What is a Condition Inspection?
A condition inspection is the equivalent of an "annual" for a type certificated aircraft. Although FAR Part 43 specifically states that it does not apply to experimental airworthiness certificates, the operating limitations on your homebuilt will include the following (or something similar):
No person shall operate this aircraft unless within the preceding 12 calendar months it has had a condition inspection performed in accordance with the scope and detail of appendix D to part 43, or other FAA-approved programs, and found to be in a condition for safe operation. This inspection will be recorded in the aircraft maintenance records. Condition inspections shall be recorded in the aircraft maintenance records showing the following or a similarly worded statement: "I certify that this aircraft has been inspected on (insert date) in accordance with the scope and detail of appendix D to part 43 and found to be in a condition for safe operation." The entry will include the aircraft total time in service, and the name, signature, certificate number, and type of certificate held by the
person performing the inspection.
Who can perform a Condition Inspection?
The inspection can be performed by any licensed A&P mechanic, an FAA Approved Repair Station, or by the builder of the airplane provided the builder obtains a "Repairman's Certificate" from the FAA. Note that unlike an annual for a type certificated aircraft, the A&P mechanic does NOT have to have his/her "Inspection Authorization".
Who can maintain a Homebuilt?
FAR Part 43 specifically states that the rules of that part do not apply to amateur-built airplanes. Therefore, any maintenance on an experimental airplane can be performed virtually by anyone regardless of credentials. (This does not apply to the condition inspection previously discussed). Let common sense be your guide as to what maintenance you conduct yourself.
When does the condition inspection expire on my homebuilt?
The answer depends on the wording of your aircraft's operating limitations. In the vast majority of the cases, the operating limitations require that a condition inspection have been completed and recorded in the aircraft records within the preceding 12 calendar months. The word "calendar" is key, as this means that the condition inspection runs through the end of the 12th month. For example, a condition inspection was completed and recorded in the aircraft records on 06/15/2014 would be in force through 06/30/2015 (i.e. through the end of June).
In rare cases, the operating limitations require the condition inspection to have been completed within the preceding 12 months. The absence of the word "calendar" means that the condition inspection would expire at the end of exactly 12 months (i.e., on the date of the previous inspection), rather than at the end of the 12th month. This situation is not common, but does exist. Homebuilt aircraft owners should check their operating limitations to verify the condition inspection requirements.