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Aircraft Purchase: The Logbook & Pre-Purchase Inspections

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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:  Maintenance Logbooks

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.

The Piper Saratoga Turbo

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Piper SaratogaRecently, I assisted with the delivery of a 2007 Piper Saratoga Turbo from San Antonio to New York City.  It was a very nicely equipped airplane, complete with a Garmin G1000 panel, an STEC 55x autopilot, and air conditioning.  The owner joined me on the flight back to get trained in the airplane, getting him comfortable in it over our 2 day excursion back to NYC.  Total flight time was 12 hours, though that did include several stops along the way and landing practice at the airports we stopped at.

The 6 seat Turbo Saratoga is a very comfortable, very capable flying machine.  It is made for hauling, with a gross weight of 3,600 pounds, but that’s not to say it isn’t lacking in comfort, either.  The rear cabin has 4 seats, 2 facing forward and 2 facing rear.  It would be a little tight for 4 full size adults in the back seat.  To avoid knee knocking, the plane is an excellent 4 person and bags aircraft (or 4 adults and 2 kids).

The really nice part about the Piper Saratoga is the baggage door.  Unlike the Bonanza, the Piper Saratoga has a baggage door that opens to the baggage compartment, creating a much easier way to load and unload baggage.  The nose baggage compartment, which holds an additional 100 pounds, is a very nice feature, allowing the bag load to be spread out.

Piper Saratoga Inside

We typically saw cruise speeds of 155-165 KTAS depending on altitude.  The highest we went was only about 9,000 feet, so we didn’t get up real high to see what the single turbo could do.  Even though the Lycoming TIO-540 engine burns about 20 gallons an hour, with 102 gallons of gas on board, the fuel consistently outlasted our desire to continue flying.

Being equipped with the G1000 was a very nice feature of this particular Piper Saratoga.  The screens are nice and big, larger than the displays on a high wing Cessna or a Corvalis.  That allows for easier viewing of approach plates, NEXRAD, and the engine gauges.

There are always downsides to an airplane, and the Saratoga is no exception.  The STEC Autopilot leaves some to be desired as I felt it hampered the capability of the G1000 when shooting approaches because the 12 knot crosswind limitation on the autopilot. You can still use the autopilot on an approach with higher than 12 knot crosswinds, but the autopilot tends to search around for the final approach course.

The air conditioning works very nicely, though it did have a tendency to freeze up at altitude.  We discovered that quickly and just decided to turn it off and leave the blower on, since it was cool enough up high anyway.

Overall, the Turbo Saratoga is a very nice airplane.  The speed leaves a little to be desired (you can get 10 KTAS more out of a Bonanza with a Continental engine, about 20 knots more if it is a Turbo Bonanza), but it is very high on comfort.  The Piper Saratoga makes for a good family airplane or as a hauler.  I liked the airplane a lot and thoroughly enjoyed my time in it.

New Houston Airspace Procedures

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If you are based in Houston, or heading into or out of the Houston airspace under IFR, have you updated your charts?  If not, you may hear a clearance stating: “N67889, cleared to Amarillo via the BORRN 1 Departure, CRGER Transition, Direct.  Climb via the departure, expect 8000 in 10 minutes.  Departure frequency 123.8, Squawk 3365.”  You manage to get the clearance written down, but have completely messed up the spelling of both BORRN and CRGER, so you have no idea where the intersections are.  After stumbling through a readback, you ask ground to spell the fixes for you.

Then, more bad news.  You haven’t updated your GPS cards yet, so the departure isn’t in your 430.  It’s an RNAV only departure, so you can’t fly it based on the NAV Radio.  You were planning on updating your iPad when you got to Amarillo, so you don’t have the departure on there, either.

This has probably already happened to a few people today already.

Houston airspace got a major overhaul today.  There are 20 new DPs and 29 new STARs guiding IFR traffic into and out of Houston airspace (including one named the DOOBI 1 Arrival, named after the Dooby Brothers band).

The FAA’s goal in all these changes, according to AOPA, is to “bring fuel efficiencies, time efficiencies, and reduce carbon emissions” (from Benet J. Wilson’s May 15th article on AOPA.com).  The FAA issued a NOTAM today valid until June 6th describing what routes for pilots to file.  The NOTAM also contains contingency plans for pilots flying without updated charts (like our example above).

Pilots should expect these wide scale procedure additions and changes to start showing up in other Class B airspace across the country.  As always, make sure those charts are updated, GPS databases are current, and you do some studying of your route before you file your flight plan.

Texas Top Aviation at the AOPA Fly-In

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Where were you on April 26th?

AOPA Fly In LogoTexas Top Aviation was at the AOPA Regional Fly-In at the San Marcos Regional Airport (KHYI).  If you weren’t there, you certainly missed out spending time with 2,500 other airplane and flying enthusiasts!

The day began somewhat gloomy and windy with the threat of rain.  Organizers feared that weather would keep a lot of people from coming.  Boy, were they wrong!

There were many classic airplanes, many modern and pretty nicely equipped airplanes, and everything in between.  There were aviation celebrities, Rod Machado and the Kings of King Schools fame, to name a few.  Not to mention the fabulous BBQ!

N132BBTexas Top Aviation had several drawings for free training and 3 lucky winners.  We also had a Lancair Super ES for sale, N132BB (which made the San Marcos Record newspaper!). It definitely stood out with it’s unique paint job.  The flames on the tail drew many oohs and aahs.

Departing the San Marcos Airport after the fly in was like battling traffic in Austin at rush hour (though, Austin doesn’t have any air traffic controllers).  The San Marcos controllers probably hadn’t seen that much traffic since the airport was an Army Air Base back during WWII.  It was quite a sight to see all the exhibitor’s airplanes lined up ready to head skyward.

Thanks to all of you who stopped by the Texas Top Aviation booth!  It was a pleasure meeting all of you and we look forward to working with you in the future!

Texas Top Aviation

Hank Gibson and Russell Moore of Texas Top Aviation

 

Beechcraft Bonanza Ownership

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If you walk up to any Beechcraft Bonanza sitting on the ramp at an airport and ask the owner, “How do you like your Bonanza?” be prepared to stand there and listen for 15-20 minutes while he brags about his airplane.

V35 Bonanza

The thing about Beechcraft Bonanza owners is that they are almost a part of a cult. They will tell you up and down why the Bonanza is the best airplane out there. They’ll tell you why all the others don’t even come close. They’ll tell you about the payload, the six seats, the variety of configurations you can select from, the ability to land pretty much anywhere. By the time you walk away, you will probably be convinced to buy one yourself.

Bonanza’s are great airplanes. For those of you new to the single engine piston market, a good comparison for a Beechcraft Bonanza would be a Suburban. Not the flashiest ride out there, but extremely capable, comfortable, and family conscious. If you’re hauling a load, you’ll take a Bonanza over a Cirrus or Mooney any day. Have six people? No problem!

One of the best things about a Beechcraft Bonanza is the variety of designs. Four seats, six seats, long range tanks, tip tanks, turbo charged, normally aspirated, steam gauge, G1000, Aspen or G500 retrofitted, dual yoke, single yoke, leather, cloth, and a variety of different colors out there on the market make finding a Bonanza that fits your need pretty easy.

When it comes to picking out an airplane, the first question is always the mission. If you’re thinking about a Beechcraft Bonanza, you’ve already determined you need something with a good useful load. Do you need four seats or six? Depends on how often you’ll be carrying someone or how new of an airplane you want. Older Bonanzas have four seats, but a lot have had significant updating. Newer A36 and B36 Bonanzas have six seats, but are going to cost you more.

Beech Bonanza

Do you need a turbo charged Bonanza? If you’re in a high elevation area or expect to visit the mountains a lot, then absolutely. If you want a better cruise speed and don’t mind a little less useful load, then go for it. If you’re more concerned about being able to load it up and you aren’t going to cross the Rockies often, then normally aspirated is what you want. You’re probably looking at about 160-170 KTAS with the normally aspirated whereas you get between 180-190 KTAS at altitude with the turbo.

Do you need tip tanks? Tip tanks have two advantages. One is the most obvious: you get to carry more fuel, therefore you get to go farther without having to stop (or when you stop for the bathroom, you don’t have to fill up with gas). The other advantage is you get a bump up in useful load. I talked to a Beechcraft Bonanza owner a few weeks ago who had tip tanks on his. He told me max gross on his Bonanza was 3,800 pounds and was eligible for an upgrade of up to 4,000 pounds and all it took was paper work for the STC. That’s quite a bit of load!

G36 Bonanza

Are Bonanzas hard to fly? When moving up from a typical 172 or Cherokee that most people learn to fly in, it does take some adjustment. But, with good Bonanza training from a qualified Bonanza training instructor, then the transition is no problem. There are tons of resources out there to aid all future and present Bonanza owners in their foray into the Bonanza nation. With the American Bonanza Society and Bonanza Pilot Training, there is no lack of training, thoughts and opinions.

In need of an airplane that can pretty much do whatever you need? Then a Bonanza may be right for you.