The pre-purchase inspection is an essential step in the aircraft acquisition process. Fundamentally, the pre-purchase inspection is an opportunity for aircraft buyers to confirm candidate aircraft condition, maintenance history and inspection status prior to taking ownership. Irrespective of an existing relationship between buyer and seller, a thorough and comprehensive pre-purchase inspection is always recommended.
Prior to scheduling a pre-purchase inspection, buyers should carefully review candidate aircraft maintenance status. Seller will provide electronic maintenance status reports, if available. CAMP and Flight Docs are the most common electronic maintenance tracking service providers. A review of current maintenance status, Due Lists and Service Bulletin reports will identify recently completed maintenance and the timing of the most comprehensive and costly inspections.
For example, “C checks” on Falcon 2000s are required at 6 year intervals, and can easily run upwards of $400K. If a C check was recently performed, it adds value to the airplane. Conversely, if it’s due in the coming months, a looming major inspection offers some advantages. Provided seller agrees, buyer could use the major inspection as the basis of a pre-purchase inspection. This ensures a comprehensive evaluation, with the added benefit that seller will traditionally absorb the cost to correct any findings affecting aircraft airworthiness. Sellers generally are not obligated to correct cosmetic discrepancies.
It is critical to use a reputable facility experienced with the respective model. At Eagle Creek Aviation, our maintenance team is highly knowledgeable regarding Turbo Commanders, Phenoms and Citations, but we are not the facility to evaluate a Gulfstream 550.
Additionally, buyers should avoid using the same facility that served as the candidate aircraft’s primary maintenance provider. Despite the best of intentions, long-established relationships can lead to seller favoritism and conflicted feelings toward calling attention to discrepancies that should have been caught during routine inspections. That said, exceptions can be made for the most reputable shops, and in a tight aircraft market with limited leverage, buyers may need to be flexible when selecting an inspection facility.
Having reviewed the candidate aircraft’s maintenance status, buyer should be informed about upcoming maintenance requirements. Most sellers will accommodate completing near term maintenance during the pre-purchase inspection. After all, if buyer elects to not purchase the airplane, the inspections will still be due.
Maintenance sales representatives are excellent resources regarding recommended pre-purchase inspection work scopes. Most aircraft have “known issues” which should be scrutinized. Early Falcon 7X, for example, were found to have cracking seals on the cockpit windshields and side windows. Although the seals are relatively inexpensive, repair involves sending them to the manufacturer – a time consuming process to ship, repair and re-install. Catching these kinds of discrepancies during the PPI will minimize down time after the aircraft is placed in service.
At a minimum, a pre-purchase inspection should include a detailed airframe and undercarriage visual inspection, cockpit and cabin window prism checks, lavatory inspection for evidence of blue water spillage, a comprehensive logbook / records review, and engine borescopes. When combined with a scheduled or more comprehensive inspection, these tasks should be accomplished at the beginning of the pre-purchase inspection. Doing so will identify any significant findings at pre-purchase inspection onset, leaving buyer and seller more time to manage rectification.
A comprehensive Aircraft Purchase Agreement (APA) will define the pre-purchase inspection process, and protect both buyer and seller by establishing commitments up front, and resolution guidelines in the event buyer rejects the aircraft due to a pre-purchase inspection finding.