Logbooks / Pre-Purchase / Annual Inspections / Appraisals

Logbooks:  Aircraft logbooks are important!  Don't get trapped into buying an airplane with incomplete or missing logs.  Besides being a problem for you when it comes time to sell, it is grounds for declaring the plane "unairworthy" by the FAA. Having a plane you can't fly is probably worse than not having one at all. Your insurance is null and void, even though you have paid the premiums.  Blah, Blah, Blah. 

I'm sure you've heard the hype before:  An airplane is definitely a different kind of machinery when compared to an auto or a boat.   If there is some sort of incident, it is too late to learn about the critical nature of these little books.  Ignorance of the law is no excuse. You can be sure that the FAA will examine the logs with a magnifying glass if you should be unfortunate enough to have an accident or incident.  What if you don't have logs? 

Would I buy a plane without log books?  Hell yes; for the right plane at the right price.  Then, I'd do a thorough search of it's history on the FAA data base, find previous mechanics, call Garner and ask him if he knows the plane, then I'd do a very thorough annual inspection and hire a DAR to varify the work.

Pre-Purchase Inspections: I do Pre-Purchase inspections at Auburn Airport for $500.  At any other location, I charge for my time and expenses to get to your location and return to Auburn.  Pre-Purchase inspections typically take 5 hours.  Going though the logbooks takes the most time.  Logbooks, in general, are a sad comentary on the way mechanics do work and record it.  ADs, on Grummans, are pretty minimal.  STCs are something else.

Would I buy a plane without a Pre-Purchase?  Yes, I would.  Do I recommend one?  Depends.  But, generally, I recommend a Pre-Purchase inspection.  Case-in-point:  New customer comes in with a nice looking Tiger.  Less than 300 hrs SMOH.  New paint.  Leather interior.  Average avionics.  His first annual was over $7,000 just fixing/correcting things deferred to a later date.  In the first year he's owned it, the carb needed to be overhauled, the alternator quit, the vacuum pump quit, the mags needed to be overhauled, both brake calipers were leaking (first annual) and needed to be replaced . . . and the list goes on.

Does a pre-purchase inspection catch everything?: Not always.  In the example above, the carb, alternator, and vacuum pump would likely have still failed.  The mags, more specifically, the time on the mags, would have indicated the need for overhaul.  The leaking brakes would definitely have been noticed.  It's up to you to decide what your risk tolerance is. 

Annual Inspections: I have been doing annual inspections since 1984 on my own plane and since 1997 as AuCountry. I am still amazed at how many airplane owners fail to take basic care of their planes or go to mechanics that know what they're doing.  For example (there are at least 200 more stories like these):

I'll see the same plane year after year and it hasn't been washed or vacuumed since the last annual. I will vacuum and wash your plane for $300.

I've seen planes with over 100 hours between annuals an never had the oil changed.

I am still seeing planes with 30 year old fuel and oil hoses.

Many have SCAT tubing that is shredded and patched back together with silicon RTV.  To what, save 10 bucks?

In the Fall of 2006, a Cheetah had had the right brake bled 4 times during the previous year (12 hours since last annual).
. . The brakes still didn't work. The guide pins, calipers, and brakes on that plane were so rusted and corroded that NOTHING moved

In 2007 another plane had the aileron cables wrapped around the rudder cables (7 hours since the last annual).

Basic Annual:  The basic Annual Inspection takes about 16 to 20 hours and is 'Flat Rated' at $1400.  That includes an oil change with oil and filter, clean and gap spark plugs, a 14 page checklist inspection, and a format for periodic inspections not required at each annual inspection.  Additonal work performed as a result of the annual inspection findings are billed at the shop rate of $100/hr.  Parts extra. 

• Not included in basic annual:  After doing annuals on Grummans for close to 30 years, I've found a lot of damage from mechanics tearing the plane apart and reinspecting, year-after-year, things that just don't need to be inspected.  Wheel bearings, for example (ask me why) and the elevator trim mechanism, and brake linings, and prop rear backing plate, and nose gear strut, and . . . .

Owner Assisted Annual:  I very highly recommend that you, the owner, participate in the annual. Why? The last time you looked at your invoice for your last annual, did you question the length of time something took to complete?  When I look at a previous invoice from a new customer's plane, hell, even I question the cost. I charge, by the hour, for the time it takes to do the owner assisted annual. Initially, this may cost you more.  But, as you gain knowledge and experience, the cost will go down dramatically.  I have one customer who has been assisting for over 15 years.  We can do his annual in 7 or 8 hours; that's a $700 to $800 annual. 

Your first annual at AuCountry will be a LOT more thorough than any annual you've ever had.  I recommend you participate to see just what condition the plane was in when you last flew it.  It may scare you.

What is my airplane worth?:  There are several ways to determine an aircraft's value.  Most buyers and sellers use the Aircraft Blue Book Digest. The Bluebook value is generally lower than the asking price you'll find in Trade-A-Plane because it is based on the sales prices reported to Bluebook. Most finance companies use a combination of sources and usually arrive at a value below the Bluebook and then loan up to 90% of that. It is important to know what 'add-ons' really add to an airplanes value and what doesn't. Of course, the condition of the plane (on a 1 to 10 scale) plays a part too.

Do your own market analysis: A market analysis compares an aircrafts value to what other similar airplanes are being sold for.  A market analysis will help a you determine what is a fair asking price for a particular airplane. This saves a lot of time and missed calls. Before you pick a sales price ask yourself if it's worth it to find out what other similar planes are being sold for.  The Grumman community is such a small, close-knit group, that you'd be making a big mistake by not talking to someone in it.