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HOW TO BUY AN AIRPLANE | STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE


Piston Aircraft

So you want to buy an airplane? Well, it is less intimidating than it may seem. In fact, with a few steps and some research, you can easily purchase the perfect airplane for your needs. This guide will walk you through everything you need to do to buy an aircraft. Let's get started!


STEP 1: DETERMINE YOUR NEEDS

Before beginning your search for the perfect airplane, make sure you have taken the time to think through what you need from the aircraft and what type will best fit your needs. Consider factors such as pilot experience, budget, performance requirements, kind of flying (VFR vs. IFR or both), and desired features. This will help you narrow down the aircraft type that is right for you.


For example, if you want to use it for flight training, you will likely be looking for an aircraft with a fixed gear and a fixed prop, such as a Cessna 172 or Piper Warrior. On the other hand, if you want to travel for business or leisure, consider a turboprop or jet, depending on how far you need to fly. If you are not 100% sure what aircraft is best for you, consider hiring an experienced aircraft broker. We can help you with that; reach us via email.

During this step, you should consider getting pre-approved for financing; this gives you a chance to jump-start the process, so you can walk into a potential airplane deal already armed with the financial backing of a lender. Also, if you plan to buy the aircraft under an LLC, file the paperwork with your state or hire a lawyer since the process can take weeks.


STEP 2: LOCATE THE AIRCRAFT


Now that you know what type of airplane you are looking for, it's time to start searching for one! There are several ways you can find the right aircraft for sale:

  • Aircraft Listing Sites:

    • https://www.trade-a-plane.com/

    • https://www.controller.com/

    • https://www.aso.com/

    • https://www.barnstormers.com/

    • https://www.wingswap.com/


  • Hire an Aircraft Broker: You can find a local broker by performing a google search, or you can reach out to us, and we can help you find the right broker.


STEP 3: RESEARCH AIRCRAFT HISTORY


Once you have located a few airplanes that fit your needs, call the sellers, ask questions about the aircraft's history & condition, and request a digital copy of the logbooks. It's essential to take some time to research each one's history before making any decisions or offers. If you don't possess the knowledge, hire an A&P (Airframe & Powerplant Mechanic) to review the logbooks, which contain maintenance records and other data about its past performance and condition. Trust but verify! If you are a member of the AOPA, for $105, you can also order a Title Search Package from Aerospace Reports, which includes a Title Search, aircraft records, and any Accident/Incident reports.


STEP 4: SCHEDULE A SHOWING

Once all the research looks good, it's time to schedule a showing so that you can see the plane in person! Consider bringing your flight instructor, A&P, or any other experienced professional with knowledge about the aircraft; this can help you make a better decision, especially when dealing with used aircraft.


STEP 5: MAKE AN OFFER

Now comes the fun part – making an offer on the plane! Depending on who owns it (a private seller or dealer), there may be some room for negotiation, and this is where an aircraft broker comes in handy since they understand the market and can help you get a better deal. Once both parties agree on the terms of the sale, you, the seller, or the broker should draft an aircraft purchase agreement. Before you sign, read and understand the terms and ensure the initial deposit is refundable if financing is not approved or the pre-purchase inspection is unsatisfactory.


STEP 6: OPEN ESCROW

Even though it is not required, we highly advise using escrow to complete the transaction since they will perform a title search, collect the money, and file all the paperwork with the FAA. We recommend AIC Title or Aerospace Reports. If you decide not to use escrow, always perform a title search before moving forward.

STEP 7: SCHEDULE A PRE-PURCHASE INSPECTION

Before closing the deal, you should hire a reputable A&P or Part 145 repair station to perform a pre-purchase inspection to ensure the aircraft is in airworthy condition and has no hidden issues. The mechanic will check the aircraft records and inspect the airframe and powerplant. Regardless of the price, it is worth the investment since it will provide valuable insight and help you make a smart decision.


STEP 8: CLOSE THE DEAL

Upon completion of the pre-purchase inspection and if everything checks out, call escrow and let them know you are ready to close. They will wire the funds to the seller, and you will receive a signed bill of sale and aircraft registration application which serves as your temporary registration and proof of ownership. If the aircraft is out of state, make sure all the required paperwork is on board before your arrival, including the airworthiness certificate, radio license (only for international operations), weight & balance, flight manual, and aircraft logbooks.

Purchasing an airplane is a big decision that should never be taken lightly! However, by following these steps—determining your needs; getting pre-approved beforehand, locating the right aircraft; researching its history; opening escrow; scheduling a pre-purchase inspection—you can ensure that the process goes smoothly and that you end up with the right airplane! Good luck with your shopping journey; if you need help, don't hesitate to reach out via email.



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