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Answers for Pilots: Aircraft Purchasing DecisionsAnswers for Pilots: Aircraft Purchasing Decisions

There’s nothing like spring weather to get you thinking about flying. As you consider the flights you’d like to make, you may realize the aircraft you currently fly isn’t equipped to make them. Maybe you want to bring family or friends along and you need more seats. Maybe you want to do some extensive back-country flying, and are leaning toward a tailwheel aircraft. Or, perhaps your schedule requires you to fly whether it’s VFR or IFR, so you’d like an aircraft better-equipped for instrument flying.

As you shop, it’s tempting to get so wrapped up in the dream that important things like cost and maintenance can take a back seat. But keep your head! Get a realistic picture of what the financing looks like, what maintenance costs to expect – including inspections and tie-down or hangar fees – and make sure they align with your budget. Think outside the box, too. If your heart is set on an aircraft above your price range, you might give some thought to a co-ownership arrangement where the costs are shared between two or more pilots.

Other potential gotchas that should raise a red flag include aircraft with logbook and ownership records that don’t sync, aircraft with advanced corrosion problems, or aircraft that require flying skills that are beyond your proficiency level.

Once you’ve identified an aircraft that’s a serious contender, have a pre-purchase inspection completed. These can vary widely in scope and cost, so be specific on what you want to have done. Review all the logbooks, any FAA 337 forms, and the list of ADs for the aircraft. Have a title search done to make sure it’s clear. Get a list of inclusions – avionics and accessories that are included with the purchase. Take a test flight before you make an offer.

Call your finance company and get your financing options. AOPA Aviation Finance Company offers a variety of loan structures and terms. Call your insurance agent and discuss coverage options. AOPA Insurance Services offers a choice of insurance policies with a variety of coverage options. Find out what the sales and use tax is for the  state where you will base the aircraft.

When you are satisfied that the aircraft is the one for you, check that your contract covers everything, including the sales price, deposit, escrow, timing, closing, delivery, and what would happen if there was a cancellation on either side. The necessary documents need to be filled out – the Bill of Sale, which is FAA Form 8050-2 and the Aircraft Registration, FAA Form 8050-1. If you don’t want to deal with all of this, yourself, AOPA’s Aircraft Title and Escrow Services provided by our strategic partner, Aero-space Reports, will do a wonderful job.

Arrange a final inspection before you take possession to make sure there has been no damage to the aircraft since the pre-purchase inspection.

Then, when everything is signed and you’ve had the final handshake, fly your new bird away and enjoy the thrill of owning it!

Please call us with your questions, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time, 800/USA-AOPA (872-2672) or email [email protected]. We look forward to chatting with you.

Kathy Dondzila

Kathy Dondzila

Manager, Technical Communications, Pilot Information Center
Technical Communications Manager, Kathy Dondzila, joined AOPA in 1990 and is an instrument-rated private pilot.
Topics: Ownership

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