- 03/06/17 02:54PM
In our series on the growing world of aircraft refurbishing, we’ve looked at every phase of a total refurb from avionics to interiors and from engine replacement to paint. In this article we’ll deal with what is either the start or finish of a refurbishment—buying an airplane you intend to refurb or one that has just come out of refurbishment.
While refurbs are becoming an increasingly popular way to become the owner of an airplane that has most of the attributes of a new one at less cost, the rules regarding protecting yourself when buying a pre-owned airplane are the same whether you’re buying it for a refurb or because it was refurbed. And those rules boil down to one inviolable law—have a pre-buy examination of the airplane conducted by a mechanic you select who has had no connection with the airplane or the seller in the past.
As a lawyer, some of the most frustrating matters I’ve dealt with have involved airplane owners who bought without having a pre-buy conducted—or had one done by the seller’s mechanic—and then discovered that they’d bought junk and wanted their money back. One buyer thought he’d gotten a tremendous deal on a light twin—when he took it in for the first annual it was discovered to have extensive corrosion. It took three years and cost him half of what he’d paid to buy the airplane to fix the corrosion—and it was only one of the many things wrong with the airplane. The buyer of a Cessna 150 with a “fresh annual” took it in for its next annual the next year and found out the wrong engine was installed—and had to be replaced. A 172 had had a wing replaced (no logbook entry) and the “little bit out of rig” problem became so bad that it had to be replaced again. One buyer didn’t have a pre-buy done because the seller was an A & P mechanic so “the aircraft had to be in good shape.” The list of illegal parts installed and improper repairs that had been done that was provided to the buyer by the shop doing the next annual ran two pages. Almost invariably, the seller was in another state and trying to prove the seller knew the airplane was in rotten shape would be so difficult, not to mention expensive—or the seller had disappeared or was bankrupt. Too often the buyer was stuck with his or her money pit.
The idea behind a refurb is to wind up with an airplane that has the equipment and is in the condition you desire because you want an airplane made for why you fly. That means answering the question: How much am I willing to pay to get an airplane that has that equipment and in that condition? That’s where the pre-buy examination comes in—you are hiring a mechanic knowledgeable about that type of airplane to examine it and give you an educated estimate as to how much more it’s going to cost you to get that particular airplane to where you want it. If you are buying the airplane for a refurb, chances are you’ll have the shop that’s going to do it do the pre-buy, so you’ll get a solid handle on the cost of the refurb or you find out that the airplane needs so much extra work that you should walk away from the deal. If the airplane’s just come out of refurb, your independent technician does the quality control check and, if anything isn’t up to snuff, gives you leverage to have the work redone at no cost to you.
Although this article is primarily about the pre-buy examination, there are caveats to keep in mind during your search for the right airplane to refurb: Accept that there are no undiscovered, fabulous deals just waiting for you to uncover—an airplane half-way across the country priced well below others you’ve considered has something badly wrong with it. If it were in good shape for that price, a local would have snapped it up. Also, “fresh annual” and “fresh overhaul” are red flags—consider them traps for suckers. If you were going to sell, how much would you spend on maintenance?
Among the more common AVweb reader letters that get forwarded to me are from pilots who have bought an airplane with a fresh annual as part of the deal and either something expensive failed within months, when it went into the shop for a refurb all sorts of horrible things were discovered or it wouldn’t pass its next annual because it had illegal parts installed or there are extensive, and expensive, repairs needed. They thought they’d gotten a good deal on an airworthy airplane, only to discover, in some cases, that they were just lucky it kept flying long enough to make it to its first visit to the shop. If you do pursue such an airplane, it would be wise to assume the annual is worthless and that the overhaul won’t come close to making TBO—and make a purchase offer accordingly.
The good news is that honest sellers don’t object to a pre-buy examination. Most expect it and will cooperate in coordinating it. You, the buyer, will bear all of the costs, including ferrying the airplane, if needed. Realistic sellers recognize that a pre-buy helps protect them if the buyer later suffers buyer’s remorse and tries to take some action against the seller for misrepresentation of the airplane.
If a seller resists a pre-buy it’s usually a sufficient reason to walk away from the airplane. The times I’ve seen a seller resist for good reason involved logistics, notably where the buyer demanded that the seller fly the airplane a long ways without agreeing to pay the cost of getting it there and back if it didn’t pass the exam.
Once you’ve found an airplane that looks good enough to consider buying for a refurb, a number of things happen—although the sequence may vary: Getting photos of the exterior and interior (in the world of cell phone cameras you should get pictures of everything—assume that any area not photographed is in bad shape), getting copies of the last few years of logbook entries and oil analysis results, as well as printouts from the engine analyzer, getting the aircraft file from the FAA, negotiation on the price, flying the airplane and a pre-buy examination. A rule of rule of thumb is to agree on a price that is subject to a pre-buy examination. You and the seller may then want to agree on what will happen as a result of the pre-buy. Under what conditions can you walk away? If there are squawks and an estimate for repairs, who pays for the repairs if you go ahead with the deal? If you haven’t flown the airplane, you’ll want to do so at some point prior to the exam (or arrange to have someone you trust do the test flight). Don’t pass on a test flight—a ground inspection, no matter how careful, can’t uncover some potential faults, such as the airplane being badly out of rig.
In anticipation of the pre-buy examination you should order a copy of all of the aircraft’s records on file with the FAA—that means everything that has been recorded with the FAA regarding the airplane—all ownership and loan paperwork and all Form 337s (Major Repairs and Alterations). It will come on a CD. While you’ll get a title search done to confirm that the airplane is free of liens, the paperwork package gives you a head start on the subject and it lets you start doing your due diligence to find out if there is a damage history that has not been disclosed. Generally, big fixes required after an accident or incident require filing a Form 337. However, a certain percentage of owners and their mechanics don’t bother doing so in hopes of not losing resale value on the airplane. The absence of a 337 for a big repair is not proof of the absence of damage history.
If the airplane has a lien or liens on it, do not close any sale until you have positive evidence that all liens have been released. Every once in a while I’ll get a call from an aircraft owner who is being pursued for payment on a lien that’s 20 or 30 years old. Usually it was from a loan made by a bank or savings and loan that went under and its assets were bought by another bank. Some young new hire in the loan department of the current bank had been assigned to go through old records and find out if there are any uncollected loans and came upon an unpaid (or unreleased) loan from years back and traced down the current owner for payment. It’s a huge—and often expensive—pain in the what is for the current owner. The records say the airplane was collateral for an unpaid loan and the bank wants its money or the airplane.
Any unreleased lien on an airplane you are buying is a deal killer. Walk away.
The Examination Itself
A pre-buy is not an inspection. Let’s make it clear. Around airplanes, the word “inspection” has specific meanings, especially when the FARs are involved. The FAA does not recognize the term “pre-buy inspection.” Examination is more descriptive of what's being done. Further, the results of a pre-buy exam should never be recorded in an aircraft or engine logbook. It is an examination of the aircraft and its logs to get information about its condition so you can make a decision as to whether you want to buy it. That’s it. It is not a prediction or guarantee of future airworthiness. It’s a snapshot of the condition of the items on the airplane examined then and there. It is a tool for you and your mechanic to use in making the decision whether to buy the airplane.
The exam should be conducted by a mechanic you chose—and who knows the type of aircraft well. Knowledge and experience in type does matter—a mechanic who primarily works on Cessna, Cirrus and Piper is not likely to know the inner secrets of Mooneys. A good way to locate a mechanic is through the type club for the model. Having joined the type club and learned all you can about the marque early in your search benefits you in several ways—learning what to look for and look out for as ammunition for your search and negotiation, getting to know people who are knowledgeable that may be able to help you during the purchase process and as an owner and the chance that a club member may be selling a good airplane.
Discuss the nature and extent of the exam with your mechanic when you retain him or her. How deep do you want to dig? What needs to be looked at to find evidence of undisclosed damage that may not have been repaired correctly? Set it up so that if your mechanic finds what may be a show stopper that he or she comes to a halt right then and tells you so you can make a decision. If you aren’t going to buy, there’s no reason to continue.
Set aside a full day for a pre-buy for non-pressurized piston singles and twins—it may take less—the idea is not to be hurried. Anyhow, you’ve got to allow a few days to get the oil sample you’ll take analyzed.
Once the day comes, the first step is to go through all of the originals of the logbooks (this is one time originals matter—if you buy, you’ll make electronic copies and keep the originals locked up because their loss knocks 10 to 20 percent off the resale value of the airplane). If the seller has told you that all the logs exist and then there proves to be any kind of hassle regarding production of any of the logbooks at the beginning of the inspection, be spring-loaded to walk away. If the logs aren’t all there, ready to go, it’s a major issue. It doesn’t happen often, but I’ve seen situations where sellers, knowing some of the logs are missing, will produce a few right away and then start making excuses and finding one here and one there, hoping the buyer will let it go without realizing the set is not complete. Don’t fall into the trap. The logs are either all there or they are not. If they aren’t, it should have been disclosed up front and the purchase price should have reflected that logs were missing.
There are numerous, good checklists for pre-buy exams, especially those compiled by type clubs. One size does not fit all. Once the logs pass muster, your mechanic should follow the checklist you’ve agreed upon. In my opinion, that includes a borescope exam of the engine, not just a compression check. You’ll also overnight the oil sample for analysis. The good companies will call or email you with the results the next day.
Your mechanic should make a running list of squawks. Assuming no big deal-breaker is found, he or she should then give you an estimate to fix each one. You and your mechanic then have time to discuss how things look overall and in detail.
If something is on the equipment list for an airplane you are considering, it must be in the airplane. At a very basic level, that includes the tow bar and baggage net. If there is an empty or plugged instrument hole—for instance, the equipment list says the airplane has a carb temperature gauge and there is no 337 for its removal—the gauge has to be there or a 337 has to be filled out. Some sellers don't seem to understand that if the prop on the airplane isn't of the sort approved on the Type Certificate Data Sheet, the airplane is not airworthy. Don't agree to buy an airplane that isn't airworthy because it has unapproved parts on it. You may be the one who comes up against buyers who weren't as foolish as you were, and discover that it's unmarketable unless you can find another sucker. And, in doing so, your sucker may turn around and sue you for fraud because you knew the airplane was illegal and didn't disclose it.
If things look good, contingent on the oil sample (and the seller may have given you the oil sample history), you and the seller go over the squawk list based on your agreement as to how the cost of repairs is to be handled and close the deal. You’re now the owner of a nicely refurbished airplane or ready to create one.
The Internet has helped buyers rapidly find airplanes as well as unscrupulous sellers come up with more ways to try to unload lemons disguised as trophy pieces. P.T. Barnum may be long dead, but he continues to be proven right on a daily basis in the used airplane sales world. Despite improvements in information technology, the rules of buying a used airplane for a refurb haven't changed:
Join the owner's association and get all the information you can before searching.
Don't ever buy sight-unseen.
Get the chain of title and 337s before you commit to anything.
Be suspicious of anything that smacks of a seller who is the least bit hesitant to disclose everything about the airplane.
Have your mechanic do a pre-purchase examination and make any sales agreement subject to a pre-purchase examination.
Don't get so emotionally involved with one airplane that you can't walk away.
Rick Durden is an aviation attorney and the author of The Thinking Pilot’s Flight Manual or, How to Survive Flying Little Airplanes and Have a Ball Doing It, Vols 1 & 2.
Proposed San Carlos Airport Ordinance Targets Surf Air, Excludes Ellison
Angered by noise from Pilatus PC-12s operated by Surf Air, residents of San Mateo county have taken a new tack in their fight to shut down the operation. A proposed curfew ordinance, drafted by the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, would limit any operator to one takeoff and one landing of a “noisy airplane” between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. and prohibit all operations after 9 p.m. In a thinly veiled attempt to target Surf Air’s PC-12 specifically, the definition of “noisy airplane” is one whose FAA certificated noise level exceeds 74.5 dB. There are several PC-12 configurations, but the quietest one is rated at 74.6 dB. Surf Air has 19 departures from San Carlos on an average day. Five of those flights depart after 6 p.m. A staff member for a San Mateo County Supervisor told AVweb that Surf Air is plainly the reason for the ordinance, which may make it illegal under a federal law prohibiting municipalities from enacting noise ordinances that are “unjustly discriminatory.”
Larry Ellison famously battled the City of San Jose over a curfew that prevented him from landing his Gulfstream V at San Jose International after 11:30 p.m. on the grounds that a restriction based on aircraft weight was “unjustly discriminatory.” He won. The proposed San Carlos ordinance has an exclusion for jet aircraft and helicopters regardless of noise. The same staff member told AVweb that Mr. Ellison now keeps a smaller jet at San Carlos, which would be exempt from the noise ordinance and free to operate at night. Oracle Corp is the largest employer in San Mateo County with its headquarters located less than a mile from San Carlos Airport. The proposed ordinance also excludes government, medivac, emergency and pilot proficiency operations.
Photo credit: Richard Silagi, Surf Air Pilatus PC-12NG N809SA landing at KSQL on December 2, 2014
Colleagues Rally For Paralyzed Canadian Flight Instructor
Friends and colleagues of a Vancouver Island flight instructor paralyzed in a training accident are rallying around her trying to ensure she achieves a new dream of somehow continuing to work in aviation. Kristen Ursel, an instructor at the Victoria Flying Club, was with a student in January when their 172 clipped powerlines after a touch and go and ended up in brush at the end of the runway at the Duncan, B.C. Airport. News reports at the time noted she was trapped in the wreckage for two hours in a “complicated rescue” because of the live power lines and that she was taken to the hospital. Her complicated recovery is now the object of a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of $100,000 to get her from her hospital bed to a new role in aviation.
Ursel, who is also a single mother, broke her neck in the crash and was left with limited use of her arms and hands. She is currently in the G.F. Strong Rehabilitation Center in Vancouver where her friends report that her resolve to return to aviation is guiding her recovery. “Kristen is determined to one day return to work wherever she can in the aviation industry,” says the GoFundMe description. While her direct medical expenses are covered, there will be numerous additional costs to cover on her way back and the campaign is aimed at those expenses.
Pilot Abandons Crashed Plane
Normally it's a good thing when a pilot walks away from a crash but a Missouri man may have pushed that sentiment a little. Rather than trying to find the wrecked aircraft, Kansas authorities found themselves looking for its pilot last week. According to the Kansas City Star, Randal S. Shannon's shattered Maule was in plain sight in a farmer’s field. What was missing was whoever was on board the aircraft. After he finally identified himself, Shannon, of Drexel, Missouri, apologized. He had a meeting to make in nearby Roxbury.
Shannon reportedly told authorities that he was trying to land on a road when a gust of wind blew him into the pasture and the aircraft was damaged. He dusted himself off, got to his meeting and found another way home. He did call in six hours later but police wonder what took so long. “The lady (who spotted the plane) was freaking out,” Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Craig Davis told the Star on Friday. “And I told him that (leaving the scene) wasn’t fair to all these other people who have to run lights and sirens down there — and you’re not even there."
Uflytv Launches Aviation Video Service Website
Milwaukee, WI – Uflytv has launched a new digital HD video service that features a wide range of aviation topics. “Think of it as ‘The Aviation Channel’,” said Tom Poberezny, Corporate Consultant. “It provides access to vibrant programs that meet the highest network television standards.” Uflytv, which can be viewed through the Internet, offers six and twelve month subscriptions.
Members can stream hundreds of dynamic films varying from 3 to 60 minutes in length on their iPhones, iPads, or laptops. Currently there are over 220 titles. Other films will be added in the coming year. Some of the films originally appeared on the Discovery Communication/Military Channel. There are films that are narrated by celebrities like Gary Sinese, and David Hartman. “People are going to be surprised by the breadth of content that includes rare historical footage never seen before,” said Poberezny. “Initial reactions of viewers indicate that Uflytv has universally exceeded their expectations, in terms of quality, network standards and excitement.”
The films focus on aerobatic icons, unusual aircraft, formation flying, GA aircraft, and heroic missions that fall under categories like “Voices of Valor,” “Missions That Changed the War,” and “Warbirds in Review”. The content is exciting and, at times, inspiring.
Uflytv is an active network that is expanding its scope of offerings to cover everything from ultralights to airliners and outer space. They expect to enlarge their activity to include live streaming of aviation events and will develop an aviation news segment.
“Anyone who has a passion for aviation is going to find this series a rewarding and stimulating experience,” said Poberezny. “Uflytv is the result of a dream and a commitment to story-telling.”
Uflytv has partnered with Aircraft Spruce & Specialty for the launch of the network and some programs to be announced in the future. “We see tremendous educational and entertainment value in Uflytv,” said Jim Irwin, President of Aircraft Spruce & Specialty. “We are eager to see this venture succeed and endorse it wholeheartedly.”
To learn more and view a fast action trailer on the series, visit Uflytv.com.
Power Flow Tuned Exhaust Installations Pass 5000
Power Flow Tuned Exhaust Installations Pass 5000
Daytona Beach, FL – Today there are over 5,000 General Aviation aircraft flying with a Power Flow Tuned Exhaust System. The three leaders in upgrades installed are the Cessna 172/175 airframes with nearly 2000 units, the PA-28 Cherokee with over 800 and the Cessna 177 series which is now approaching 700 installations.
A tuned exhaust system has a dramatic impact on performance. Power Flow measured the horsepower of a Lycoming 0-320 A1A, rated at 160 hp, and equipped with an original Cessna exhaust for a baseline, they got a peak horsepower of 133.3. Trading out the OEM exhaust package at Ly-Con’s test cell in California, and replacing it with a Power Flow Tuned Exhaust System, the horsepower peaked at 157.1, a 23.8 hp difference. That extra horsepower translates into more torque, a shorter takeoff roll, better climb and faster cruise at normal settings. The engine also runs cooler.
“It’s the upgrade that works as advertised,” said Darren Tilman, General Manager of Power Flow, “We offer our Customers a 60 Day Money Back Guarantee on every system we ship. In eighteen years, fewer than 80 systems (less than 2%) out of 5,000 have been returned”.
Tuning an exhaust system depends on the length of the pipes coming off the exhaust manifold and the “collector” that allows for a more complete evacuation of exhaust gases from the cylinders. That, in turn, allows for a greater amount of gas/air mixture to enter the cylinder before firing, increasing efficiency and boosting power.
The system is STC’d for ten of the most popular GA aircraft powered by four cylinder Lycoming O-320, O-360, I/O-360 & I/O-390 engines. Power Flow also makes a system for the O-320 powered Robinson R-22 Beta series and a non-STC’d version of the system for the Experimental/Custom-built market.
For more information on Power Flow Tuned Exhaust Systems visit PowerFlowSystems.com.
Trump and New Regulations
An order from President Donald Trump requiring federal agencies to eliminate two existing regulations for every new regulation created could force the Federal Aviation Administration to review all of its regulations with an eye toward combining, rewriting and eliminating rules. "The good news is that the Federal Aviation Regulations are rife with duplication and rules that are no longer necessary," wrote Stephen Pope.
Flying Magazine (2/2)
- 02/27/17 09:30AM
Download a free executive summary of NBAA's Compensation Survey. See how your flight operation compares to others in the industry and learn how you can stay competitive in the marketplace by reviewing compensation benchmarks & objectives. Get your free Compensation Survey Executive Summary here!
And More Rain
California's Santa Barbara Municipal Airport was closed overnight Friday due to flooded runways. Crews cleared away mud and debris, and the airport reopened Saturday morning.