This article originally appeared in Aviation Safety, Jan. 2006.Owning an airplane can be a real pain. There are costs for insurance, tiedown/hangaring, annual inspections and debt service, all of which are incurred before the engine even turns over. Add in the hourly costs of fuel, oil, tires, unscheduled maintenance and overhaul reserves, and it's a wonder anyone even wants to own their own airplane, much less fly it. Then there's the paperwork and other responsibilities that come along for the ride. It starts with making sure the FAA has correct documentation of the craft's ownership, that all the required documents are both in-order and aboard the airplane, and making sure that other various requirements cropping up from time to time -- like airworthiness directives (ADs) -- either do not apply or are properly complied with. Then, owners are often forced to spend hours poring over logbooks and other documentation to ensure all required inspections are conducted and properly documented. Any modifications or repairs must also be recorded. All of this can generate mountains of paperwork, especially for older aircraft. The more detail-oriented owners and operators among us come up with inventive ways to catalog and maintain all this documentation, including three-ring binders and multiple copies kept in fire-proof lockboxes. Some produce CD-ROMs of all records and maintenance manuals and carry them in the airplane. While these paperwork requirements can often seem burdensome -- and, when compared to automobiles, they are -- there are reasons we track all of this information. One owner learned this the hard way on a cold night in January 2004.
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