Your about to make your dream aircraft purchase. The plane has low time on the engine, is reasonably priced, and, according to the seller, has no damage history. You are overjoyed! Your dream of making an aircraft purchase is finally coming true. You prepare your offer for the seller, set up the escrow account, and start all the paperwork.
Two weeks later, the airplane is yours! You start flying it, though, and the engine starts to have some strange vibrations. After several flights, it starts to get worse. You take it to your mechanic to get it looked at and you find out the airplane needs three new cylinders along with some other engine work that is going to total a lot of money. Plus, your airplane is now going to be in the shop for several weeks.
All that excitement you just had? It just went out the window.
Could this have been prevented? Probably so, with a logbook inspection and a pre-purchase inspection.
Aircraft Purchase: Logbook Inspection
Inspecting a logbook can be very daunting when making an aircraft purchase, especially for older airplanes. This is, however, one of the most vital steps in making a new aircraft purchase. You can find out many things from looking at the maintenance logs of an airplane. First, you can check the compression levels of the engine. Typically, you want compression levels in the 70’s, with it still being okay in the high 60’s. Anything below 65 and there could be potential problems.
Second, you can find out if there has been any odd maintenance done pointing to possible unreported damage history. This is rare, as most aircraft owners are honest and up front when talking about damage history. But, if there is an entry detailing a prop overhaul after only 50 hours on that prop, you may start to ask some questions.
Third, you can find out how well the airplane has been maintained. If a lot of maintenance was completed at each annual, even if it was a lot of small things, then the airplane has been maintained by a good mechanic who is very thorough. This also involves a check of the ADs, Mandatory SBs, SBs, and SLs that have been issued for the airplane. If all that has been kept up with, it’s a well maintained airplane.
Finally, it gives you a good idea of how much the airplane has been flown. Sure, the ad online will have the total time and time since overhaul, but you can look at the year by year breakdown of how much the airplane has been flown. It may have been flown a lot earlier in it’s life, but not quite as much recently. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but airplanes like to be flown.
Aircraft Purchase: Pre-Purchase Inspection
Before making an aircraft purchase, it is extremely vital that whenever you are buying an airplane that you get a pre-purchase inspection done on the airplane. Even better is getting one done by a mechanic who specializes in that type of airplane (eg. Piper Service Center for Pipers, Cirrus Service Centers for Cirrus, Kevin Mead for PA-46s). A pre-purchase inspection can save you a lot of money in the end.
There is always going to be some kind of maintenance issue with an airplane being purchased, whether it is big or small. Once a pre-purchase inspection is completed, you can take the findings to the seller and negotiate for a lower price based on those findings, or just have the seller fix the items before the sale is completed.
I would recommend having the seller fix the problems before the sale is completed. Even though it may take a little longer for the sale to be completed this way, you’ll get to enjoy your airplane right away instead of it being in the shop the next several weeks after you complete the purchase.
There is the circumstance where the pre-purchase inspection reveals some serious airworthiness issues which would cause the deal to be voided. Always put this clause in a purchase agreement, giving you, the buyer, an out if there are serious airworthiness issues.
When it comes to making an aircraft purchase, it is not a process to be rushed. Slow and steady usually gets the best airplane for the money, giving you years of enjoyment in the future.
Looking to make an aircraft purchase? Daunted by all the work that’s involved to find a good, quality airplane? Let Texas Top Aviation do your aircraft search for you! To learn more, visit Texas Top Aviation’s Aircraft Purchase Consultations page.