A clean aircraft definitely looks better and may even fly better, but when it comes to more detailed maintenance there are strict limits on how much you can do for yourself
Let’s face it, owning or part-owning an aircraft can be costly, so if you are willing to do some of the maintenance work yourself that can save some money — although some pilots may be uncomfortable with this. Those flying LAA Permit aircraft may carry out the fifty-hour LAMS checks unsupervised, and even operators of C of A aircraft can do some maintenance. In both cases, pilots and operators are permitted to do almost anything providing that it’s supervised by a licensed engineer or LAA Inspector. Often, an inspection after unsupervised maintenance prior to flight is also deemed sufficient.
However much you are prepared to do, it’s best to use professional tools from a specialist organisation. Basics would be a socket set, various sizes/types of screwdriver, a torch and an inspection mirror. Then a foot pump, or maybe a compressor to check your tyre inflation, a good battery charger, and a step or folding stepladder is useful when refuelling or checking fuel content on a high-wing aircraft away from home, as are portable chocks. If your aircraft lives outside, then a tailored cover can protect it. When cleaning your aeroplane, choose cleaning materials specially designed for aircraft, which are guaranteed safe and effective: supermarket options can be a false economy. A good anti-corrosion spray is a sound investment. Keep spare oil in the back of the aircraft — don’t forget to replace it —and a funnel, although many types now come with plastic gloves and paper funnel. Paper towel can help mop up any spillage but use only your bare hand or a microfibre cloth to clean the windscreen — and be sure any cleaning product is suitable as the wrong stuff can make it brittle, or fog Perspex/ polycarbonate.
You may need tools to drain and examine fuel from the tanks pre-flight and, on a farm strip, you may also need to bring your own fuel, so some Jerry cans are a good idea, but don’t forget a filtered funnel. Fire extinguishers are now required in the aircraft as are first-aid kits but keeping larger versions of both to hand is also sensible.
For DIY maintenance a good quality socket set is essential