Maintenance is probably one of the most forgotten and underrated aviation actions within all of the aerospace industry. Many people simply take for granted that the aircraft is safe. Any aircraft is only as safe as its last successful landing. This means there may be items lost, broken, corroded, chaffing or cracking that you may not be aware of as the pilot. How detailed, I mean how closely, did you look at the aircraft at the post flight inspection? Was there any fluid leakage? Were all the lights functional or did one burn out or break? It is auwful difficult to check rudder cables from the pilots station.
I know you want me off your back- you built the damn thing after all. I just can't do that, for your safety and the safety of others. Parts wear out and at times break or fail completely and the only way to keep the gyroplane as safe as possible is to be aggressive in your maintenance program. Replacing time change components, performing regular lubrication and inspections and preventive maintenance can greatly reduce your odds of becoming a statistic.
I'm gonna give a simple example on maintenance attitude. One of the leading causes of incidents with homebuilt aircraft is a fuel system problem, be it in or out of the test flight period. Remember that little fuel filter you installed? When was the last time you cleaned, replaced or inspected it? Gyroplane fuel tanks are typically plastic, metal or fiberglass, all material that can clog the fuel filter. Fine particulates regularly get trapped by this filter but even more so in a new tank as the manufacturer cannot get all the debris out of the tank during manufacturing. I recommend cleaning or replacing the fuel filter at regular intervals through the break- in and test flight phase. This includes inspecting the old filter by tearing it apart and looking for contaminates with a high powered magnifying glass. Upon completion of the test program, replace or clean the fuel filter; if no visible contaminates are found the normally scheduled replacement or cleaning time can be resumed.
Is this not a simple and safe maintenance action? How many of you out there even thought about checking that little filter? Don't worry you are not alone, it is simply the difference of putting on your maintenance cap just like you had to put on a builder and test pilot cap.
Get over any machoism about maintaining your gyroplane, they all need it and someone has to do it to stay safe. Adressing faults quickly will reduce further wear and tear and may save you from more costly parts or repairs in the bigger picture of things. A well maintained aircraft will also be more readily available for flight than one that is "patched" together to "get you by". Get by what? A trip to the hospital or morgue? By agressively performing maintenance actions to keep your ship safe it will not only perform as expected but will continue to look like it did when you first rolled it out.
There are plenty of resources on aircraft maintenance available to help you. Unfortunately aircraft maintenance requires a certain mindset that is normally opposite of what the builder or pilot mindset may be. A maintenance mindset requires you to think, "what is wrong today" and then find "it". The repair, troubleshooting or replacement most people can perform. Maintenance really does require a different cap- a different passion that you will have to hone to stay safe and fun.
For those who are familiar with vehicle maintenance but not aircraft maintenance or if you are one who is all thumbs when it comes to maintenance issues, I have some good news. There actually exists a gyroplane maintenance school. They have several different gyroplanes to learn on. The course is FAA approved and not very long or expensive. I highly recommend that you at least check them out; the name of the company is Fun Air LLC, the course is sixteen hours long so can be completed in a weekend. Upon completion the student will recieve a graduation certificate and completed airman rating application(FAA Form 8610-2) to submit to your local FSDO to recieve your repairman certificate. The course also meets the requirements for the repairman light sport aircraft rating for gyroplanes (CFR part 65.107). Fun Air LLC can be reached by phone at: 405-808-7116.
Just as flight training is critically required for safe flight so is maintenance training to ensure an airworthy aircraft.
If you are trained or have a background in aircraft maintenance seek out assistance from an A&P,IA or EAA Technical Counslor or the kit manufacturer if you are unsure of something. Doing nothing is not a proactive solution to fixing a problem. Remember a problem on the ground will only get worse in the air. Never fly a gyroplane in an unsafe condition. It is better to ground the ship until the issue can be resolved, be it part availability, repair, or monetary, than to fly with a known safety of flight condition.
The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) conducts workshops on various topics ranging from welding to test flying. All course materials and supplies are included with the cost of the course. To see what courses are available and when got to www.sportair.com.
Now that you are a builder, mechanic, test pilot, pilot, inspector and gyroplane historian what else is there to possibly be passionate about gyroplanes. The people. Gyronauts are all a rather adventurous group of people and share the same passion. It is high time to meet some of these people and let them see your project and go do some flying together.
See Gyro Organizations.
Fun Air LLC.
Additional Gyroplane Maintenance Topics
Aviation Maintenance Safety Methods
Gyroplane Maintenance Reference Material