The benefits of a free courtesy aircraft inspection

Safety first

Posted: Wednesday, January 03, 2001

Several years ago the Federal Aviation Administration began a program to enhance safety called the Pilot Aircraft Courtesy Evaluation, or PACE. This program began as an opportunity for the pilot and/or aircraft owner to receive, free of charge, an inspection of their aircraft, aircraft records, pilot proficiency and pilot records. Now, you are probably thinking, "What sort of a gimmick is this anyhow?"

Most people doubt that the FAA would inspect anything without finding a violation on some farfetched problem. Well doubt no more. Nothing is further from the truth. The inspection is just what it says it is: A courtesy evaluation.

In order to have a PACE inspection done, a pilot has to make a request to the FAA office nearest to them. They make an appointment for the inspection at the pilot's convenience. Inspections of the pilot's flying skills and aircraft airworthiness may be done by FAA inspectors or volunteer Aviation Safety Counselors (ASC). An ASC must be a flight instructor to evaluate the pilots' flying skills and an aircraft mechanic to inspect the aircraft.

"OK," you say, "I'm game now. What can I expect during the evaluation?"

The flight instructor or inspector will look at your pilot's certificate, medical and logbook to see if everything is in order. Then they will take you for a flight check to look at your piloting skills. In the event that you have flying skills that need to improve, the flight instructor or inspector will let you know what the skills are and suggest that you take some instruction in those areas. If you have inadvertently let your medical lapse, you will have to get a current medical before you can fly on the evaluation.

The same sort of evaluation will be done for your aircraft. The evaluator will inspect the aircraft airframe and power plant log books for AD's and inspections. Included in the inspection will be a brief look at the engine, propeller and a walk around of the aircraft. Obvious discrepancies will be noted and a list of discrepancies, if any, will be given to the aircraft owner.

In the event that there are items that need to be repaired on the aircraft, or the pilot needs to ensure the pilot is flying legally, they would have to be taken care of prior to flight.

The only difficulty that I can see with this evaluation might be if a pilot flies in from an outlying airport and some corrections need to be made before they can fly home. If the inspection is made on a weekday there should be someone available to correct the problem. Remember the purpose of the evaluation is safety, not a search for violations. As a matter of fact, a violation can not be given for an oversight, by a pilot or the mechanic, discovered during a PACE Program evaluation. No strings attached. Just fix the discrepancy, if there is one discovered, and off you go. What a deal! How many things can you say the government gives you for free? Well, now you know of one for sure, so take advantage of it; it really can't hurt.

Patricia Mattison is the safety program manager for the Juneau Flight Standards office of the Federal Aviation Administration. Contributions to this article were also made by Hugh Devlin, an FAA airworthiness inspector.

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