First plane purchase, all the questions

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First plane purchase, all the questions

Posted by Matt Sherman on Nov 12, 2018 3:31 pm

Hello Everyone,

Working towards buying my first airplane. Decided on a Piper Arrow II or Arrow 3. Non turbo. So many questions, most of all is some of the aircraft that look great have damage history. One aircraft in particular had a gear up landing. So Should I walk away now or is this a non event? How much time is to much for TTAF?

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Re: First plane purchase, all the questions

Posted by Kenneth Lauder on Jan 30, 2019 12:19 am


You're getting the full gamut of advice here.  Hopefully you can gleen some useful info from it.  I'll throw in my $.02 worth not knowing if your search is still ongoing.  Before anyone can elaborate too much on specific what's and how's to buy your first plane, it would be necessary to hear more about how long you've been flying, how many hours you've logged, what part of the country do you do most of your flying, what type of complex time have you logged so far, and your mission; not only for today, but also for the future. However, Kent beat  me to what I personally would consider to be the biggest red flag right now re your contemplated purchase of an Arrow, that being the potential wing issues identified after the recent ER incident in FL.   Be sceptical if the FAA mandated solution is solely "a visual inspection and the addition of an access panel" without also mandating an eddy current inspection, as the former may not fully address the invisible potential dangers inherent in the wing attach structure.  IIRC, there was a similar wing incident several years ago that purportedly wasn't fully addressed and now has led to more loss of life. Obviously the ER plane was a higher time specimen and, like most training planes, had likely been ridden hard and put to bed wet more than a couple times. The plane you are evaluating is likely lower time and more representative of the owner flown fleet.  I think the suggestion to join some of the various boards and start asking questions there is a good one,  potentially  leading to the introduction to a knowledgeable mechanic in your area who is thoroughly familiar with the model and can be trusted to do a nit picky full annual inspection as a prebuy inspection. Insist that the cylinders are borescoped, paying particular attention to the exhaust valves.  Take an oil sample and cut open the filter for inspection.  Pressure test and spray down the exhaust. Be suspicious of a recent oil change that would appear to have been done too soon for elapsed hours or calendar time since the last one. Plan to be there as the plane is opened up.  The full annual vs a "prebuy" requires an IA to attest airworthiness by signature.   Repair/cost of any deficiencies discovered would either be negotiated with the seller or the plane is buttoned back up and you move on to the next candidate.  As mentioned by others here, I'd also rather have a discounted price due to a high time engine that I can then decide when and where it's overhauled and to my specs.  An engine with some hours on it, overhauled to new limits by known reputable shops like Ram, Western Skyways, Powermasters etc along with details of which parts were new vs reconditioned would be worthy of consideration.i would be more confident in a higher time engine that has been flying than a hangar queen with only 300 hrs on an engine done 15 yrs ago.  Planes cost you money whether they sit or fly and I'd encourage you to plan financially to fly your plane're paying for it either way. I would also prefer to buy a plane that has lived its life hangared in a dry clime and has been flown regularly. Log on to flightaware and ck the recent flight history.  Buy more history if you need to get an idea if the plane is being flown.  What part of the country the plane has lived In is important re potential corrosion....corrosion is cancer once it gets started and for me would be a deal breaker. Beware of being sucked in by "lipstick on a pig" which that classy new paint scheme and new interior can represent.  You're looking for a sound well cared for airframe that I wouldn't compromise on.  Depending on your budget and the price you initially pay, consider avionics, paint and interior, glass,engines etc to all be disposables.  Obviously they cost a lot of AMUs to add after the purchase and the price paid has to allow for that expense, which will be more than the cost of finding a candidate meeting your needs. Finding that solid airframe is still first priority.  If it has contemporary IFR GPS radios and is ADS-B compliant, along with other bells and whistles within your budget, even better yet, since you as the buyer inherit those at a huge discount to the seller's original installation cost.

Well, I'm up to at least $.03 worth now. Good luck in your search.  Having your own plane is a great privilege and is sole ownership is definitely worth the price to have the peace of mind knowing how your bird is flown and maintained.  I wish you many great years of enjoyment.

Re: Hire a professional

Posted by John Vahgatsi on Feb 4, 2019 10:41 am


Used aircraft can often be as good as or even better than new but Max Reason is right on one count... aircraft brokerage is an unlicensed line of work and brokers are often  guilty of providing misinformation by omission and/or commission. Let someone with experience work for you to verify that the airplane you're purchasing is everything you think it is. He, or she, will literally save you thousands of dollars and hours and hours of time and frustration.


I feel bound to say something on behalf of brokers.  I don't think it is fair to tar all brokers with the same brush.  No doubt there are good ones and bad ones as in any walk of life. All aircraft engineers are licensed but some are diligent and others less so.  Licensing per se does not, unfortunately, guarantee consistency in quality of work.
I am an aircraft broker.  My job is to market aircraft on behalf of owners and present their aircraft to the best of my ability with honesty and integrity. 
I ALWAYS recommend that a buyer gets an independent trusted engineer, ideally one with knowledge and experience of the type you are buying, to carry out a thorough pre-buy inspection.  I also refrain from making any recommendations to the buyer as to which engineer should be used to avoid any potential for conflict of interest. By the way, you may well choose to use both an experienced aircraft appraiser or type expert AND an engineer who knows the type but if you have to have only one OR the other, you'll need a qualified engineer.  I wouldn't trust anyone else to take things off, do a borescope inspection or do retraction tests on an aircraft I am selling. 
There is no point in presenting/advertising an aircraft other than truthfully.  It wastes everybody's time, including my own, if I claim things that a proper pre-buy inspection will find differently.
I am not a qualified engineer and my inspection and appraisal of an aircraft before marketing does not allow me to know whether the engine is making metal or that the compressions are actually much lower than at the last annual.

In the UK, where I am based, if you buy a house the estate agent (realtor) does not warrant that the house is structurally sound, you hire a qualified building surveyor to carry out a survey of the house before you buy it and he/she has liability if you subsequently find problems which the surveyor should have reported on.  I assume it is the same in the States?

I have yet to find a used light aircraft which has no faults found during a pre-buy inspection.  It comes down to what the defects are and what is reflected in the price.

Best wishes in your search.


John Vahgatsi
Managing Director
Airtime Plane Trading Limited
Hangar 103
Aviation Park West
Bournemouth Airport
BH23 6NW
United Kingdom

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