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Buying an Aircraft can be a complex process so let us help you with this Huge Investment. Always USE THE 90% RULE. Too many buyers fall into the trap of shopping for an airplane that fits their hoped-for mission, not their real mission. They find out—too late and after the papers have been signed—that they “overbought” an airplane that will sit, underutilized.
Instead, use the “90% rule”: Shop for an airplane that meets your needs 90% of the time, and rent for the other 10%.
A six-seater that you’re considering for family vacations probably will carry just you and a friend most of the time. Realistically list what you’ll do with your airplane, and how often. The money you’ll save by purchasing the right plane will pay for years of “10% rentals.”
Today’s airplanes are electronic marvels, but they eat energy fast. There are backup systems that range from a simple backup battery to dual independent electrical systems. Be aware of each option and the price tag it carries.
DECIDE ON NEW OR USED. Though the initial price of a new airplane may seem to make buying used a better choice, think again.
Buying new allows you to pay lower interest rates on your purchase (rates usually are subsidized by the manufacturer), finance the airplane for a longer time, and enjoy possible tax benefits.
New-airplane warranties allow you to calculate maintenance costs precisely and give you peace of mind for the first few years of ownership.
Loans for new airplanes usually are easier to qualify for, and down payments typically are lower than for a used airplane. You may be surprised to find that, in some cases, buying new may make more sense than buying used.
SET A BUDGET & STICK TO IT. This simple advice is one of the keys to avoiding buyer’s remorse. Too many pilots have a “rough idea” of what they want to spend, and then slowly ratchet up the number as they find prospective airplanes that are just beyond their financial target.
Establish a hard-number budget; shop only in that range. Give yourself a realistic overflow number and stick to it—no matter what.
DON’T GET EMOTIONALLY ATTACHED. Have you ever surfed the aircraft sale sites and fallen in love with one particular airplane?
Unfortunately, this is a recipe for disappointment. Professional aircraft brokers recommend that you stay disconnected from any prospective airplane—yes, that’s easier said than done.
Tell yourself, “It’s somebody else’s airplane.” This also holds true for factory-new airplanes. Be clinical, objective and precise. You can get all dreamy once the papers are signed.
ON DEMO FLIGHTS, VIGILANTLY MONITOR PERFORMANCE. This is especially true when buying a new plane. Remember, it’s a salesperson’s job to make you want the aircraft, so take his or her pitch with some skepticism.
When the demo pilot is demonstrating the great climb performance, note the power settings and fuel flow: Maybe that climb rate will cost you in engine life or fuel.
Compare what you see in the cockpit to the POH or manufacturer’s published numbers. Pay attention to cruise power settings and what speeds you’re seeing in the airplane that day.
Timed speed runs between two or more checkpoints are very useful. Watch EGTs and fuel flows. What you’re seeing is the aircraft’s true performance, regardless of what the sales pitch says.
DETERMINE WHETHER “BUSINESS USE” WILL APPLY. Although the details should be discussed with your tax professional, airplane buyers can benefit from business use of their airplane.
“Off-the-cuff” buying decisions, shopping “till it feels right” and “letting the airplane find me” all sound good on paper, but are sure ways to experience regret after making a buying decision.
Arm yourself as you would in any battle. Prepare, learn and have everything ready so that when the perfect airplane does appear, you’ll be ready to make the decision quickly enough to get a great deal.
Purchasing an airplane is one of the most significant decisions you’ll make as a buyer. The Boy Scouts had it correct when they created their motto—one that applies equally well to buying an airplane: Be prepared.
Buying an aircraft is an important investment and the many aspects of aircraft ownership should be seriously considered before signing on the dotted line.
For example, the pre-purchase inspection is a very important and often over looked precaution when deciding whether to purchase an aircraft.
This subject report will walk you through the process of buying a used aircraft and focus on the important things to consider before you accept the deal.
To avoid the trap of buying more than you need or can use, ask yourself if you really need all the fancy bells and whistles.
If possible, rent the type of aircraft you are interested in to get a feel for how well it will meet your requirements.
One of the most common mistakes in purchasing an aircraft is to buy impulsively without fully considering the effects of your decision.
Using an aircraft for business will allow you to apply depreciation and pay for use with pretax dollars, among other things. Consult with your tax professional: It could save you thousands of dollars.
Once you have decided to buy a particular aircraft, put the terms and conditions of the agreement in writing.
This is for the protection of both parties since it is often difficult to enforce verbal contracts.
The agreement need not be complicated, but it should clearly state the intentions of the parties and cover any warranties made by the seller.
Make sure the following documents are available and in proper order for the aircraft: Airworthiness certificate, engine and air frame logbooks, aircraft equipment list, weight and balance data, placards, and FAA-approved aircraft flight manual or owner's handbook.
Missing documents, pages or entries from aircraft logbooks may cause significant problems for the purchaser and reduce the value of the aircraft.
Have an aircraft title search done. Don't make the mistake of finding out about a lien after you’ve purchased the aircraft. Title searches and related services are available through Aircraft Title and Escrow Service.
NEW AIRCRAFT, PREDETERMINE WHAT ADVANCED EQUIPMENT YOU’LL NEED. It’s a fact that newer fixed-gear airplanes are as fast as or faster than their retractable counterparts of the past.
Though most pilots immediately think of “retractable gear” as a must for better performance, modern buyers need to rethink that stance. Fixed gear offers lower insurance and maintenance costs.
Other performance features to consider are whether or not you’ll require icing protection (remember the “90% rule”), the level of protection, whether you’ll need pressurization or oxygen, the complexity of the avionics (fully integrated autopilot or a simpler version) and the level of battery backup you desire.
Putting It All Together An informed, prepared buyer and a motivated, honest seller are the dream combination in the airplane market.
Consider the protection afforded to you by the title insurance. For a nominal fee you can protect yourself from surprise claims against your aircraft's title.
One of the best ways to realistically look at the true costs of buying an aircraft is to see the numbers on a spreadsheet, which can feature calculations for every variation of fixed and variable costs.
FACTOR IN THE COSTS OF ACCESSORIES. Buyers frequently forget the cost of accessories when purchasing aircraft.
Avionics, safety add-ons and comfort features all add significant cost. Perhaps you’re outfitting a four-seater with top-quality ANR headsets for all passengers—that’s a $4,000 price tag. Accessories are great assets, but be sure to factor in the cost beforehand.
Whether you’re considering a brand-new factory airplane, a certified LSA or a gently used airplane, following a checklist of sorts in your quest will help you sleep better once the papers are signed and the keys are in your hand.
t is always a good idea to fly the aircraft before you make your final decision. During the flight, carefully check all equipment and systems to determine if they are fully functioning.
Before buying, have a mechanic you trust give the aircraft a thorough inspection and provide you with a written report of its condition.
A pre-purchase inspection should include at least a differential compression check on each cylinder of the engine and any other inspections necessary to determine the condition of the aircraft.
In addition to a mechanical inspection, the aircraft logbooks and other records should be carefully reviewed for such things as FAA Form 337 (Report of Major Repair or Alteration), AD compliance, the status of service bulletins and letters, and aircraft/component serial numbers.
Ideally, the mechanic you select to do the inspection should have experience and be familiar with the problems that may be encountered on that type of aircraft.
Verify that parts can be obtained for the aircraft, and that local mechanics can work on it.
Always fly the aircraft before you buy; this is the most straightforward way to get a good feel for whether the aircraft is a good fit for you.
Thoroughly examine aircraft records and engine logs, looking for unusual entries.
If you see an entry for “Replaced sections of fuselage skin” you should be suspicious of a gear-up landing.
Do some research on the cost and availability of aircraft insurance.
With a little advance planning and some research, your aircraft purchase will be a memorable experience, for the right reasons.
If you can legitimately apply “business use” deductions, then you can save a considerable amount of money—especially when buying new.
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