Buying an airplane: Part two

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Buying an aircraft: Now that you have settled on your mission it is time to identify the airplanes that fit into that category. You can do this by researching the various web-sources such as, wikipedia, or even google.

Once that is done it’s time to jump into the used airplane market.










Aircraft Insurance: Do some research on this very important topic before making your final decision on the make/model you intend to purchase. Get multiple estimates, some companies are amazingly expense. Also, you can get several quotes and use those as points of negotiation.

Finding the airplane: You could engage a broker or a certified appraisers, but for most of us little guys we’ll end up doing the legwork ourselves and saving the cash.

Primarily I use and, these two resources are free and if you don’t mind keeping a frequent watch you can find deals. Other resources include word of mouth from the locales in the area and airport bulletin boards. Go here to the bottom of the page for a list of more online sales sites.

You’ll want to do your homework on the general price range. AOPA offers a free online valuation service for members. Watching the online sales sites for a month or so will give you a good idea as well.

Once you find a group of airplanes for sale that fit your requirements it’s time to contact the seller and screen them. (I always google the registration number, it is interesting what you might learn before ever calling the seller.)

Here’s a list of questions to get you started. You’ll want to add model-specific questions to the list as appropriate. Some of this information should be in the ad, but I included below just in case.

  1. Year of manufacturer
  2. Total time on the airframe
  3. Total time on the engine
  4. Total time since overhaul on the engine
  5. Total time on prop since overhaul
  6. Damage history
  7. All ADs and Service Bulletins complied with
  8. Inspections current
  9. Optional equipment
  10. Verify no liens against the airplane
  11. Are there missing logbooks or other paperwork

If you find an airplane that looks it may be the one I would recommend holding it with a deposit until you can see it. This lets the seller know you are series and it keeps it from being sold out from under you.

I personally will want to see it in person if at all possible. This visit may also be a good time to have a pre-buy inspection done, but you can do it before or after you see it, just make sure you do it before closing. You can hire the mechanic that currently maintains it – there are pros and cons to this. Or you can hire a reputable mechanic that is knowledgeable about this make/model aircraft. The pre-buy mechanic will also need to inspect all the paperwork and note any discrepancies. In either event a good pre-buy is money well spent – consider it cheap insurance.

If the airplane is not close to home it complicates almost every aspect of the purchase. Ferry costs are not insignificant especially if you need to hire it out so make sure you factor that in. You might even be able to work it into the deal or have the current owner deliver it.

Closing Paperwork:

  • Bill of Sale: A signed copy of the Bill of Sale should be retained by both the buyer and the seller for their records and another copy must be sent to the FAA for filing.
  • Release of Lien: If there is a lien on the aircraft, the proper release of lien paperwork must also be filed with the FAA.
  • Aircraft Registration: A signed copy of the registration must be sent to the FAA along with a check to cover the filing fee. The pink copy of the registration will serve as your temporary federal registration and must remain in your plane until you receive your permanent registration in the mail. Remember you can’t operate outside of the US border with a pink slip.
  • State Registration: Each state has different requirements concerning aircraft registration.

Once you have your new airplane home read the article on ‘new airplane checkouts’ – coming soon.

Having your own aircraft is a great source of pride. You’ll enjoy coming up with new and exciting ways to spend time with your new baby!

by Brent

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