Evaluating An Aircraft for Purchase

Maintenance records are required for several reasons. Safety is one and their effect on the value of an aircraft is another. Joe Hertzler writes about the impact that records, or lack thereof, can have on the value of an aircraft.


Upon completion of the prepurchase records evaluation, the buyer should be presented with a list of maintenance records deficiencies. Since the messenger usually is the first one to get shot at, we suggest that the proper approach be taken regarding the deficiencies. The deficiency in the records does not mean that the work has not been accomplished; it simply means that the work was not documented. There may be a simple explanation, but the records do not provide proper documentation.

The deficiencies are then either listed on the work order to be addressed by the maintenance provider or until further documentation is provided by the seller. Once all questions can be answered or otherwise addressed, the records are completed and brought up to speed and will then reflect accurately the status of all maintenance performed on the aircraft.

Most aircraft purchase agreements include a prepurchase section that spells out the responsibilities and limitations of the prepurchase inspection. Usually the buyer pays for the inspection and the seller pays to have discrepancies that affect airworthiness corrected prior to the closing of the sale. Another detail to understand is that there is often a limitation to the time allowed to perform the inspection. Make certain that you have ample time to complete the necessary inspections and evaluations so that you know what you are buying.

Don’t Cut it Short

The prepurchase inspection is too often cut short. The buyer either falls so in love with the aircraft that it doesn’t matter what is wrong with it (“It’s the most beautiful aircraft I have ever seen.”) or the buyer doesn’t see the need to spend the money (Why should we do that inspection? The aircraft just came out of a major inspection.”). We believe that the time at which the aircraft transfers from one owner to another is the best time to spend the money. That is the only time when the buyer and the seller are both at the table with their checkbooks and that an agreement on the airworthiness of the aircraft indicates who is responsible for what expenses. We have never seen a prepurchase that didn’t uncover airworthiness related concerns; however, if the prepurchase evaluation is completed and there are no discrepancies on the aircraft, then the buyer can rest easy knowing that all that could be done was done to uncover unknown future risk.

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