Aircraft maintenance checks are periodic inspections that every commercial and civil aircraft must go through after a certain number of flying hours or length of time of use. Military aircraft go through different sets of checks, but their maintenance programs are just as stringent.
The aviation industry is extremely regulated, and commercial operators must comply with the continuous inspection programs established by the aviation authorities of different countries. The Federal Aviation Administration of the United States, Transport Canada, and the European Aviation Safety Agency are several of these regulators. Each operator must establish a CAMP, or Continuous Airworthiness Maintenance Program, which includes routine and detailed inspections of air assets.
Commercial operators, airworthiness authorities, and MRO (maintenance, repair, overhaul) providers call detailed inspections “checks.” A and B checks are relatively minor, while C and D checks are more exhaustive. Aircraft operators can conduct lighter checks at their own facilities, but heavier checks must be performed by a certified MRO company.
A checks are performed every 400-600 flight hours, or 200-300 cycles (a cycle is one takeoff and landing). A checks last roughly 50-70 man hours and require an aircraft to remain on the ground for at least ten hours depending on the condition of the aircraft.
B checks, meanwhile, are performed every six to eight months and require 160-180 man-hours, depending on the aircraft type and condition. These checks often take one to three days.
C checks are performed every 20-24 months, or after a number of aircraft manufacturer defined flight hours. C checks are more extensive than A and B checks, and involve inspecting a large number of components. A C check will require an aircraft to stay in the maintenance site for at least two weeks, and will take up to 6,000 man-hours of work to finish.
D checks are the most comprehensive, invasive, and time-consuming check. Also called a heavy maintenance visit, D checks are performed roughly every six to ten years, and go as far as taking the entire aircraft apart for inspection and repair. A D check can take up to two months, require 50,000 man hours of work, and cost one million dollars to complete. Most operators will choose to retire their aircraft after two or three D checks rather than go through another, as the cost of repair will actually exceed the value of the aircraft.
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