“What If?” Our Thoughts on Real Aviation Situations

I want to use my local field A&P for some light maintenance instead of taking my aircraft to a 145 repair station. Much more convenient and cost-effective. Any issues?

Let’s say an aircraft owner decides not to use a 145 repair station and instead uses a local mechanic on the field. Let’s also assume this mechanic is not well insured (or insured at all), at least not insured to the limits of most reputable 145 stations. If that aircraft is involved in a loss that is related to the workmanship of the mechanic, will the aircraft owner have any exposure? Are there insurance incentives to use certified and insured 145 repair stations?

Certainly, to both questions, the answer is yes. In fact, we come across this exact situation at least once a month with an operator and/or mechanic. There are pros and cons to using your local field mechanic, but depending on what work you’re having done and what kind of equipment you operate, the cons can far outweigh the pros. 

We get calls from A&Ps that work for corporations but freelance on the side to make some extra money. The problem with that is if they don’t have their own insurance, their work is uninsured. They’re fully protected while working for their corporation or flight department, but when they go out on their own, they need to get their own insurance. Often the insurance costs for a “one-man band” in the maintenance world can be prohibitive (i.e., $5,000+), so unless they have a steady stream of customers, they don’t buy it/can’t afford it. Therefore, if an operator has a freelance A&P do any work, yes, they are licensed to do said work but they are not insured if something goes wrong. It’s a risk the operator takes but probably doesn’t realize at first.

On the operator side, the obvious benefits are cost and convenience. If they know they can pull an A&P over from a neighboring hangar to do some light maintenance, it’s much cheaper and much quicker than taking the aircraft to a 145 center. The problem with that, as I mentioned above, is that often the A&P isn’t insured or isn’t insured enough to be doing the work. Now, if the aircraft in question is a light single-engine piston, there’s probably not much exposure. However, if we’re talking light twins and up, there’s a real issue.