Annual inspections of general aviation aircraft are required under Part 91 of the FARs for continued airworthiness and are performed by A&Ps who are generalists in the trade. A typical mechanic at your local airfield works on many different makes and models of aircraft. While they are well versed, they may not be the foremost experts in your particular aircraft.
This past weekend, I flew the A36 down to Palm Beach to take part in an ABS Service Clinic. The Bonanza/Debonair/Baron/Travel Air Service Clinic Program was established by the American Bonanza Society in 1977 to assist Beechcraft owners in understanding their aircraft and its required maintenance. Throughout the year, the Society holds these maintenance service clinics at various airports around the country. Proper maintenance is why many of these aircraft are still flying 50 years or more after leaving the factory.
The ABS Service Clinic is not an annual inspection, but it is a good idea to attend one just before an upcoming annual for your aircraft. My A&P appreciates an independent set of eyes looking over the plane, and he is free to address any discrepancies found.
An ABS Clinic is a unique opportunity for a Beechcraft technical expert to perform a comprehensive and detailed visual inspection of your Beech product, with you in tow. The process takes nearly an hour and a half for each aircraft. These clinics are a cost-effective way to learn about your Beech, accompanied by someone who knows every bolt, nut and washer by its unique part number. The Techs have seen thousands of aircraft over their careers, and know exactly where to look for any maintenance issues. Commonly found discrepancies are things like worn bushings, improperly installed ailerons, incorrect attachment hardware, poor landing gear or flight control rigging, and failing exhaust systems.
Clinics start on a Thursday morning and run through Sunday afternoon, all by appointment. These clinics are very popular with Beech owners and operators. Usually they are booked up months in advance, with weekend appointments going first.
This year I attended the ABS Clinic in South Florida. The clinic was hosted by Jim and Reese Leach, owners of Windward Aviation, a Beech specialty shop at KLNA. The Leachs have been hosting these clinics for over a decade.
The Technical Advisor for the ABS Clinic was Bob Ripley. Mr. Ripley has 40 years of aviation maintenance expertise, and travelled from Atlanta to inspect close to 30 aircraft over 4 days.
Also at the clinic was a Technical Rep from Teledyne Continental Motors, the aircraft engine manufacturer, from Fairhope, Alabama. The TCM Tech performed cylinder compression checks, using an approved master orifice device, on all engines. He also boroscoped the cylinders and visually inspected each engine compartment thoroughly, including hoses, belts and accessories. On completion of his inspection, the Tech provided participants with a 3 page computer printout rating the condition of the cylinders, oil cooler, induction systems, exhaust system, mags and ignition harnesses.
As you can see from the photos below, the clinics are run in an efficient, assembly line fashion. Each aircraft is opened up in preparation for its inspection. Then, technical advisors move from aircraft to aircraft, pointing out any squawks and sharing knowledge on preventative maintenance. The owners follow the techs around and under the aircraft, furiously taking detailed notes on a clipboard.
Fortunately for me, the inspection of 85 Kilo found just a few items that will be corrected at the next annual. There are some worn rod ends on the nose gear doors needing replacement, some clamps on the exhaust system need tightening, an engine baffle needs repair, and gear uplock springs are ready for replacement.
Over the 4 day clinic, there were two aircraft that were wisely grounded by their owners as a result of some airworthiness items found on their inspection. These items will be addressed by Windward technicians at a future date.
If you own a Beechcraft, you owe it to yourself to take your plane to one of these clinics. You will find that it will be the best $225 ($275 for a twin) investment you can make to correct existing and prevent future maintenance issues. It will also validate the quality of service you are receiving from your current shop.
If you attend one of these clinics and address any discrepancies found, you can fly with a high degree of confidence that your aircraft is performing exactly as it was designed by the manufacturer.