Owning an aircraft is a major commitment and responsibility for anyone and the search for the right aircraft can be quite extensive and stressful. At a flight school, we must constantly consider additions to the fleet.
What needs to be considered when buying an aircraft? First off, you need to determine your mission or what your aircraft will be primarily used for. At a flight school we have a wide range of missions. We want an easy aircraft for students to earn their wings in but also something advanced and modern enough to tackle the constantly changing demands of instrument flying. We also have to consider what rental customers want to fly. Do we want to offer a great cross-country platform or something for the low and slow cruisers that will stay mostly local?
The same thought process applies to anyone buying an aircraft. Once you’ve determined your mission, you can narrow down what you’re looking for in an aircraft. Considerations need to be made for cruise speed, type of avionics, useful load, number of seats, number of engines, and most importantly, your budget.
Once you have a rough idea and you’re now looking at aircraft classifieds, you need to know what a few acronyms mean. The most important ones you may notice are TT (Total Time), ET (Engine Time), TSO (Engine time since overhaul), TTO (Engine time to overhaul), SPOH (Since Propeller overhaul), and SMOH (Since major overhaul). The times on aircraft determine their worth. An aircraft with a high engine time will be approaching overhaul time and will be listed. Alternatively, an aircraft with little to no engine time will be considerably more expensive.
Once you’ve found an aircraft you’re interested in its time to review the logs to make sure regular maintenance was done and any airworthiness or special bulletins were complied with. This process can also be done by a mechanic during a pre-purchase inspection, which I suggest always having an inspection done on an aircraft you wish to purchase. The inspection usually includes a review of logbooks, and a thorough inspection of the aircraft. Cost usually runs a few hundred dollars but can save you thousands in the unfortunate event you purchase an aircraft loaded with problems. Finally, don’t forget to test fly the aircraft.
Once the purchase is complete its time to enjoy your new toy. It’s important you are comfortable in the aircraft. If not, grab an instructor to have someone there to help you familiarize yourself. Every new aircraft I fly, I always run through the required maneuvers for the private pilot check-ride. This allows me to learn the limits of the plane and to be able to comfortably fly it.
And those are the basics of purchasing an aircraft! Feel free to post a comment with questions or additions, or send us a message via the contact form.