Training Tip: The fix is in

Those hot- and cold-running responses probably reflect experience. Aircraft A may have proved its reliability under trying circumstances, or just feels good to fly. Aircraft B tends toward the temperamental and frequently finds itself on the repair shop’s “squawk sheet,” making the relationship complicated.

If you admire your trainer’s smooth-running engine, sweetly harmonized controls, and the confidence flying it gives you, send some love to the aircraft maintenance crew at your FBO, flying club, or flight school.

Typically, people who fly training aircraft and those who keep trainers flying remain mutually anonymous. If a trainer needs downtime, students usually get the word from their instructor that the aircraft will be out for new avionics, for an annual or 100-hour inspection, or to have an airworthiness directive resolved. Then you wait for the magic moment when your flying can resume.

Perhaps you have felt temptation to visit your aircraft in sick bay—but it looked like a pretty serious operation going on in there, with tools and parts spread around, maybe even with the aircraft up on jacks as mechanics labored. You were not sure it was a good time to walk over and introduce yourself.

Crossing that threshold (if permitted) is worth a try. The worst that can happen is that the mechanics tell you that now is not a good time to chat; otherwise, you might learn a lot. You may even discover on breaking the ice that the mechanic flies the aircraft you fly as a pilot or a student pilot like you.

A student pilot interested in a more formal introduction to aviation’s maintenance side may find other opportunities available. Mechanics are favorite ground-school guests for question-and-answer sessions. Some flying clubs delegate a member to act as maintenance officer. This individual serves as a liaison between the club and the repair shop, coordinating inspections, repairs, and equipment upgrades, and reporting back to the membership at club meetings. This job may involve researching maintenance issues—as 2020 approached, a big issue was how to address the ADS-B mandate—and making recommendations.

If the club maintenance officer’s post is vacant, consider taking it on. It will be time well spent in service to your aviation community and possibly a great first step toward becoming a future aircraft owner.

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