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Find an AircraftShopping for the Right Plane

Shopping for the Right Plane

Once you’ve completed the paperwork and created the LLC or corporation for the club, it’s time to shop for the right aircraft. It’s important to be incorporated before officially buying the plane, so that the plane can be purchased by and registered in the name of the flying club’s corporate identity. If the aircraft must be purchased by an individual while the club’s corporate identity is being formed, the club should be prepared to pay additional purchasing fees such as federal registration, state registration (if applicable), and sales tax (if applicable) when the ownership of the aircraft moves from the temporary individual to the club’s name. For this reason, you might consider a contingent sales agreement to delay the initial sale until the corporate identity is formed.

Although these articles are based on purchasing an aircraft, don’t forget that local aircraft that are listed for sale can be leased as well, if the owner agrees. Often an aircraft is for sale because the owner just doesn’t fly enough. Leasing an aircraft to a club opens the possibility of the aircraft owner joining the club and continuing to enjoy their plane with much lower costs.

Shopping for the Right Plane

Once the club has determined an ideal aircraft type (or maybe a few), it’s time to start shopping. When searching for an aircraft, consider the model, airframe and engine time, condition, location, and price. You should also think about the aircraft’s resale value. An aircraft with good resale characteristics provides tremendous flexibility for the club if the mission changes and the current aircraft no longer meets the original needs.

There are a few steps in the process of purchasing an aircraft, which we have broken out into separate articles including:

  • Find a plane
  • Contact the seller
  • Look at the plane
  • Conduct a pre-buy inspection
  • Complete the purchase

Where to Look

There are several good places to look when shopping for an aircraft – online ads, print classifieds, local airport bulletin boards, talking to maintenance shops at the airport, or just walking the flight line at your field.

There’s nothing more convenient than buying an aircraft that is based on your field or at a nearby airport. It makes arranging a first look simple because your favorite mechanic won’t have to travel far to perform the pre-buy inspection. It also provides an opportunity for club members to look at the aircraft in person before the transaction is completed. In addition, the aircraft seller might have an interest in joining the club.

When you’re at an airport, there are usually a few tell tale signs of which aircraft may be for sale. There’s the obvious—an aircraft has a “For Sale” flyer or prop banner. But just because an aircraft isn’t listed for sale, doesn’t mean it can’t be purchased. Flat tires, excessive dust or dirt, or even faded paint are signs an aircraft has been sitting for a long time without flying. Ask the line personnel, CFIs, mechanics, pilots, or any of the other folks who are always around the airport if they know why the plane isn’t flying. These folks may know if the aircraft owner is looking to sell.

If you’re interested in an aircraft that has been sitting for some time, contact the owner and ask if they would consider selling the aircraft to your club and perhaps join the club as well. Just keep in mind that the longer a plane has been sitting, the more maintenance it will take to become airworthy again. The names and addresses of aircraft owners can be found on the FAA aircraft registry.