From the maintenance perspective
By Joe Hertzler
This in the most beautiful aircraft I have ever seen in my entire life! What a complimenting situation to find yourself in.
An aircraft buyer has come to you, likely because you have a reputation as being one of the best maintenance providers in the country and you have some of the most knowledgeable technicians on the model aircraft he/she is looking at to buy. They place great value on your opinion. They really want to know what you think. That is until they get a little too close to the aircraft.
Understanding the emotions that can be associated with the purchase of an aircraft is important in planning and executing a good pre-purchase evaluation. I think of it as an invisible ring around every aircraft that many-a-buyer has tripped over and smashed their head. Just in case you have never seen this sort of thing, allow me to explain.
When looking for an aircraft, a new buyer is smart to contact a reputable person or company to represent them in the search and acquisition of that aircraft. By this time they have probably decided that they are going to buy an aircraft and know what type of aircraft they are looking for, (i.e. size, speed, expense). There are many good aircraft brokers out there to turn to. Most have a fairly narrow expertise however, unless they have been at it for many years.
The broker will search the marketplace and identify two or three aircraft (or more if the market allows) that really fit into the buyer’s purchase profile. The objective then is to narrow the list down to one that the buyer will take if everything checks out. Which one is decided by factors such as equipment installed, age of paint/interior, time since major inspections and overhauls, etc. Some will want to buy an aircraft that needs paint and interior because they want to customize the aircraft for themselves, while others are looking for the aircraft that will take the least amount of money to maintain over the next three to five years, (i.e. recent overhauls and major inspections).
Now the buyer has found the aircraft that, if everything checks out, is going to be his. As you can imagine, by this time he has looked over several aircraft pretty closely (from a distance) and will have gotten to know the chosen aircraft pretty well. The reality is though, as of yet, the aircraft has not been verified to be "as advertised." Everything still needs to "check out." This is when every smart buyer and broker schedules an aircraft for a pre-purchase evaluation or, as some people call it, a "tech appraisal."
Back in the old days we just called it a "pre-buy inspection." But after a series of lawsuits against maintenance providers who performed such pre-buy inspection for things such as stripper damaged windows and undiscovered corrosion, we as a maintenance industry have been careful to be very specific in defining a pre-purchase and now call it an evaluation rather than an inspection (underlining the subjectivity involved). However, it is this process that, done properly, really protects the buyer and seller from future discoveries.
It is critical to make sure the buyer or the buyer’s broker specify what exactly will be looked at and to what standard. As a maintenance provider you can make a recommendation but it must be the buyer’s call in the end. Nothing is foolproof, but the following seven steps are in my opinion a must in every pre-purchase evaluation.
1. A complete aircraft visual inspection, nose to tail (equivalent to an annual-type inspection).
2. A borescope inspection of each engine followed by a disassembly in the event that any questionable findings need to be verified.
3. Logbook chronology search – (all records are in possession from birth to current).
4. A complete logbook verification for each inspection required by the inspection program recommended by the manufacturers of the aircraft, engines, propellers, and appliances, as well as airworthiness limitations and recommended overhauls and replacements of components and parts of the aircraft.
Do that inspection, know what you are buying
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