Getting Closer

I have my first official FAA inspection as part of the Part 135 Certification Process.

An FAA inspector from the Scottsdale FSDO came up to visit me in my hangar yesterday. His name is Jim and he’d been up once before, just to introduce himself, when he was passing through on his way to Scottsdale from another airport.

Jim formally inspected my helicopter for compliance with the equipment requirements of Part 135. He came into the hangar, looked over the helicopter from the outside, and poked his head into the cockpit, for a good whiff of that new helicopter smell and a look at the instruments. He spent a considerable amount of time reading the fine print on the fire extinguisher, so he knew exactly what kind it was.

Next, he looked at the Hobbs Book I keep in the helicopter. The book has several sections.

One section lists aircraft time flown, by date. I use the same pages to record revenue, expenses, and fuel and oil added for each flight. I’m trying hard to keep a good record of my direct costs and revenues for this helicopter in an effort to improve my business.

Another section lists upcoming maintenance items by hours due and/or date due. Jim suspected that I may have left out some ADs, but when I checked with Ed later on, the page was correct and complete. I also learned that the annual inspection date is based on the Airworthiness Certificate date for a new aircraft. That means I don’t need an annual until next January (rather than December). AN extra month to keep that money in my pocket. But Jim suggested that I have every 100 hour inspection signed off as an Annual so I don’t get stuck doing an annual only 20 or 50 hours after the previous 100 hour inspection. Makes sense to me.

Another section of the Hobbs book provides a form for listing squawks. A “squawk” is a potential problem with an aircraft that must be resolved before the aircraft can be flown. For example, suppose I find a leak in my gearbox when doing my preflight. I’d write it up and make sure Ed looked at it and took care of it and signed off on it before I flew. Jim liked the form I’d come up with, which was based on a form I found on the Atlanta FSDO’s Web site.

Another section of the Hobbs book is my pilot duty log, a document I’m required to keep for the FAA. My “duty time” is limited by law and the record clearly indicates how many hours I’ve flown to ensure that I don’t fly too much. Not likely in Wickenburg.

The last section of the book has financial stuff: a folder for receipts, calculations of prices with tax (for easier billing), etc.

Next, Jim checked out the documents I store in my new cabinet, including the Maintenance Manual and Log Books. He went through all log book pages — there wasn’t much there in such a new helicopter — and pointed out a recurring item he though I’d omitted from the upcoming maintenance page. (I hadn’t; it was there.) I think he was pleased to see a copy of the 2005 FARs on the shelf, too.

Finished with the official stuff, we chatted about aviation-related things in general. I showed him my new sign and told him I was waiting for certification to hang it up because it includes the word “Charter.” He told me a funny story about a new Stinson pilot he knew years ago who made a Mayday call to the tower at an airport while she was still on the ground. (I tried telling the story to Chris later on (he owns a Stinson) and I mangled it. Some jokes I can tell, others I can’t. This one I obviously couldn’t tell.) Then we shook hands and he left for the long drive back to Scottsdale.

According to Bill, who is in charge of the certification process for me, we’re getting much closer. There are a few things I need to fix in my compliance statement and my MEL needs a lot of work. He has to come up and do a base inspection. I think that means he’ll be coming up to the hangar to make sure I have all my pilot records in order. (Too bad Jim couldn’t do that. But it wasn’t his department.) I also need a check ride with Bill, who was just signed off for R44s. (It’s scary that I’ll have more time in an R44 than my check pilot.) Then the paperwork can be wrapped up. The only thing I still need to do is my drug/alcohol program, and that’s in the works.

If things keep moving along, there’s a good chance I’ll have the certification done by month-end, or at least the end of the first week in February. And then I can hang that new sign.

What do you think?