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Tips on buying your first airplane


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G'day everyone ,

 

I am an inexperienced pilot (50 hours in total, if that matters) and looking at buying my first ever aircraft so please go easy on me if I sound like a complete noob . I already have a kit built plane in mind which at the moment is located about 3000km away from where I am based so its not so easy to just go and have a look at it . The said airplane also hasn't been flown for a good few years due to owner's personal circumstances. It is powered by a Rotax 912 ULS . The body is mainly fabric which I have been told is in very good condition but will be examined before the sale. The owner has agreed to do all that is necessary to make it airworthy again prior to the sale. I believe the engine requires a service and hoses and rubbers changed. Is there anything else that I should be mindful of ? I understand the aircraft would also need a condition report before the sale. How does one go about arranging this and is it expected to be paid for by the owner or the buyer. Any other tips and things to watch out for would be highly appreciated . Cheers

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NUMBER ONE RULE:

Do not buy a plane without first having it inspected by a completely independent and qualified aircraft maintenance engineer.

 

You will have to pay the engineer to travel to the plane and carry out the inspection. Thuggish will include payment for accommodation and expenses. It will cost you a couple of thousand, depending on how far the engineer has to travel, but if you don't get this inspection, and you are looking at an aircraft that hasn't been flown for a good few years you can reasonable expect to be much, much more out of pocket than the cost of an independent inspection.

 

The inspection should list the outstanding maintenance items. After you get this list, price it out. It is much better for you to bring a tired plane home on a trailer and get it going under your supervision than it is to get a seller to get it "good enough to fly home".

 

Don't be a fool, lest you and your money are well an truly parted.

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Hi Old Man Emu ,

 

thanks for your honest advice

 

as I say , I am new to all this and I want to do it properly by learning from all you experienced lot here.

 

I don't want to be flying around in an unsafe plane . Hence why I want to have it checked out independently by a qualified person who knows what they are doing. I don't fancy the idea of getting expensive surprises either so would much rather pay an inspector for a thorough examination and if any issues are identified use that to negotiate the price down .

 

Cheers

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What OME said.

Plus, I think 3000km is too far away for you to even contemplate a buy. You need to find something you can personally go see, and take an aircraft mechanic with you.

Watch this video:

 

A friend bought a plane (that we actually knew) some years ago. It had not flown for 6 years. Was assured that as it was in a LAMEs hangar it would be checked over and be ready to go. No, we didn't want to risk it and so took a trailer nearly 1300km to go get it. We got it home, got it back together, had it checked over and sent the engine away for a part overhaul and thorough checkover. It was known to have had oil cooling problem. Judging by what the LAME had done with the cooler location and ducting and hoses, it was no wonder. Instead of the factory fitted straight oil hose nipple, it had a two piece right angle arrangement, a straight hose nipple screwed into a 90 degree adapter. The straight item blocked 3/4 of the oil flow in the 90 degree adapter. It would not have lasted five minutes on a flight home.

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Preferably get someone experienced with Rotax's and fabric. Many LAME's are not....

The RAA have a listing of their L2's.....

Can I ask what state it is in?

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Preferably get someone experienced with Rotax's and fabric. Many LAME's are not....

The RAA have a listing of their L2's.....

Can I ask what state it is in?

 

 

The aircraft is located in NT , I am in SA. No border restrictions but 3000km is a bloody long way away!

 

Can you please post the link for RAAus L2 listings as I cant find it , thanks

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What OME said.

Plus, I think 3000km is too far away for you to even contemplate a buy. You need to find something you can personally go see, and take an aircraft mechanic with you.

Watch this video:

 

A friend bought a plane (that we actually knew) some years ago. It had not flown for 6 years. Was assured that as it was in a LAMEs hangar it would be checked over and be ready to go. No, we didn't want to risk it and so took a trailer nearly 1300km to go get it. We got it home, got it back together, had it checked over and sent the engine away for a part overhaul and thorough checkover. It was known to have had oil cooling problem. Judging by what the LAME had done with the cooler location and ducting and hoses, it was no wonder. Instead of the factory fitted straight oil hose nipple, it had a two piece right angle arrangement, a straight hose nipple screwed into a 90 degree adapter. The straight item blocked 3/4 of the oil flow in the 90 degree adapter. It would not have lasted five minutes on a flight home.

 

 

Hi 440032 ,

 

Thanks for your thoughts and sharing the video , I will watch it tomorrow as its a pretty long one!

Narrow escape that ! Just goes to show you cant really take anyone's word when it comes to planes .

 

Do you think for me it might just be the better option to pick the airplane up in its present condition and put it in a trailer and bring it home then fix it up myself (with the help of other trained people of course) I have the option to do that at a reasonable price. Cheers

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Do you think for me it might just be the better option to pick the airplane up in its present condition and put it in a trailer and bring it home then fix it up myself (with the help of other trained people of course) I have the option to do that at a reasonable price. Cheers

I think that's a very viable option. As long as the price wanted matches the state it's in......

You may even get it for a better deal as the current owner won't be responsible for any repairs....

 

Screenshot_2020-09-12-22-55-11.thumb.png.a0c724204625055e68dd7e737eac229d.png

Screenshot_2020-09-12-22-55-57.thumb.png.6f2680a9a9369e0282f45f3de98e200c.png

1-1-tech-form-026-transfer-of-registration-fillable.pdf

1-tech-form-028-damaged-unairworthy-aircraft-acquisition-fillable.pdf

2-tech-form-013-recreational-aircraft-condition-report-all-aircraft-fillable.pdf

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Gidday Blackhawk799. Congrats on your journey so far.

 

Firstly, there are no stupid questions in aviation. No one knows everything. Better to ask and live than assume and pay the price.

 

Some really good advice on this thread. Please be aware of the following.

1. The RAAus Tech Form 13 is NOT a certification of airworthiness.

2. Have the owner perform a "Desktop" audit. Create a list of all applicable maintenance tasks that "should" have been carried out on the aircraft (Aircraft Maint Sched & SBs, Engine Maint Sched & SBs, Prop Maint Sched & SBs, RAAus ANs, CASA AD's if applicable, CAO 100.5 tasks) and send it to the owner to have him verify the TTAF and date each of these tasks were last done from the aircraft logbook. This will give you a complete up to date status of the aircraft before you dispatch yourself or an inspector to look at the aircraft. This will take a fair bit of research but you will be learning about your responsibilities as an aircraft owner along the way.

 

You can then better decide or negotiate on how big a project you will be buying. Checkout flightsafetysolutions.com.au to find out more. Happy to help with any part of your journey. Dont make an emotional purchase. There are plenty of aircraft out there so do your research and make smart, safe decisions.

 

Last comment - Kit plane??? Some kits are built absolutely awesome and some kit builders went to the Homer Simpson School for Aeroplane Builders. Look close.

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BH799, I'm writing this to you from the States where, as you'll probably know, there is a very large fleet of single engine piston aircraft. Your 'discovery' - an appealing plane at a distant location, at a good price but not flown whatsoever for several years - is a common trap door over here. I would advise great caution. And I think I do understand your dilemma: SA probably doesn't offer you the a/c for sale that you'd like to find. When we sailed out to Oz from the States, we put our boat through Customs at Brisbane because it offered an active group of potential buyers who would fly in from yachtie strongholds in cities like Adelaide, Perth and even Melbourne. These were sailors who wanted to cross an ocean, their home port pickings were slim in number, and so they came to Bris and Sydney to shop the new arrivals that had already proven their capabilities at sea. And if that meant the cost of airfare and a hotel room, they'd make the shopping trip into a bit of an adventure as well. (As it turned out, we sold our 13m ketch to a couple who just arrived from the Falkland Is. of all places!) So I'm sympathetic to your plight.

 

The best planes here often get sold by word of mouth without being advertised. E.g. someone looking for a specific model will be connected with its type club or perhaps an owner or two of that same model, who will have their own grapevines. Most single engine piston a/c are sold by their owners via listings like Search For Aircraft & Aircraft Parts - Airplane Sale, Jets, Helicopters, UAVs, Drones, & Aviation Real Estate | Trade-A-Plane because the prices are low enough that they don't easily cover a broker's commission without inflating the price too much. But for a mix of reasons - poor health, work obligations away from home, perhaps a family issue - the owners of some planes can't decide to let them go but can't fly them. And once flying currency is lost, it's a double challenge for the owner to return and get back in the air. So the plane languishes, one or more cylinders corroding, the corrosive qualities in the used oil doing its work, perhaps mold getting a foothold, and let's hope birds can't get into the hangar. Also consider: What are the chances a needed repair or compliance obligation is taken care of while the plane sits as an orphan? (A total non-starter would be a fabric airframe tied down out on a ramp).

 

Now consider what it will take to get that plane across 3000 km of sky, safely and without undue anxiety on your part or that of a hired pilot? There are probably two answers to that Q: It will take a fair bit of mechanical attention by someone who knows the model well, and it will take a fair bit of time. I have to wonder if you shouldn't consider a 'shopping trip' to a more populated region in NSW or Victoria where there's a relatively larger fleet of active a/c from which to shop.

 

Good luck on your hunt, no matter what you decide.

 

Jack

Prescott AZ USA

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It is similar to buying cars. You can buy a true gem which can give you many happy hours, or you can buy a lemon needing immediate big repairs. Lames are human too with different personalities, and even their tools (eg compression testers) may show different results.

 

I decided to trust existing Lame.

 

Test flight with owner can tell a bit too, but discussion with Lame (who is a pilot too) and hearing that his daughter flied my aircraft too was the key decision making point for me.

 

Also part of the deal was that owner fly the aircraft to my local aerodrome. I paid for the fuel and Jetstar return ticket for the owner. I joined flight too and it was great experience.

 

Regardless what you buy, you will be investing.

 

However, there's no better feeling than taking your own aircraft keys whenever you want and going flying without asking anyone. (except your Mrs. or home finance minister :)

 

Enjoy your bird!

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Hi Blackhawk.

I am also looking around for a 1st airplane. I have some mechanical background, and for me the work is going to be , as Breezylog set out- auditing the paperwork trail. That SHOULD be a simple matter of reconciliation of the requirements and the log books, and perhaps where possible, verification of the works. I would place a fair bit of weight / emphasis on having someone fly it that is familiar with the type who can give you an objective, deterministic opinion. I'm also considering airplanes that are on average, 500nm away, and first step would be paying a local L2 or LAME to go and look at it before visiting. I am focused on a particular type so I can concentrate on knowing that aircraft, histories, ADs, manuals etc.

GLEN.

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Until a few days ago I was in the LSA market to purchase. After an exhaustive search , much complicated by CV-19, I narrowed the field to two quite different aircraft.

 

The preferred aircraft, one that I was familiar with , had briefly flown, knew its history quite well, was eventually eliminated due to the owner's unwillingness to move on his asking price.

 

The second, an unusual type, I had admired, for probably 40 years - always wanted , never even been a passenger in one.

I conducted an exhaustive background check, got the (second) owner to respond to a long list of questions regarding maintenance, fit out, accident history, etc.

Contacted the factory & the president of the owners club. Down loaded the POH and read it through. Found & phone interviewed people who knew the aircraft, several others who had many hours of experience in the make/model - all good.

Eventually made a 20+ hr round road trip to inspect the aircraft .

Day befor - read through parts of the very comprehensive build log and the the Log Book - disturbingly brief.

Aircraft maintained by LAIM - in hindsight a bit "slap dash"

I conducted a three hour inspection of the aircraft, static checking every point on my long list - all very good.

Up to the point of engine start & taxi (with LAIM demo pilot) I had emotionally already purchased the plane.

From my perspective it was a disaster - probably a combination of poor carby sinc and prop balance but it was not a smooth running as a Rotax should be BUT WORSE the cockpit filled with exhaust fumes. I started to feel unwell - my pilot glibly informed me on occasions, he had seen the CO tab go black but it would clear when airborne. Still feeling nauseous, I tried to do some air work - slow speed handling (aircraft did not feel right to me) stalls etc but gave up feeling too unwell.

On landing the owner dismissed my concerns.

I was too disappointed and unwell to conduct a negotiation - perhaps if the owner had dropped $10k off the price, I would have purchased, knowing it was a work in progress but that didn't happen.

Took 2-3 hrs, with the window open, on my drive south/home to start to feel "normal" again.

 

In short my points are:

  • Even an exhaustive "background check" may not highlight issues with the aircraft .
  • Fly the plane - even if there are no airworthy issues it's flight characteristics may not be to your liking.
  • Do not accept third party endorsements alone.
  • Do not purchase, if you have even the slightest doubt - listen to your "gut"
  • Lastly fly the plane (deliberate repetition)

Edited by skippydiesel
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IF you are going to trailer a plane any distance the preparation must be thorough and effective or it will suffer damage due wind gusts from opposite direction traffic and vibration from the road surface. Everything must be separated so as to prevent chafing. of anything like cables and major parts against hard surfaces and local loads from wind effect. You could easily damage an aircraft so it won't fly again economically or make it unsafe structurally. Our birds are meant to be in the sky not bouncing around in a trailer for hours on end. The wings are particularly difficult to secure safely unless it's a covered in trailer. Nev

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A plane that has not been flown for "a couple of years" is the equivalent to a "barn find". You have to take for granted that it is going to take big bucks to get it into useful condition.

 

I know of a Piper Tripacer that has been sitting in a shed. for years. What would you pay for it? If I was generous, I might offer about $2K, and that would be for the manufacturer's ID plate and the log books.

 

Why? Because for starters the engine needs to be pulled down and gone through. The fabric needs to be stripped. The frame needs close inspection and the wings have to come off to replace rotten wood. Then there's checking the fuel system and all the instruments. I'd say that getting it back in the air would cost about $60K+. For something that is probably only worth $30K on the open market.

 

Funny that. The cost of doing up this plane is about the same as the purchase price of a big ute like a Toyota Hilux. Who says that aircraft ownership is a rich man's game?

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UTE's are sacred. Almost mandatory for any up and coming Male type person. Planes are funny things for "funny" people. You can't really compare. Nev

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Blackhawk799 - Rather than fork out a large sum for a LAME to inspect the aircraft in the NT - and then end up losing that whole amount, when the aircraft turns out to be a pile of junk - can you find someone in the NT who is a pilot/kitbuilder or with adequate aviation experience, to give you an initial "quick inspection" report, as to whether it's worth proceeding with a full LAME inspection/report?

 

That way, you will get an idea whether the aircraft is even worth consideration. An initial report that says "Forget it, it's a pile of junk" will enable you to save a lot of otherwise wasted money - but an initial report that says, "Yes, it's O.K. but it will need work", will then give you confidence that it's worth buying.

You can then proceed with a LAME inspection/report that is detailed, and which will give you the ammunition you need to negotiate the price to an acceptable level, because you have the full cost of restoring the aircraft to flying condition in front of you.

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With these sorts of things if there's ANY doubt, don't. There will ALWAYS be planes for sale and the more flying experience you have the better your choice will be of some thing SUITABLE for you and in the required condition to be worthwhile. Hiring seems expensive but at least you KNOW what it will cost, and it covers everything. Move around clubs and talk to people. Some advice will be worth what it cost you. Some planes if they cost you NOTHING to buy would turn out too expensive in the long run. Generally this type of plane must be hangared. Nev

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Things I would look at and do are 1. Age - under / over 20 years, 2. Total airframe and engine hours, 3. When last flown, 4. Accident history if any, 5. are parts still available from manufacturer, 6. How many flying in Australia, 7. Is fabric glued on or a sock type fit, 8. what year is the 912 ULS before or after 2007 model. Then consider an independent L2 or L4 to do a condition report type appraisal and perhaps give a valuation as it is and a work list of refurbishment needs. Enjoy the looking around. Don’t buy a lemon. An L2 inspection for this appraisal may be about $100 to $200 plus travel if the owner has the log books in an up to date condition. Then I’d allow at least $2,500 for the 5 yearly rubber replacement all hoses, carb kits, engine mounted fuel pump, radiator cap etc. have fabric tested, if hangared should be ok. May need new tyres and tubes at some stage. It would need an annual inspection and that would be a 2 or 3 day job (depending on aircraft) to do 100%. A new battery will be $200. Then see it fly, you on the ground. If you get past this point and purchase get it rechecked as if it is about to undergo its first flight. Enjoy. A rotax that has been sitting around and running rough could be carb condition from sitting around and that can be fixed with a carb kit and the mechanical balance and pneumatic balance usually including full engine service.

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Goodday all!

 

wow ! I didn't expect to get so many responses to my post so thank you to all of you who took the time to share your thoughts

 

Quite a few very useful pieces of advice from each one of you who commented . I am feeling a little more wiser and appreciate all the input . I hope this thread will also help out a lot of other first time plane buyers like myself .

 

I will be taking my next steps a lot more carefully now then I originally would have , I realise there is a lot more to it than I first thought! I will keep you guys posted on my progress.

 

Cheers

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didn't expect to get so many responses

 

We respond because of that old saying, "There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but very few old, bold pilots."

 

You enquiry is a common one asked by those newly infected by the bug, and we have spent many hours telling those in the early stages of the disease what can be done to ease the symptoms.

 

Maybe there should be a special section on this forum "FAQ's about buying and operating your own aircraft".

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If you go right back over the years in these forums, there's been some really life altering unpleasant experiences happen to purchasers of aircraft. It's a trap for young player s (and older ones too.) Vast variability in build quality and so much older stuff that was never intended to be operational for so long about that has been sitting neglected. There's no "oily rag restorations" in UFO's . (Unloved Flyable Objects) A new paint job can hide some horrors. Corrosion is never a bog and buff job. The structure is minimal or it would be too heavy. Aluminium hates salt in rivetted laps. Tubes get corrosion internally. Some have MAGNESIUM alloys as spars. Wood rots and glues deteriorate.Rats eat spars. I've had that one happen (lucky I noticed the sawdust on the ground). One of my sons saw how the rear spar on a Cherokee fell to pieces when tapped in the right places by someone who KNEW where to look even though it flew in to be inspected and now HE won't fly in anything like that plane again having seen what can be hidden.

With flying there's a few essential things you must get right and then there's a good chance you will survive . OWNING your own plane can be one way to improve your chances as YOU have a lot of control of it's condition AFTER YOU buy it. IF you want to get in to aviation that deeply. Nev

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Going back to something in my earlier Post #15 where I said that spending $60K restoring an old Tri-Pacer was no different and outlay than buying one of those useless big crew-cab utes that have no cargo space, I wonder which would be less expensive to operate on an annual basis.

 

Let's say that the Tri-Pacer and Hilux are owned outright, by a private individual - no tax write-off for depreciation.

The things to put a price on are:

Change in market value, + or - after one year (Guesstimates allowed, but have to be justified)

Maintenance costs if labour is $120 per hour.

Insurance - replacement of vehicle, Third Party Personal and Third Party Property.

Hangarage/Garaging - You have to put a price on the garage space occupied by the vehicle - no parking it in the street.

Oil - Let's allow two oil changes per year for the plane (one during the annual).

Fuel - Let's have 50 hours' flying and 20,000 Kms travel. Plane at 35 litres per hour ($2.50/litre) and ute at 8 litres/100 kms ($1.25/litre)

 

Things get messy in regards to maintenance costs as most new ground-huggers come with a couple of years' free servicing.

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I am finding in my airplane quest that there are two most common scenarios -

 

1) aircraft with 250-750 hours on them, irregularly or not at all used in recent times- and so are sold - and can sit around doing little or no hours for a long long time - years ! before the owner lets go and sells. Generally no good for engines of course unless they've been put to bed well.

 

2) aircraft used in training and schools- these are high hour aircraft, often 1700-2500 h and well maintained, generally having all AD and SBs and paperwork well satisfied, and have done recent work and have NOT been sitting around unloved.

 

3) then, there are a real mixed bag. People trading up, trading down, too many planes, change of hobby or heath etc.

 

so I find (2) probably has the least number of questions, and in best health despite been thrashed to death its whole life and bounced down the runway for a living.

 

Others require more scrutiny.

So far, I cannot find a Jabiru that is anything near the book weights ! Planes seem to add weight (fitout) , or have accidents and composite is added in the repair.

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Some schools used to have a business model where they put them up for sale at 300 hrs or so, while in continual training.

They would hopefully sell it to a student or buyer before 600 hrs.

That way there was not too much of a loss in value and the school would always have relatively new training aircraft.

No doubt they were getting a good "new" price from the mfg as well .....

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