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Using a company to service a homebuilt aircraft

How many homebuilders (who have actually built the aircraft) use a maintenance company to service it, and what would be the likely reasons for doing so?

I am thinking of an aircraft which is not at the bottom end of the homebuild spectrum; e.g. an RV.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Peter, I can only answer this one for the US, within my experience, for what that’s worth. No RV owner I’ve ever seen would use a maintenance company, including those owners who didn’t build the plane originally and therefore need an non-IA A&P sign off for FAA annual inspections (and not for other maintenance). That situation is is the one in which I could imagine a maintenance company being used, perhaps because for some reason like a house move, followed unfamiliarity with the local scene, the non-building RV owner finds himself temporarily without an A&P contact.

At work we (a Part 145 Maintenance Company) maintain a Pitts S-2AE, an RV-6, an RV-8, an RV-10 and a Permit to Fly (ie kit built) Tecnam P2002EA for their non-building owners and a Glasair III for an owner who did build it.

Certified aircraft (35+) maintained range from a Chipmunk through various Cessnas and Pipers up to C414, 421s and a 425.

I look after a Pitts S-2B and once had a RV-6 in maintenance that was owned by a non-builder.

I would think that most shops would shy away given the high accident rate and liability concerns in this category.


How would the shop decide what should be done?

Legally, the owner can tell the shop to do as much or as little as he wishes, presumably?

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom
How would the shop decide what should be done?

They can’t decide anything. The original builder has to create the maintenance program which has to be approved by the CAA. Any additional owners further down the road also has to follow that program, until some major modification is done which warrant changes in the program, and new approval. I have never heard one would need a maintenance shop to do maintenance on a homebuilt though, even a current glider technician can do that (if he has relevant engine experience). In Norway the regulation say that a certified shop, a certified mechanic/technician or any other with approval from the CAA can do maintenance on a homebuilt (but also any other Annex II, warbird etc that is in private use). In practice this means mechanic/technician as the default, and the builder of a homebuilt (with some appropriate training).

The regulations are rather fuzzy and leaves too much decisive power too the individual CAA official, and this has caused lots of problem for those who have been unlucky with the official handling their case. This was to be sorted out already with new and better regulations, but was postponed to spring 2015, but that’s another story.

In practice, the only thing one would “need” help for, is the engine and any IFR avionics. Most homebuilders don’t feel any urge to fiddle too much with the engine in any case, so the normal thing to do is to install a Lycoming and get the help needed for larger maintenance from a local technician, even if they legally can do it themselves. For “non-standard” engines, like my homebuilt VW, I will have to do all the maintenance myself, but I am not sure how this is to be done if I sell my plane. A car mechanic with VW experience isn’t hard to find, but he has to be approved by the CAA. But those crazy people installing modern car engines from this century, how are they going to do any sort of meaningful maintenance except changing oil?

I would think that most shops would shy away given the high accident rate and liability concerns in this category.

Yes. I know several mechanics who have said they would never touch an experimental based on such myths. Others have no such problems.


Home built aircraft are usualy very good or very bad, the very good ones are unlikely to see professional maintenance because the owners work to a very high standard.

The bad ones you don’t let through the hangar door for fear of what you might find, the owners also tend to be very reluctant to pay their bills and are the types who will question the need for each solit rivet you use. Taking on one of these jobs is the way to loose money.

Repair jobs are OK but you some times find things that are not good, a strobe line routed through a fuel tank inside a piece of garden hose I think is the worst thing I have found !

The 145 shop has to have Annex II in the content to be able to sign off the annual. The AM can sign the annual on his on license. The so called 66L(light) exp mechanic is also able to do the same for any exp AC. The builder/owner has to do everything himself to be able to sign. The second owner has to get the throgh knowledge of his exp by veryfying that the plane confirms to drawings and building instructions and clarify all possible excisting modifications with help of his appr. Supervisor.
The annual instructions are CAA approved and done by builder, modified by owner.
Here on Finland we have rather practical system conserning the exp AC maintenance even minor repairs and modifications don’t need CAA approval and major’s only the appr supervisor.


How many homebuilders (who have actually built the aircraft) use a maintenance company to service it, and what would be the likely reasons for doing so?

Come to think of it. I now one guy with an RV-8 doing exactly that. The thing is, he owns the company himself (and 20+ helicopters) The head of maintenance is my inspector on my Onex and RV-4


The sort of thing I was getting at is that if the builder uses a company to even change the oil (an actual case I know of) one or more of the following is likely to be true

  • he never built it (and doesn’t know where the oil goes in and where it comes out)
  • he has long ago abandoned it and just does the minimum, while trying to sell it
  • he has lots of money and doesn’t want to get this hands dirty anymore
  • he flies it so much that he doesn’t have time to change the oil
  • the logbook entries (showing the servicing) are false
  • he owns the company

Obviously a non-builder is very likely to use a company. I know one guy who has 2 or 3 homebuilts, a very significantly surgically enhanced wife, 2 supercars, and the biggest pilot watch there is, and sure enough he won’t do the servicing, but I can understand that

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom
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