Buying and Owning an Aircraft 101

There are several things to consider when purchasing an airplane such as budget, range, speed and the number of passengers you want to take along. Everyone wants to have an airplane that will do everything but it is always a trade off with general aviation airplanes.

We like to say that the first consideration to look at in purchasing a plane is budget. How much do you want to spend : initial capital cost and then annual cost of operation. With an initial budget in mind we can quickly tell you what kind of year and model of plane you can expect to look at in that range. If it is your first airplane we advise people to learn slowly about their needs and the costs of associated. For example, sometimes people think they want to jump right into a pressurized twin engine airplane that has de-ice and recent avionics. Even if you can find something you can afford initially the ongoing costs may be way more than you anticipate. And if you anticipate your whole family will be flying with you and then you find out that half of them won't go it could be a very expensive mistake. We suggest you start slow. There is an 80% rule that says look to purchase an airplane that will meet your requirements 80% of the time. If you are flying by yourself or with one other person most of the time and just occasionally you might want to take 6 people we suggest you buy a 4 seater initially and fly it for awhile to see how many times you would actually want to have more seats. It can be very expensive to buy, maintain, and insure a 6 seat airplane to find out that only once or twice a year you actually would like to fly with that many people in the seats!

When you narrow down the choice of planes and you want to find something in your price range the best place to shop is online. There are several good sites you can use to determine what year of plane and what equipment you can afford. But there are many pitfalls shopping on the internet also. As with anything on the internet some things can be deceiving! I once booked a ski condo in Nevada based on the information and pictures posted on the web. Unfortunately, the place was nothing like it was portrayed. I learned to ask many more questions booking vacation spots on the internet! The same can be said for airplanes. As aircraft brokers we know many of the questions to ask to get a more accurate understanding of the condition of an airplane. We also know the aspects of an airplane which are important for resale. For instance, an engine overhaul. The ad may read 250SM which means 250 hours since the engine had a major overhaul. What the ad may not tell you is 1) what year that overhaul was done, 2) was it done at an overhaul shop, in the field, or at the manufacturer, 3) was it to new specs or serviceable specs.....etc. All these things which will impact the value of an airplane.

Using a broker can help you avoid the pitfalls of buying online. We have a certain expertise and knowledge of many different aircraft to be able to ask the appropriate questions, to be able to appraise aircraft and determine a fair market value and to act as an intermediary. We also have certain Cardinal Rules when looking at a purchase.

  • Always do a written offer!
  • Always, always do a pre-purchase inspection at a firm of your choice, preferably by the maintenance shop you will be using.
  • Always make sure you will be getting clear title. Make sure all the closing paperwork is in order.