Good Tips on Buying a General Aviation Airplane

Good Tips on Buying a General Aviation Airplane

Posted by Jeffrey A. Lustick on Aug 14th 2017

Good Tips on Buying a General Aviation Airplane

The purchase of an aircraft is a major commitment of your time and money which must carefully approached. This is especially important when a first-time buyer is buying a used aircraft.

One of the most common mistakes in purchasing an aircraft is to buy impulsively without fully considering the effects of your decision. New buyers should carefully think about their requirements for an aircraft and most of all, be realistic.You should consider your typical flight mission, think about loads you want to carry, trip distances, and the conditions of flight that you are qualified and comfortable flying in. Buying more airplane than you need or can use, or one with equipment or features you don’t really need, is a huge money trap.

GOOD TIP: If possible, try to rent the type of aircraft you are interested, even at least one time, to get a feel for how well it may fulfill your needs.

Once you have a good idea of the kind of airplane you want, a great place to start is to determine your budge and a fair price you may be willing to pay. Another good starting point is to contact an aircraft purchasing coach, like Jeff Lustick at Tomahawk Aero Services. An aircraft purchasing coach can give you advice used aircraft pricing and aircraft availability on your area.

GOOD TIP: You can log on to the AOPA website and try running a “Vref,” which works like an on-line aircraft value index.

Another preliminary step is to determine whether or not you will finance or pay cash for your airplane. Often commercial banks balk at loaning money to pilots for personal aircraft.However, there are financial institutions who do little else except make aircraft loans. A good place to find these companies is on-line on websites like Controller or Barnstormers and search for aviation loans. Also, APOA has a financial company that is easy to work with.

Other factors to consider about any particular used airplane are:

Engine hours — This is certainly the largest factor on setting a resale value. The closer an engine is to its recommended time between overhaul (TBO), the less it becomes. Equally important is a record of consistent use coupled with a good maintenance program. Regular use helps keep seals and other engine components lubricated and in good shape.

GOOD TIP: Ask a local aircraft mechanic what the TBO is for the kind of airplane that you are considering buying. Many engines have a 2,000 hour TBO, but some have more and some have less.

Condition of Paint and Interior — Don’t be fooled by a bright and shiny paint job. Always look beneath new paint jobs carefully for evidence of corrosion under the surface. Interior items should be checked for proper fit and condition. Done properly, both items enhance the value of the aircraft. Also, depending on the other factors discussed here, it can sometimes be a good deal to buy a plane which needs a paint job and have it redone yourself. This is where a buying coach can give you guidance.

Installed Equipment — This includes all avionics, air conditioning, deicing gear and interior equipment. The big item here is usually avionics that can easily double the value of some older aircraft. Also, older equipment is generally more expensive to maintain.

GOOD TIP: Coming up in the year 2020, all GA airplanes in the country must have ADS-B out installed or they will be legally grounded. Finding an ADS-B equipped airplane can really save time and you money as the deadline approaches.

Damage history — A damage history will decrease the value of an aircraft, depending on the type of accident, nature of the damage and the degree to which major components have been involved. Major repairs can affect the value of an aircraft significantly, but may be hard to pin down. Any aircraft with a damage history should be closely scrutinized to make sure it has been properly repaired in accordance with the applicable FAA regulations and recommended practices.

A Discussion of Engine Overhauls.

Watch the Terminology - Be careful of the terminology used to describe engine condition. A top overhaul (TOH) involves the repair of engine components outside of the crankcase. A major overhaul (MOH) involves the complete disassembly, inspection, repair and reassembly of an engine to specified limits. If an engine has had a top or major overhaul, the logbooks must still show the total time on the engine, if known, and its prior maintenance history, which is (TSMOH).

A "zero-time" engine is one that has been overhauled to factory new limits by the original manufacturer and is issued a new logbook without previous operating history. The term for this is (TSFRM). As a general rule, an aircraft with a "zero-time" engine has more value than the same aircraft with an overhauled engine.

The Pre-Buy Inspection.

Before buying, have a mechanic you trust give the aircraft a thorough inspection and provide you with a written report of its condition. A pre-purchase inspection should include at least a differential compression check on each cylinder of the engine and any other inspections necessary to determine the condition of the aircraft.

GOOD TIP: Find a mechanic to do the pre-buy who does not regularly service the airplane. Getting a second option on the airplane is essential.

During the pre-buy inspection, make sure the following documents are available and in proper order for the aircraft: Airworthiness certificate, engine and airframe logbooks, aircraft equipment list, weight and balance data, placards, and FAA-approved aircraft flight manual or owner's handbook. Missing documents, pages or entries from aircraft logbooks may cause significant problems for the purchaser and reduce the value of the aircraft.

In addition to the documents above, the aircraft logbooks and other records should be carefully reviewed for such things as FAA Form 337 (Report of Major Repair or Alteration), AD compliance, the status of service bulletins and letters, and aircraft/component serial numbers. Ideally, the mechanic you select to do the inspection should have experience and be familiar with the problems that may be encountered on that type of aircraft.

Sales Documents.

Once you have decided to buy a particular aircraft, put the terms and conditions of the agreement in writing. This is for the protection of both parties since it is often difficult to enforce verbal contracts. The agreement need not be complicated, but it should clearly state the intentions of the parties and cover any warranties made by the seller. Since state laws govern the interpretation of commercial agreements, we recommend that your contract be drafted with the assistance of a local attorney.

Have the seller execute a Bill of Sale, FAA Form 8050-2 according to the instructions provided. Make sure that the seller signs his or her name, in ink, as it appeared on the previous Bill of Sale.

Aircraft Registration

Execute an Aircraft Registration Application, FAA Form 8050-1, and submit this, along with the Bill of Sale and a $5 recording fee, to the FAA.

The Aircraft Registration Application, AC Form 8050-1, is now available for download on the FAA's Web site. If you use a P.O. Box as a mailing address, you must also provide your street or physical location on the application.

Your application for aircraft registration must include the typed or printed name of each signer in the signature block. FAA will return any applications that do not include the printed or typed name of the signer.

The pink copy of your Registration should be retained and placed in the aircraft as a temporary registration certificate. It is valid for flight within the United States for 90 days. At the same time, submit any necessary state registration forms and fees to the appropriate state office.

FCC Forms

GOOD TIP: Don’t buy an airplane without help. Tomahawk Aero offers affordable coaching and shopping for all aircraft buyers. Call us at (360) 510-1139 today.