Is this plane grounded?

A friend of mine has a small Cessna airplane that he purchased used a few years ago. After a couple of years, the mechanic opened up the engine and determined that there was some rust on the crankshaft. He made a note in the maintenance log. Said the mechanic: Nothing to worry about safety-wise, many people keep flying with a slightly-rusty crankshaft, but you may have a hard time reselling the plane.

Following a move, a new mechanic has looked at the plane and gone through the documentation. Oops, he said: the maintenance log says there’s rust on the crankshaft, the plane should be grounded. Yes, many planes probably have rust that goes undetected, and it’s not a direct safety hazard, but once it’s detected and documented it shouldn’t be flying. The owner can decide to fly anyway, but if something happens…

This is in Canada, BTW. The plane is only used privately (no paying passengers or cargo). It’s in the normal, documented-maintenance regime (it’s not an “owner-maintained” plane).

So, is the plane legally grounded or not? What will the insurance company say if he crashes into a shopping mall (and survives)?

Depends what the standards are. (I have no idea).

In a situation where you do NOT want the engine to fail, having bits of rust flaking off into the oil and then circulating around the engine (or clogging the oil filter) is probably NOT a good idea. The guy that saw it may have one idea about how serious it is, the guy who only read the log may have a different view (or be more anal about what is acceptable). Still, flakes are mor likely to come off when the engine is being used; having oil pressure fall below acceptable due to clogged filter in the middle of a flight is probably contraindicated.
If it’s a private plane, I assme it was getting it’s annual/100 hour checkup. If the mechanic refuses to sign off on this check, I assume under Canadian rules it is no longer airworthy until someone does sign off.

The amount of rust could have increased between the inspections.

Both mechanics agree that the owner can fly it. Why is there a question? Clearly it is not grounded.

I’m confused as well. I think we’re missing something.

The first mechanic said:

and the second one said

I read that as them both saying he should get it fixed, but it’s still airworthy.

Does the FAA certify aircraft mechanics?

Does a certified aircraft mechanic have the authority to unilaterally order an aircraft grounded?

Yes, it’s called an A & P (Airframe and Powerplant) certificate.

The A & P has to sign off the aircraft. If he doesn’t then it’s grounded until he does.

EDIT: I presume there’s a similar thing in Canada, but I haven’t read the Canadian rules.


So, assuming the system is more or less the same in Canada, the plane is not grounded?

Not signing the log book does not ground an airplane. Writing 'GROUNDED" in the log does not ground an civilian small airplane in the US.

The owner can send a pilot with a ferry permit to move the plane.

A few rusty looking spots vs flaking rust is two way different things.

I would like to know where he was looking to see rust or rusty on a small Cessna CRANKSHAFT. Need a model , age & engine type in case it is non-typical. Cam shaft on some model, OK, I can buy that but the crankshaft? Hummmm

Your friend needs to fly his plane more or at least go start it and bring it up to temperature at least once a month if not more.

Better yet, tell him to let me bring it down here & I’ll keep just the right amount of use on it to keep it in great condition.

A&P certification # provided on a need to know IRL circumstance.

FAR 91.409:

It looks to me like not signing the maintenance log (i.e., not approving the aircraft to return to service) does ‘ground’ it.

Understanding that the OP is Canadian & we’re talking about US FARs …

What Johnny’s cite means is that

IF an airplane is due for an annual, and IF the mechanic that was hired to do the work refuses to sign off the inspection as satisfactorily completed, THEN upon the end of the 12th month since the last annual inspection, the aircraft is grounded. Not for crankshaft rust, but for lack of a current annual inspection.

If after that the owner can find somebody else to perform the same inspection and sign it off as OK, then the airplane is no longer grounded. Rust or no.

The specifics of Canadian regulations are doubtless different. And both US & Canadian detail’s would differ from the above if the aircraft was in commercial service.

But big picture, aircraft aren’t grounded by maintenance paperwork asserting a bad condition; they’re grounded by lack of paperwork asserting a good condition.

[Emphasis mine]

Sorry. I thought this was understood. I should have been more clear.

Surely there must be other means. If a mechanic finds a serious problem (apparently not the case of the OP), there must be some way of grounding the plane other than when the annual inspection certification expires.

Yes, sorry, my mistake. It’s pitting rust on the camshaft, not the crankshaft. :smack:

Also, more mistakes: turns out it’s not a Cessna at all. It’s a Piper Tomahawk, built in the late 1970s I think. Dunno about engine type, but it’s the factory engine.

My aircraft knowledge is a little out of date, haven’t flown in 11 years; but unless they’ve changed the rules, an aircraft in Canada must be inspected every year (annual) and must have the regular engine inspection/maintenance ever 100 hours engine time. 50 hrs for commercial aircraft. Top overhaul at 1000 hrs and rebuild at 2000 hrs. (Most piston engines)

As mentioned, if the mechanic refuses to sign off on this, the aircraft is no longer airworthy.

Heh. Traumahawk. :stuck_out_tongue:

A lot of interesting stuff. Good info.


The FAA even admits saying in public: “But not in Alaska.” ( Not about this in particular. )

And also, even with no paper work, a valid ferry permit means I can go fly that aircraft.

And as this is the SDMB, nitpicking is a must. So there !!!

Also, some stranger coming and messing with my airplane better have an FAA ID or a dead mans signature does not mean anything. I have never seen a live A&P go out messing with other peoples airplanes just because he thinks there is something wrong. Not in the US anyway.

I’ve owned a few aircraft and IME there is a amazing variation in what any given A&P considers airworthy.

I ferried an out-of-annual airplane in June, and the ferry permit required the approval of an A&P (who had to be flown to the site in another plane). So even if it’s grounded by lack of paperwork, you still have to get a mechanic involved in order to move it. Also, the ferry permit itself specifies an exact date and destination – you usually only get one flight to a maintenance facility. I also had to get a one-time waiver from ATC for this aircraft due to a malfunctioning transponder. If the original mechanic won’t sign off, the ferry permit is a really expensive* piece of paper that isn’t going to get you very far.

*the owner didn’t get the plane annualled in time, and the mechanic’s fees, my transportation, and the cost of the other aircraft added up to a considerable amount.

It’s a bit terminological. There’s no formal “certificate of grounding” which a mechanic issues & cc’s the FAA.

Nevertheless, the general rule is the pilot may not fly an aircraft with any known defects, no matter how minor. Once notified of a defect, the pilot owner is obligated to get it fixed. Notification can be verbal or written.

The regs assume defects are 100% clear cut. The light bulb is either burnt out or not. The reality for many defects is a smooth shade of gray with pure white at one end and pure black at the other, and miles of gently-changing grayness in the middle.

Shopping for a lax(-er) mechanic is commonly done in the less reputable parts of aviation. Light planes not used for commercial purposes have a lot of leeway (again US regs) for owners to perform minor inspections and maintenance; sometimes that leeway is used to look the other way very studiously.

OTOH, an aircraft maintained in absolute mechanical perfection is very expensive and a goof of a piot can wreck it just as easily as one with a squeek or rattle or two and a couple spots of peeling paint.

Hmmm… Back in the late 70’s I rented a small aircraft from the FBO for a cross-country trip. Each flight, it sprayed oil all over the windshield, and on landing, it was down a quart and needed topping up. If parked for any time, it left a small oil spot on the ground. When I mentioned it on return, the owner said “Oh, yeah, there’s something pressing on the oil quick-drain and it always loses a quart.”

I assume airworthiness standards were more lax back then.