Aircraft Pre-purchase Evaluations

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...


5. A complete logbook verification for all FAA Airworthiness Directives, including appli

ance ADs, applicable to the aircraft.

6. Paint and interior – Verification of all burn certifications for interior components replaced since the aircraft was new. All flight controls removed and balanced following paint, and all interior and exterior placards installed as required by the type certificate data sheet for the aircraft.

7. Complete logbook verification to find any possible damage to the aircraft that could affect the value (gear up landing, corrosion repair, major skin damage repair, etc.) as well as proper documentation (FAA form 337), including instruction for continued airworthiness, for every major change to type design (major alteration) or major repair.

Maintenance records

As you can see, five of the seven steps are accomplished without even opening a panel on the aircraft. Maintenance records are of significant importance to the aircraft value and should not be underestimated. Making sure that all required maintenance entries are made when maintenance is accomplished not only keeps that aircraft in compliance, it also supports the ongoing value of the aircraft. Now, that being said, a thorough visual inspection of the aircraft will uncover corrosion, damage, and other possible unsafe conditions.

It is unfortunate that this process takes some time. It is during this logbook review and visual inspection, usually about three to five days, that some buyers, not all but some, "trip over" the imaginary line I was talking about. The reason I say he "smashes his head" is because all of a sudden he will have lost all reason and it no longer matters what you have to say, he is going to buy that aircraft. You will know it happened, you will hear him say "It’s the most beautiful aircraft I have ever seen in my entire life!" or something similar. It is then that you will know you are no longer trying to help the buyer make a decision. Now you are helping him get all the discrepancies corrected so that he can go fly his new airplane. I know this sounds like an exaggeration, but without a good "buyer’s" broker or maintenance provider to watch out for the best interests of the buyer, he can fall pretty hard. Without good representation, the buyer in love with his airplane may agree to pay for things that are the responsibility of the seller just because he thinks he has to have that aircraft. Watch for those in trouble and if you would not buy the airplane yourself, do whatever you can to keep him from making a mistake.

Now, the logbook review and visual inspection will always result in a list of discrepancies to be corrected. The logbook review will identify items that are missing, ADs that haven’t been signed off properly, damage history where the aircraft was backed into a hangar door and the rudder replaced, inspections never documented, inaccurate engine cycle counts, etc. These are all fairly common documentation issues. One uncommon example that sticks out in my mind is when we actually found an entry where the manufacturer (to remain nameless) had developed and issued a temporary repair order that was only to last until the aircraft reached 1,200 hours. After that time the aircraft could fly no more. They had not followed through and made any final disposition.

The visual inspection may identify damaged windows, ineligible parts installed, engine components that fail inspection criteria, or areas of corrosion. A visual inspection can even reveal flight controls that were not removed for balance following paint.

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