Logbooks / Pre-Purchase / Annual Inspections

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 it all before.  What do I think?  Well, it depends.

Would I buy a plane without logbooks? Hell yes I would, 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 mechanic, talk to previous ownere, and then I'd do a very thorough annual inspection and hire a DAR to varify the work. 

Logbooks: In general, logbooks are TERRIBLE.  I mean, they generally tell me NOTHING about what has been done on the plane. Tach time, airframe times, or component times (if entered at all) are seldom correct. Sortiing through logbooks can take as much as a week to sort out; especially if a tach or engine was changed. 

Pre-Purchase Inspections:  I do Pre-Purchase inspections at Auburn Airport for $750 (2020 prices).  I can travel (when I have a plane or if it's in driving distance) to do a Pre-Purchase.  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 commentary 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 he bopught without a Pre-Purchase. 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 is your risk tolerance?

Annual Inspections:  I have been doing annual inspections as AuCountry since 1991. 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 (and there are hundreds more 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 $600.)

• Planes with over 100 hours between annuals and never had the oil changed

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

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

• 2006, a Cheetah had had the right brake bled 4 times during the previous year (12 hours since last annual) because it had no brakes.
. The brakes still didn't work. The guide pins, calipers, and brakes on that plane were all rusted, corroded, and packed with dirt snd oil.  NOTHING moved.

• 2007 a plane flew in for an annual inspection.  I found the aileron cables wrapped around the rudder cables (7 hours since the last annual)

• 2020 a plane maintained by a Grumman "guru" came in for an annual inspection.  It had been badly neglected for 20 years.  That annual was over $10,000.

Basic Annual Inspection:  The basic Annual Inspection takes about 16 to 20 hours and is 'Flat Rated' at $1800 (2020 dollars).  That includes the labor for an oil change with oil and filter (does not include the oil or 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 $125/hr. (2020 dollars).  Parts extra. 

Not included in basic annual:  I don't repack wheel bearings or service elevator trim or service several other items each year because most planes fly less than 100 hrs in a year.  Repacking wheel bearings and servicing elevator trim, lubing Power Flow Exhaust, and a number of other items are generally done biannually at the going shop rate.   

Owner Assisted Annual:  On a case-by-case basis. I used to recommend that the owner participate in the annual. Why? When you looked at your invoice from 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 sometimes question the cost. I charge, by the hour, for the time it takes to do the owner assisted annual. Initially, this may cost you a lot more. But, as you gain knowledge and experience, the cost "may" go down dramatically.

Heads up:  These are MY airplanes. I let you use them during the year.  I've fired more than one owner (along with their plane) because they just didn't care about what condition it was in.