Buying a Used Single Engine Aircraft
I wasn't exactly sure how to go about buying a used aircraft, so I attended Scott "Sky" Smith's seminar on "How to Buy a Single Engine Aircraft," at the 2003 AOPA Fly-In.
Scott's advise was to find the least expensive plane possible, fix it up, and lease it back to a flight school to offset the cost of ownership. The plane he recommended was the Cessna 150 or 152.
My Dad and I agreed with what Scott had said in the seminar, and after the meeting. Dad said to me, "You'll never know how much it is going to cost until you do it for yourself." I think I can still hear words echoing in my headset.
I began picking up rag sheet magazines like Trade-A-Plane, Controller, and the like and began to scour the pages for 150's and 152's that might make a reasonable choice. I decided I wasn't going to do this unless I was going to learn to fly in the plane we bought.
I also ordered "Sky" Smith's book, "How to Buy a Single Engine Aircraft," and read it from cover to cover.
The first paragraph his book starts like this, "Buying an aircraft is a major
decision. Not just because an aircraft costs money (so do cars, boats, and
computers), but also because an aircraft puts a lot of things at risk.
Considerations like personal safety and financial security can be compromised.
Sometimes the aircraft does more than the buyer needs, costs more than the buyer
can afford, or is more difficult to operate than the buyer expected."
I think Sky is saying is that it is easy to buy an airplane, but more difficult to manage, maintain, and mitigate the risk than most people think...that is...if you don't have a good plan, good credit, or a lot of cash.
As I continued my research, I found several planes that were possible candidates. I was mostly searching for a Cessna 172P models and Cessna 150' or 152's 1968 or newer. After about 3 weeks of research I found N50037 on Trade-A-Plane.
I e-mailed the web-link to my Dad, President/CEO of Oakton International Corporation, and my brother Mark who lives in Pompano Beach, Florida.
N50037 just so happened to be at Tampa Bay Executive Airport in New Port Richey, FL, just across the State from Mark, so I called the owner, Art Michaud, and he said that there already was a buyer who was supposed to put a down payment on the plane by Friday, but if that buyer didn't come through the plane was available again.
Art and I seem to communicate well on the phone, and we established a rapport that I was serious about purchasing his plane.
I would soon begin to realize that buying a plane is not like buying a car, especially a used plane.
With a car, you test drive it, pop the hood, maybe check the oil, look underneath for leaks, listen for rattles, and if you are satisfied with the product, maybe begin negotiating terms with the owner. If everything goes well, you may drive away and park it in your driveway a few days later.
A plane, however, is a completely different beast, and if you are asleep, you may wake up next to Godzilla.
What should everybody do when considering purchasing a plane?
#1. Get a pre-buy inspection by a mechanic with an FAA Inspection
Authorization (IA) certificate at a different airport, and who is not the
VRef is an excellent place to start with respect to finding a price that
is reasonable for the age and type of aircraft sought. The pre-buy inspection
should reveal items that can help negotiate the price down, because believe me,
everything you negotiate down you are going to put right back into the plane to
make it right.
Sad, but true, but most people who buy an aircraft do these in exactly the wrong order, and I am not excluded from this crowd. I have had my share of "learning experiences" with taming Godzilla.
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