Progressive inspections, also called phase inspections, can be used in place of annual inspections for certain categories of aircraft which have high usage levels. This includes aircraft at flight schools, those in corporate flight departments, or those controlled by fixed-base operators. These short, frequent inspections break up the cost of a larger annual inspection and minimize aircraft downtime. Progressive inspections must collectively examine an aircraft over every 12-month period in the same way an annual inspection would.
To get a progressive inspection, pilots must first apply to their local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) with the appropriate documentation and a maintenance plan ready. Pilots may define their own maintenance schedule with progressive inspections as long as the schedule meets manufacturer standards and FAA regulations. Since checks of aircraft components happen at fixed intervals in a progressive inspection, pilots must plan carefully to ensure that they do not miss anything. If an aircraft currently under a progressive maintenance plan is sold, the new owner must go through their own progressive inspection plan application process. This new plan must be endorsed by the FSDO no later than one year after the previous owner’s maintenance cycle is complete.
The content of a single progressive inspection can vary widely, depending on the scheduling preferences of an aircraft’s owner. If a sequence of progressive inspections over the course of 12 months does not result in a complete inspection of the aircraft, there may be legal consequences, as with other inspections.
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