Aircraft Pre-Purchase Inspections

Pre-Purchase InspectionsInvolving maintenance experts in an aircraft acquisition is time and money well spent!

One of the most exciting days in a person’s life is the day he or she purchases an aircraft. While this can be an exciting time, it also can be filled with pitfalls and challenges.  For this article, we will look at the maintenance issues that need to be examined during the aircraft acquisition process.

When buying an aircraft, it is important to have a qualified, neutral technician or organization do a proper pre-purchase inspection of the prospective aircraft. When Keystone Aviation purchases an aircraft for a client, we recommend just that. We also recommend doing a one or more of the manufacturer’s larger inspection(s) as part of the evaluation – this allows you to get more value for your dollar as you will have accomplished maintenance work that would have been required later.

Reasons to consult a qualified maintenance expert with your aircraft acquisition, include:

  • Pre-Purchase InspectionsPurchasing an aircraft without the benefit of an experienced airframe and powerplant mechanic can lead to big expenses and unsafe conditions right away or even later on.
  • An aircraft is a piece of machinery that can operate in diverse and extreme conditions. This operating environment places many different types of stress on the equipment.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration regulations require that the aircraft must be maintained to an “Airworthy” condition. This airworthy assessment may be accomplished by many different mechanics with different skill levels and standards for determining airworthiness.
  • In the past, we have seen individuals buying aircraft without the benefit of a quality pre-purchase evaluation and it almost always has led to a disappointing ownership experience, resulting in more downtime and more maintenance costs.
  • Many potential buyers are attracted to an aircraft that has new paint and interior because “it looks good.” These “cosmetic overhauls” could be hiding a host of problems that only a trained eye could spot. Paint can hide a multitude of problems, i.e. corrosion, damage, or poor repair workmanship.

Some of the areas that you want to have a maintenance expert look at are:

  • Pre-Purchase InspectionsAircraft records, (logbooks, etc.) – are they complete and accurate?
  • Aircraft damage history – has the aircraft been involved in an accident?
  • Airworthiness Directive (AD) status – are all applicable AD’s complied with and signed off properly?
  • Maintenance status – are all inspection requirements up to date?
  • Engine condition and history – is the engine performing as it should?
  • System operations – are they functioning normally?
  • Modifications and proper recording of the modifications – are all FAA form 337s, STCs accounted for?
  • Corrosion damage – where has the aircraft lived? Is there hidden corrosion?
  • Another important part of a pre-purchase evaluation is the acceptance flight. How does the aircraft handle? Does it seem to be in rig? Does it taxi OK? Do the gauges all agree with each other? Are there any excessive vibrations or flutters?

Tips for your pre-purchase evaluation:

  • When performing these evaluations always prepare and use a checklist so as not to forget any of the items that you want looked at.
  • Always start the pre-purchase evaluation with clear and well-defined parameters so that everyone involved (the buyer, seller and evaluator) are working from the same page.
  • In the end, a well performed evaluation can make the aircraft buying experience much easier and ownership more cost effective.

By Bill Hoddenbach, © December, 2011. Mr. Hoddenbach currently serves as Director of Maintenance for Keystone Aviation and has over twenty years of aircraft maintenance experience ranging from small piston to large commercial jet and rotorcraft aircraft. He holds an A&P Technician certificate and is a Private Pilot rated in both fixed-wing and rotorcraft aircraft. Mr. Hoddenbach has served as Vice-Chairman of NATA’s Maintenance Systems and Technology Committee.

DISCLAIMER: Statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, editors and publishers. While care has been taken in the compilation of this article to present up-to-date and accurate information, we cannot guarantee that inaccuracies will not occur. Keystone Aviation will not be held responsible for any claim, loss, damage or inconvenience caused as a result of any information within this article.