There are lots of specialized tools required for working on airplanes, but most of the time you just need a few common tools. Like most other areas the 80/20 rule probably applies. 80% of the time you need 20% of the tools. To minimize walking back and forth to the tool chest, and to make it easier to find tools after I’ve used them, I put together this tool bag and apron. The bag is from CLC #1527 Pocket Electrical & Maintenance Tool Carrier
The apron has things that I need all the time. A marker, pen, ratcheting screwdriver, flashlight, mirror, and extendable magnet. The screwdriver is made by Lutz and has bits in the handle. This is probably the most useful tool that I have. It has about 8 different sizes of Phillips head bits so it fits just about every screw on an airplane. The rest of the tools are things that I’ve needed in the past and I think will fall in the 80/20 rule. I’ll be adjusting the bag over time.
The outside pockets contain:
- Needle nose pliers—Good for reaching into small places and holding parts.
- A bag of bits and a finger-tip screwdriver—Great for tight fits.
- Pry bar—For moving things around and holding them while aligning screws.
- Scissors—For trimming carpet, cutting loose ends from hoses.
- Zip ties—Securing wires and hoses.
- Small ratchet—Holding the screwdriver bits in tight places.
- Pliers—Not as useful as you might think, but I use them occasionally to pull cotter pins or safety wire.
- Wire cutters—Used mostly for cutting zip ties and cotter pins.
- Longer thin screw drivers—The ratcheting screwdriver is great but sometimes doesn’t fit into tight spaces.
- Extenders—Sometimes getting away from the nut makes it easier to loosen.
- Ratchet—The 1/4″ size works on just about everything except some engine bolts.
- Pens—Extra pens are always useful.
- Razor knife—These dollar store knives are good for cutting carpet and hoses but should never be used to cut zip ties.
The inside pocket contains:
- Ratchet set—Used all the time.
- Ratchet driver—I haven’t used this yet, but it seems like it should be useful for tight places.
- Hex wrenches—Likewise, not used yet, but I’ve needed them in the past, mostly around the instrument panel.
- Small screwdriver set—Again, not used yet, but I’ve needed them in the past, mostly around the instrument panel.
- Wrench set—I cut some plastic bottles to hold them. 1/2″ and above in one bottle, smaller in the other.
The other inside pocket contains:
- Wire strippers—I haven’t used these yet, but they should come in handy.
- Plastic scraper—Aluminum is very soft so you want to use a plastic or phenolic scraper to get glue and grease off the plane.
- Long screwdrivers—Often if you get away from the screw, it is easier to get off.
- Stubby ratcheting screwdriver—I haven’t used this yet, but the short angled handle seems like it will come in handy. I could use it for putting cowling back on
- Wire brush—Cleaning spark plugs, copper grounding washers, electrical connections.
- Pick set—These are great for lining up the holes when putting the interior back together. The right angle pick is good for bending cotter pins and counting threads on screws.
- Pencil—I haven’t needed it yet.
- Wonder Glove—A few drops around your nails make them easier to clean.
- Calculator—Converting from pound-inches to pound-feet of torque and calculating torque when a crows foot is added to the end of the wrench are the only things I’ve used it for so far.
The large inside pocket contains:
- Small notebook—Good for keeping track of parts used before transferring to the checklist.
- Gloves—For working with chemicals or when you just know you’re going to scrape your knuckles.
- Towels—There are always spills or grease that need cleaned up.
- Green masking tape—We label containers with tape and put a piece of tape over anything that needs attention before the aircraft can go out of the shop.
- Scotch-brite—Great for cleaning corrosion. I use it on electrical connectors, hinges, and flaps. Get a few red ones for the first pass and green to finish..
- Safety-wire twisters—For safetying parts.
- Angled screwdriver—For places the other screwdrivers won’t reach.
- Stubby screwdrivers—Mostly used on cowl screws.
- Parts container—I usually keep several of these in the bag for disassembly.
Mike Busch is an A&P with a more comprehensive list of tools that he takes with him on trips. They’d come in handy if you run into an A&P without his tools and need some maintenance. The article is here.
I recently competed two annuals in my own hangars and added some things to my list.
- Shop vac—cleaning carpets and floor boards, doing leak check on turbo.
- Step ladder for inspecting tail and getting in low wing planes when they are on jacks.
- Duct tape—for leak check.
- Q-tips—cleaning hard to reach places that the toothbrush won’t reach e.g. inside pulleys.
- E-6000—gluing rubber grommets, loose carpet, loose placards.
- Popsicle sticks—for spreading glue.
- Distilled water and funnel—for filling up the battery.
- Battery charger for charging battery.
- Power plug (if on you plane) for checking gear extension without wearing out the battery.
- Rubber bands—for keeping seat belts out of the way or in a bundle.
- Paper towels—shop towels are great, but Bounty select-a-size are cheaper.
- Plastic grocery bags—to take home the rags every night, no reason to start a fire in the hangar.
- Coffee cans—I leave a couple around the plane for tossing bad screws, zip ties, and towels.
- Grease gun—Most planes have at least a few grease fittings.
- Wheel bearing greaser—much easier than doing it by hand.
- Grease—Mine uses AeroShell #5.
- Masking paper—a roll of this for painting comes in handy if you have any corrosion.
- Rubber mats—sitting on the floor can be cold and hard.
- Creeper—especially handy if you have a low wing plane.
- Jacks—for changing the tires or swinging the gear.
- Secretaries chair—I get tired of leaning over.
- Plastic shelves-I don’t like things laying on the floor.
- Waist-high table—I hate working on the ground.