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Home > Blog > Light Aircraft Maintenance

Light Aircraft Maintenance 101: Essential Tips and Tricks

Posted 02 May 2023

Light Aircraft Maintenance

Light aircraft are simpler in the context of their design and engine layout which makes it easier to diagnose and fix issues before taking flight. In this guide, we will discuss all the essential tips and tricks for maintaining a light aircraft.

Many people think that learning to fly is all about getting into a plane and soaring through the skies – and while aviation is all about flying, pilots must also learn the essentials for aircraft maintenance.

Large aircraft are usually maintained by a huge panel of experts and engineers that meticulously check every corner of the aircraft to ensure that it is safe to fly but in the case of smaller and lighter aircraft, maintenance can also be handled by pilots.

Light aircraft are simpler in the context of their design and engine layout which makes it easier to diagnose and fix issues before taking flight. In this guide, we will discuss all the essential tips and tricks for maintaining a light aircraft.

What are Light Aircraft?

Light aircraft are compact flying machines that are usually flown by private pilots, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. These types of aircraft have a much simpler design and usually have a single engine that powers a propellor at the front or back.

Unlike large commercial planes that have high-powered and complex twin engines, light aircraft are built for up to 2-6 people and weigh a lot less, around 7500 kgs compared to 40,000 kgs!

The benefit of light aircraft is that they are nimble, easy to operate, and a great way to learn how to fly. Every pilot that enrols in a flight programme will start with a light aircraft and then move up to a more complex aircraft.

This is done so that the candidate can acclimate to the principles of flight with each type of aircraft. There are several types of light aircraft too! The most common type of light aircraft are called fixed-wing and flex-wing aircraft.

Fixed-wing aircraft are designed as miniature versions of larger aircraft, meaning that you get almost the same level of control and feel but without the additional weight, size, and power.

Furthermore, fixed-wing aircraft also have way more simple controls compared to commercial aircraft. The control cluster on light aircraft mostly focuses on the various components of the aircraft and their status.

For example, things like airspeed, altitude, fuel level, warnings, engine status, gear status, and other gauges are used to show the overall “health” of the aircraft. If the aircraft does run into problems, then the pilot can quickly take corrective measures and avoid danger.

Flex-wing aircraft, on the other hand, are even simpler than fixed-wing aircraft. Instead of having a fixed-wing system, these flex-wings have wings made from a special fabric. The reason why they are made from flexible fabric is to bring down the cost, increase stability, decrease size, and improve fuel efficiency.

Of course, there are plenty of disadvantages of flex-wings too but, by large, these aircraft provide a far superior flying experience compared to other light aircraft and are even the go-to choice for many pilots who want to learn how to fly.

Importance of Light Aircraft Maintenance

If you are starting your aviation journey, then you will likely be directed towards fixed or flex-wing aircraft. In most cases, private pilots or people who just want to fly for the thrill will be given the option to start with a flex-wing aircraft.

Remember how fixed-wing aircraft have a somewhat complex and thorough set of gauges to help pilots understand the overall health of the aircraft? Well, flex-wing aircraft will usually only have a couple of these gauges – and some models may only come with a fuel meter.

For example, trike-style light aircraft usually have a flex-wing and the dashboard only shows basic information relating to the fuel and altitude. Some may even include an old-school compass but that is all you are going to get!

This is where the importance of maintenance comes in.

Maintaining Fixed and Flex-wing Light Aircraft

Maintenance is of utmost importance in any type of aircraft, but when it comes to light aircraft, you will need to be extra careful and thorough. The reason for this is simple: unlike larger aircraft that have an entire crew of engineers assigned to fix issues, you will have to rely on a small team or even yourself to identify issues in your aircraft.

The best part is that most pilot programmes also focus on aircraft maintenance as part of the training. Of course, you won’t be expected to learn complex engineering topics, but your training will help you identify issues that can otherwise jeopardise your flight.

Private pilots that opt for fixed or flex-wing aircraft will need to perform all the necessary prechecks before they take off. As per the Civil Aviation Authority, it is mandatory to regularly check the aircraft for basic issues, while in-depth maintenance can be scheduled bi-weekly or in any other frequency as needed.

What are basic issues? The first thing that pilots need to check before taking off is fuel levels. This may sound very basic, but there have been plenty of documented accidents where pilots failed to perform the necessary prechecks – these types of issues can significantly increase the chances of engine failure and may even result in loss of life.

This is why maintenance is extremely important regardless of what type of aircraft you are planning to fly!

The good news is that most flex-wing aircraft are built to be very simple, meaning that they don’t have as many complex controls or components as fixed-wing or larger aircraft. While this does make maintenance easier, you will still need to regularly check the aircraft for potential faults.

For example, the control bar, wings, and engine should be checked before every flight in any flex-wing aircraft. These prechecks can also be done using a checklist which can make maintenance easier.

However, in the case of fixed-wing aircraft or twin-engine aircraft, you will need to be a bit more thorough. Due to the relative complexity of these aircraft, you will need to go through an extensive list of prechecks that can help minimise mechanical failure.

Maintenance in these complex aircraft can be done using the onboard controls or by checking under the hood. For example, basic issues can be highlighted in the control panel inside the cockpit.

When you turn the panel on, the onboard electronic system will check all the relays and other electronic components for errors. If there is an electrical error, you will likely see a red light go off on the panel.

This can help you figure out or approximate where you need to focus your effort to fix the problem. The onboard system can also help highlight issues related to the engine.

If you were to compare an aircraft to the human body, then the engine would surely be the heart! As you can imagine, the engine is responsible for most of the functions in an aircraft – and even a slight problem in the engine may result in a lot of problems.

Fixed-wing aircraft generally require a competent aircraft mechanic due to the sheer number of important components. Everything from the engine to breaks, and even dirt/debris needs to be accounted for when maintaining these aircraft!

You might not think of dirt as an alarming factor in aircraft, but it can become a huge risk when it starts to accumulate. Keep in mind that aircraft aren’t supposed to be squeaky clean since they are constantly exposed to dirt and debris due to intense wind conditions.

However, when debris starts to accumulate, it can cause a lot of problems. For example, if the aircraft has been exposed to a sandstorm, then it will become mandatory for the aircraft to undergo maintenance. While dust will have very little impact in terms of damage, it may likely cause problems if it gets inside sensitive components.

Dirty electronic components can be a huge risk because if the microparticles land or lodge between the components, they can cause a build-up of static, or worse, they can cause a short circuit!

Light Aircraft Maintenance: Essential Tips and Tricks

Here are some of the top tips that every capable pilot or candidate should follow before they take off:

Following Guidelines

The Civil Aviation Authority has done a marvellous job at highlighting all the necessary checks that pilots need to perform before they fly any aircraft. These guidelines make it extremely easy to detect issues before they can cause damage.

It is also extremely important for pilots to familiarise themselves with all the updated regulations regarding aircraft maintenance. Strictly following these guidelines will ensure your safety and the safety of others during the flight!

Frequency is Key

When it comes to maintenance, frequency and consistency are key. We highly recommend that you follow the maintenance schedule of your aircraft to ensure that it is always safe to fly. Pilots must always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for maintenance and keep an eye out for any warning signs.

Reporting Known Issues

If you notice a problem with your aircraft, then it is extremely important that you either take a mental note of the issue or jot the issue down on a piece of paper. As soon as you land, share these issues with the maintenance team and try to work out a solution. Sharing the issue with others can help minimise risk and also keep you and the aircraft safe.

Monitoring Levels

Keeping an eye out for the fuel levels of your aircraft is a great habit. Please note that while most electronic and mechanical equipment are built to last, they can still develop sudden issues which can cause a lot of problems, especially if you are oblivious to them.

Regularly checking the fuel and other related levels on the aircraft can help you determine the overall health of the plane during flight. This is a great habit to build because if you do come across an issue, you can easily communicate it to the ground team which can help you troubleshoot the problem.


Always keep in mind that the aircraft that you are responsible for is an extension of you. In other words, the cleanliness of the aircraft will speak directly to your training and demeanour as a professional!

Cleaning the aircraft will prevent the build-up of dirt and debris which can have a huge impact on the aircraft and its systems. Regularly cleaning the aircraft before a flight is a great habit to get into to minimise visual and mechanical problems.

Checking the Core Essentials

When it comes to maintaining an aircraft, you will need to always check the engine, spark plugs, brakes, tires, oil filters, propellors, and anything else essential to operate the type of aircraft that you will fly. Failing to check for these essentials can be grounds for strict action as per the CAA and in the worst case, maintenance failure can lead to devastating outcomes.

Always Maintain a Written Record

The best way to eliminate doubt about the maintenance schedule of your aircraft is to maintain a written record of it. Not only will this help you plan out future maintenance, but you can also quickly glance through the maintenance record of each component on your aircraft. These records can be referred to when you need to diagnose issues or when you want to share the overall health of your aircraft with a competent aircraft mechanic.

When In Doubt, Seek Help

Instead of fumbling through an issue in the aircraft, it is much better to seek professional help. A competent mechanic can not only help you fix the issue at hand, but they may also help highlight other pending issues in your aircraft. Going with professional help is an excellent choice for inexperienced pilots as they can learn about the inner working of the aircraft and fix issues before they get out of hand.

Learning the Best Practices of Aircraft Maintenance

As we have highlighted in this guide, maintenance is a mandatory practice that must be performed by every pilot or candidate so that they can fix issues before they cause any problems.

This is why learning the basics and best practices of light aircraft maintenance is so important, but where does one start? Luckily, if you enrol at a great flight school, then you won't have to worry about flight maintenance again!

Most great flight schools, like Sherburn Aero Club, have a dedicated team of instructors that not only teach candidates about the importance of safety and provide great tips but also impart a lot of experience!

Flight experience (or lack of it) can either make or break pilots. If you don’t study and train with highly competent instructors that share their wisdom, then you will likely lag in your training.

Most instructors will have a story about how they almost put their flight in jeopardy due to a maintenance issue – and learning from these mistakes will not just give you a roadmap of what to do, but it will also help you open your mind toward diagnosing issues before they even cause problems!

Sherburn Aero Club is proud to host one of the best instructors in the region. Our instructors are specifically trained to not just impart knowledge but also wisdom and experience which can help you hone your senses when it comes to the components of the aircraft.


If you wish to begin your career in aviation or wish to take to the skies as a hobby, Sherburn’s flight training school offers private and commercial licences, along with pilot medicals to ensure a smooth journey going forward.

Sherburn Aero Club, which has been operational since 1964, is the ideal place for most of your training and flying needs. It is one of the largest flying clubs in the North of England and also one of the largest in the country.

With a large fleet of new aircraft and an airfield refurbishment with new runways, hangars, and an extended clubhouse, we cater to brand-new flyers who have just started their journey to the skies, as well as seasoned flyers who have been operating aircraft for decades.

Sherburn offers a dedicated day-long Flight Radiotelephony Operator’s Licence (FRTOL) course for those wishing to get the certification, running the first Sunday of every month.

For those who wish to experience the thrill of a flight for fun or to help fuel their aviation dreams, Sherburn offers experience flights for the newbie, as well as the veteran. The flight experience option is also available for people who wish to take to the skies for special occasions, even if they aren’t into aviation in the long run.

In addition to that, if you are looking for a hangarage for your own aircraft, need servicing or repairs, want to buy a new aircraft or aviation equipment, or are just looking to enjoy and watch the aircraft, Sherburn Aero Club is the place to be.

Call us at 01977 682 674​​​, email us at flightdesk@sherburnaeroclub.com, or message us via our online contact form for more information on light aircraft maintenance, training requirements, licencing procedures, as well as experience flights and pilot training at Sherburn.

Photo by Daniel Eledut on Unsplash 



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