar flying characteristics when it comes to their propulsion, in-flight handling, and the way they land. Classifications also correspond closer to the airman certificate categories than they do the aircraft categories.

  • Airplane – Single-engine land or sea or multi-engine land or sea
  • Rotorcraft – helicopter or gyroplane
  • Lighter-Than-Air – balloons or airships
  • Powered Parachutes – land or sea
  • Weight-Shift-Control- land or sea

Maintenance for Your Single-Engine or Multi-Engine Fixed-Wing Aircraft

Double M Aviation is your Lakeland headquarters for aircraft maintenance. Our A&Ps are experienced and knowledgeable when it comes to inspecting, repairing, and maintaining acrobatic, utility, commuter, and normal single-engine and multi-engine piston, turbine and turboprop airplanes weighing less than 12,500 pounds. We offer piston and turboprop engine repair, airframe inspections, propeller balancing, exterior painting, and interior upgrades, all types of inspections, and certified weighing.

To get your aircraft maintenance and upgrades performed in a timely manner, call us at 863-940-3450.

The Pilots and Planes of Double M Aviation: Piper Arrow

The Pilots and Planes of Double M AviationAt Double M, we truly enjoy hearing from our customers about what makes general aviation special to them. So we sat down with Jeff Hibbard, the owner and pilot of a Piper PA28R-200 we have maintained since 2016, to talk about his start in aviation and what makes owning this beautiful Piper Arrow so great.

The Piper Arrow–A General Aviation favorite


How did you get into aviation?

I’ve been into aviation as long as I can remember. I think the real genesis was my dad would take us out to the airport to watch the airplanes fly in and listen to the radios. That was our entertainment. I always knew since I was a young kid I wanted to be a pilot.

Why do you fly now? Is it more work or recreational?

A mixture of both. I do fly a lot for recreation, like sight-seeing. And I fly for business meetings up in Virginia. It’s a great way to avoid the hassle of commercial airliners. I also volunteer for Pilots N Paws to help bring animals from over-filled shelters to rescues in other areas. ((To read more about Jeff’s volunteer work with Pilots N Paws –and for adorable puppy pictures– check out our previous blog post.))

What do you enjoy most about YOUR airplane?

That it’s mine! I enjoy the freedom it allows me. I wanted an intermediate plane as my first, and the Arrow fits that niche of speed, performance, and complexity for me. It’s been a great fit for my needs. I had previously rented and had to book way in advance, you don’t know the maintenance and what has been done to the airplane. It just wasn’t convenient.

How long have we been maintaining your airplane?

Side view of Piper Arrow

Since I bought it, actually. March 2016. I found you guys when I saw this beautiful red Arrow and noticed the Double M maintenance sticker. I spoke with Audrey and she had such a great attitude, I was convinced. Then Mike came out with me to pick it up from Zephyrhills and bring it back here to Lakeland for the annual. It was that extra service that made me sure I wanted my maintenance done here.

What are you up to now with the Arrow? Any future plans?

Right now we are doing the annual and putting in all new windows, a new ELT emergency beacon, and a new wing walk. We’re also changing out some structural hinges, worn components, some small stuff like that. And in two weeks, I am taking a business trip to Norfolk that will segue into a pleasure trip up to Little Rock, Arkansas. I’m looking forward to that.

Piper Arrow in front of Double M Aviation hangar

Want to see your aircraft featured by Double M Aviation?
Contact Justine and Audrey at 863-940-3450!