Buying your own airplane is an exciting prospect. It’s also a big commitment that requires plenty of research and planning. If you’re considering a used airplane, one important step is the pre-buy inspection.
A pre-purchase inspection, sometimes called a tech appraisal, involves examining the aircraft for any damage, wear, and maintenance issues that may arise in the foreseeable future. This step usually happens when a buyer is serious about an aircraft, but before the transaction is final. A pre-purchase inspection doesn’t need to be as extensive as an annual inspection, although it can be. It’s usually up to the buyer to decide how much they’re willing to invest in the process.
Buyers will often work with an A&P mechanic to inspect the airplane from tail to spinner, checking all systems: the engine, propeller, wings, landing gear, fuel tanks, and so on. If the plane was left outdoors, it’s smart to inspect for unseen corrosion damage on the airframe and propeller. The pre-buy inspection is also a good opportunity to check for internal cracks and leaks, for example, in the propeller hub.
Along with a mechanical inspection, it’s important to review the aircraft logbooks and records of servicing, maintenance, inspections, and Airworthiness Directives to ensure everything is in order. AOPA provides a printable aircraft condition checklist to assist buyers in the pre-buy inspection.
It’s best to choose an A&P who’s experienced with the type of aircraft and knows what common problems to look for. After completing the inspection, the mechanic will provide a written report of the aircraft’s condition. If serious damage is uncovered, the buyer may negotiate a reduction in price or walk away from the deal.
Buying a pre-owned homebuilt aircraft can be appealing. Homebuilts generally offer low maintenance costs, a unique appearance, and fun flying. Once you own a homebuilt, you can choose to make modifications and personalize the plane to your personal tastes.
When buying a used homebuilt, a thorough pre-buy inspection is even more essential. If you’re buying one of the popular kitplanes, it shouldn’t be difficult to find an A&P familiar with the type. But if you’re looking at a more obscure experimental airplane, it can be a little trickier. Consider connecting with online communities for experimental builders, owners, and pilots to seek out a trusted, well-qualified mechanic.
A pre-purchase inspection can save used aircraft buyers a lot of time, money, and headaches down the road. It’s well worth the upfront investment to avoid unpleasant maintenance surprises and feel confident that your aircraft is safe to fly!
Do you have a question about propeller maintenance, repair, or conversions? Contact the experts at Hartzell Propeller — we’re happy to speak with you.