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What is an Operational Check Flight?

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What is an Operational Check Flight?

Old 5th Dec 2023, 15:23
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What is an Operational Check Flight?

The regulation that requires an operational check flight be performed is U.S. 14 CFR 91.407(b). To paraphrase the regulation, it states, that no person may carry any person in an aircraft that has been maintained in a manner that may have substantially affected its operation in flight until an appropriately rated pilot flies the aircraft and makes an operational check of the maintenance performed.

It is interesting to point out that the regulation doesn’t state that an operational check is required only in situations where the maintenance manual requires one. However, there may be procedures in the maintenance or flight manual that specifically give operational check flight procedures.

The above paraphrase specifically re-states the portion of the regulation that addresses carrying people. But, the regulation section prior to this seems to address what must be accomplished before the Operational Check Flight be attempted. This first section states that the aircraft must be approved for return to service by an authorized individual and an appropriate record made.

But is the maintenance sign-off the chicken or the egg?

What if maintenance procedures require flight as part of the maintenance, or to confirm the maintenance? An example of this type of situation might be performing main rotor blade track and balance. A complete analysis of vibration level cannot be determined until a flight is made. How closely have you read the maintenance manual as it pertains to track and balance? To take matters further into a gray area, is a maintenance person operating the vibration analysis a crewmember or “any person”? I might add, that technology today could completely eliminate the need for an operator of a vibration analysis system.

The complete text of the current regulation:

91.407 Operation after maintenance, preventive maintenance, rebuilding, or alteration.
(a) No person may operate any aircraft that has undergone maintenance, preventive maintenance, rebuilding, or alteration unless—
(1) It has been approved for return to service by a person authorized under 43.7 of this chapter; and
(2) The maintenance record entry required by 43.9 or 43.11, as applicable, of this chapter has been made.
(b) No person may carry any person (other than crewmembers) in an aircraft that has been maintained, rebuilt, or altered in a manner that may have appreciably changed its flight characteristics or substantially affected its operation in flight until an appropriately rated pilot with at least a private pilot certificate flies the aircraft, makes an operational check of the maintenance performed or alteration made, and logs the flight in the aircraft records.
(c) The aircraft does not have to be flown as required by paragraph (b) of this section if, prior to flight, ground tests, inspection, or both show conclusively that the maintenance, preventive maintenance, rebuilding, or alteration has not appreciably changed the flight characteristics or substantially affected the flight operation of the aircraft.
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Old 5th Dec 2023, 15:53
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The maintenance person is required to be aboard to perform the test so would be a crew member.
Of course on. some modern helicopters a maintenance person is not required to conduct testing.

Last edited by albatross; 5th Dec 2023 at 16:04.
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Old 5th Dec 2023, 18:41
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He said "required."

So, the maintenance technician is a crewmember.

14 CFR 1.1 General definitions states that, crewmember means a person assigned to perform duty in an aircraft during flight time.

The technician is certainly not a “flight crewmember,” as that has a separate and specific definition. Is the PIC (under 91.3 authority) the entity who “assigned” the duty?” If that is the accepted answer, where is the line drawn?
(1) Can an individual be assigned crewmember duties to record instrument readings?
(2) Could an individual be assigned crewmember duties to read/direct a maintenance procedure?
(3) Can an individual be assigned crewmember duties to open an emergency exit in the event of a mishap?
(4) Can an individual be assigned crewmember duties to take photographs on a flight (if that's the purpose of the flight)?
Just asking for a friend.
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Old 5th Dec 2023, 23:43
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I wasn't going anywhere without the mech. If he screwed up, then all of us would share the mistake !
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