Logbooks / Pre-Purchase / Annual Inspections / Appraisals
Logbooks: Aircraft logbooks are important! Don't get trapped into buying an airplane with incomplete or missing logs. Besides being a problem for you when it comes time to sell, it is grounds for declaring the plane "un-airworthy" by the FAA. Having a plane you can't fly is probably worse than not having one at all. Your insurance is null and void, even though you have paid the premiums.
I'm sure you've heard the hype before: An airplane is definitely a different kind of machinery when compared to an auto or a boat. If there is some sort of incident, it is too late to learn about the critical nature of these little books. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. You can be sure that the FAA will examine the logs with a magnifying glass if you should be unfortunate enough to have an accident or incident. What if you don't have logs?
Would I buy a plane without log books? Maybe, for the right plane at the right price. Then, I'd do a thorough search of its history on the FAA data base, find previous mechanics, then I'd do a very thorough annual inspection and hire a DAR to verify the work.
Pre-Purchase Inspections: I do Pre-Purchase inspections at Fair Weather Field Airport (TX42). At any other location, I charge for my time and expenses to get to your location and return to home base. What does a Pre-Purchase inspections typically cost? It depends on the complexity, age of the aircraft and how detail you are asking us to investigate the condition and history of the aircraft. I can discuss this with you and then come up with a plan and a estimated cost. Going through the logbooks is first on the list and it can take the most time. Logbooks, in general, are a sad commentary on the way mechanics do work and record it. The logbooks also tell me a great deal about the aircraft and what kind of condition it may be in. A in depth research of ADs, 337s for STCs, manufacture service bulletins and any other major repair are extra.
Would I buy a plane without a Pre-Purchase? Maybe, again for the right plane and at the right price I would. Generally, I recommend a Pre-Purchase inspection. Case-in-point: New customer comes in with a nice looking airplane. Less than 300 hrs SMOH. New paint. Leather interior. Average avionics. His first annual was over $7,000 just fixing/correcting things deferred to a later date. In the first year he's owned it, the carburetor needed to be overhauled, the alternator quit, the vacuum pump quit, the mags needed to be overhauled, both brake calipers were leaking (first annual) and needed to be replaced . . . and the list goes on.
Does a pre-purchase inspection catch everything? Not always. In the example above, the carburetor, alternator, and vacuum pump would likely have still failed. The mags, more specifically, the time on the mags, would have indicated the need for overhaul. The leaking brakes would definitely have been noticed. It's up to you to decide what your risk tolerance is.
Annual Inspections: I have been doing annual inspections since 1996. I am still amazed at how many airplane owners fail to take basic care of their planes or go to mechanics that know what they're doing. For example (there are at least 200 more stories like these):
• I'll see the same plane year after year and it hasn't been washed or vacuumed since the last annual.
• I've seen planes with over 100 hours between annuals and never had the oil changed.
• I am still seeing planes with 30 year old fuel and oil hoses.
• Many have SCAT tubing that is shredded and patched back together with silicon RTV. To what, save 10 bucks?
The Basic Annual/100 Hr inspections cost:
Time and Materials rated:
An average cost for the inspection only (including logbook research) would be $800 to $1800.00 single engine land; for annual, 100 Hr. or Experimental condition inspection. Any repair work required or requested is billed at time and materials.
The inspections include, a compression test (bore scope on Continental engines), the cleaning and gaping of spark plugs, lubrication, wheel bearings cleaned, inspected and lubed. Utilization of a comprehensive checklists for the inspection, and AD's and Service bulletin research with required FAA documentation for aircraft records.
Oil change $85 plus oil and filter.
Deluxe cleaning, vacuum, wash and wax your plane for $250 (yes includes belly).
Quick external wash and vacuum is only $50 (no does not include belly).
New weight and balance data sheet, by actual weighing of the entire aircraft on our electronic scales. ($325.00 Single engine or Sailplane, other types please call for quote).
If we discover damage, worn or broken parts we will contact you and discuss your options and get your approval before we move forward. The shop rate is $85/hr. (as of March 1, 2015) Parts extra.
What is my airplane worth?: There are several ways to determine an aircraft's value. Most buyers and sellers use the Aircraft Blue Book Digest or if you’re a member of AOPA use vRef found on the AOPA web site. The Bluebook or vRef value is generally lower than the asking price you'll find in Trade-A-Plane because it is based on the sales prices reported. Most airplane finance companies use a combination of sources (you can call some of them to help you) and usually arrive at a value below the Bluebook and then loan up to 90% of that. It is important to know what 'add-ons' really add to an airplanes value and what doesn't. Of course, the condition of the plane (on a 1 to 10 scale) plays a part too.
Do your own market analysis: A market analysis compares an aircraft's value to what other similar airplanes are being sold for. A market analysis will help a you determine what is a fair asking price for a particular airplane. This saves a lot of time and missed calls. Before you pick a sales price ask yourself if it's worth it to find out what other similar planes are being sold for.