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Used Aircraft Purchasing Considerations

AMS did not compile this article, and cannot be held responsible for its content, we just thought you might find it informative.

This article was written for an aircraft purchased in the USA and staying within the USA, if you wish to purchase an aircraft in one country and register it in another, there are additional steps to take not detailed here.

Are you in the market for a used aircraft (A/C)?

What steps should you take to protect yourself and your new investment ?

All to often, buyers subsequently discover that their ''perfect'' A/C has some defect that they did not know about when it was purchased. Curing that defect can, in some cases, be impossible. In other cases, it can cost as much (or even more) than the A/C itself.

Unlike automobile purchases, there are no established protections for A/C purchasers. The buyer is responsible for inspection and making sure the A/C is airworthy. Airworthy means the A/C must conform to its type certificate (TC)--i.e. its configuration and the components installed are as described in the TC, including Supplemental Type Certificates (STC), Airworthiness Directives (AD), and field approved alterations incorporated into the A/C.

1.Purchase Agreement:

A precise and thorough written agreement is needed to ensure you are not buying an unairworthy A/C. It should contain a detailed identification of the parties; the A/C and its installed equipment; total times/cycles; and procedures to be utilized for pre-purchase inspection and closing and delivery.

2.Title Search:

The purchase agreement should contain a warranty of clear and marketable title. This FAA title search can be performed by a title company or aviation attorney. A title search will reveal the identity of the registered owner, mortgages, recorded liens, unknown owners or any defects in the chain of title. Sometimes, buyers discover that the seller may not be the person lawfully entitled to sell the A/C. A title report may be the only way to accurately acquire this information.

When dealing with A/C that have been registered in places other than the United States, a search of the international registry under the Capetown convention would be appropriate.

3.Pre-purchase inspection:

The pre-purchase inspection may be the most important step in purchasing an A/C. If the A/C is advertised as having a ''fresh annual,'' your instincts should tell you ''beware.'' Often this is window dressing performed by the sellerís best friend, "Wally Walkaround.'' 

A pre-purchase inspection carried out correctly should include: 

   a written pre-purchase inspection agreement

   an inspection protocol, utilizing the buyer's instruction

   the buyer's selected FAA certified A & P engineer reference

   a detailed audit of the logs and historical records.

337 search:

Major Repair or Alteration Form. Alterations that change the weight and balance of the A/C must be in compliance with the FAA requirements. Compliance occurs when approved maintenance is reported to the FAA. If this work is not done properly or is not reported, the A/C is not airworthy.

Detailed Records Audit:

This is the method of checking items that did not get reported on the 337 forms. You want to ensure log book accuracy--i.e. an inspection that ensures accurate entries in engine logs, propeller logs and maintenance logs. This should be done by inspecting any equipment that has been installed, to ensure against unlawful and unreported maintenance.

4. Warranties:

Once the pre-purchase is completed and you have decided to go ahead with the purchase, warranties will further ensure that your investment is protected.

-Warranties of Airworthiness ensure that the aircraft is airworthy and if it is not, the seller will cure all defects to make the aircraft airworthy;

-Warranty of Title convey clear and marketable title and impose upon the seller the obligation to correct any and all discrepancies; and

-Warranty Bill of Sale protect the buyer by ensuring that the person acting as seller is actually legally allowed to sell the aircraft and is conveying clear and marketable title.

So !

Even if you are only thinking of buying an aircraft, protect yourself in the beginning by taking the proper steps, find yourself a good, reliable, experienced FAA certified A & P engineer or an EASA Aircraft engineer, he (or she) will be well worth your investment.

AMS (uk) can assist you in purchasing your aircraft, wherever or whatever type of aircraft it is.