According to the FAA, every airplane is required to undergo an annual inspection : "no person may operate an aircraft unless, within the preceding 12 calendar months, it has had an annual inspection and has been approved for return to service by a person authorized by FAR 43.7 ." A period of 12 calendar months extends from any day of a month to the last day of the same month the following year.
To meet the above requirement every 12 months each aircraft owner is required to make inspect his airplane completely. The inspection accomplished must have at least the items of FAR 43 appendix D. Chapter 05 of each aircraft maintenance manual has many inspections checklists that meet the annual type inspection requirement.
It does not care that the inspection accomplished is not named "annual" itself by the manufacturer maintenance manual, but as I said before, must be one that inspect the whole airplane. The inspection may be named by the manufacturer for example: operation , letter check, phase 1 , etc. Whatever the inspectiion name is , the person approving the aircraft for release to service (IA) must verify and state in the logbooks that the inspection performed meet the annual inspection requirement.
Many manufacturers state in chapter 05 of the maintenance manual that such inspection(name of inspection) meet the annual type inspection required by the FAA.
Who is authorized to approve an aircraft for return to service after an annual inspection?
Aircraft Excepted from the Annual Inspection System:
1) An aircraft operating under a special flight permit, an experimental certificate, or a light-sport or provisional airworthiness certificate;
2) An aircraft operating in accordance with an FAA approved aircraft inspection program under FAR 125 or 135 (Conmutter and On demand operators).
4) Turbine-powered rotorcraft when the operator elects to inspect that rotorcraft in accordance with one of the following: a progressive inspection program, a continuous airworthiness inspection program, a current inspection program recommended by the manufacturer, any other inspection program established by the registered owner or operator that was submitted and later approved by the FAA.
5) Aircraft using a Progressive inspection program submitted by the registered owner or operator and later approved by the FAA. This type of program like the annual must inspect the whole aircraft during the calendar year or 12 months.The major diference is that the inspection is divided in smaller areas or zones that must be performed at different intervals (hours, days, cycles,etc) during the calendar year.
6) Large airplanes: Turbojet multiengine airplanes, turbopropeller-powered multiengine airplanes, and turbine-powered rotorcraft.
Must use one of the following programs (91.409(f)):
A continuous airworthiness inspection program. (FAR 121 : Airlines, scheduled air carriers; FAR 135 :Conmutter and On demand operators ).
A current inspection program recommended by the manufacturer. (for non commercial private use aircraft, but complex, I recommend this option, as this program is already FAA approved and is designed and kept updated by the product manufacturer).
Any other inspection program established by the registered owner or operator that was submitted and later approved by the FAA.
(Note: there are so many things to check and inspect on large airplanes that an annual inspection only would be impractical, as this would ground the aircraft for many weeks or months).
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