So You Want to Buy an Airplane

So You Want to Buy an Airplane

Each time I buy an airplane (now on number 10) I get a little more organized. Perhaps you can learn from my successes and failures. Here’s some things you should consider.

Who Are You Buying From?

My experience with purchasing from the manufacturer (Textron in my case) on both new and used Citations has been excellent. Although you are unlikely to get a “distressed price” from the OEM, they have some flexibility in offering extended warranty or service agreements that others don’t. There are also many reputable brokers who specialize in your specific aircraft and can do market analysis and locate the best deal. Their fees are often negotiable but I find you often “get what you pay for.” I have dealt with the best and the worst brokers. The best is better. A quality broker can make the entire process enjoyable while saving you money in the long run.

Learning From Others

Do you have friends who have recently purchased? Ask them for advice. The best info can be found from accessing the owners group for your airplane and search for experience of others. Most groups also have executive directors who can refer you to key players in the industry.


Hire someone who specializes in the specific model to lead the process. You can find names and recommendations on the various owner group websites. Once you engage their services, listen to them. I once almost purchased a Falcon 10 that was represented as “no damage” only to find out after  translating the logs from French to English that it had been run into by a catering truck in Italy!

I have saved tens of thousands of dollars on purchase costs using a qualified pre-buy inspector.

If a major inspection is part of the pre-buy, you may want to schedule avionics upgrades like ADS-B or paint and interior right after closing and before the airplane is “buttoned up.”


If you are moving to a new hangar, will your new airplane fit? Is there available space at the airport? Find out in advance as there may be a waiting list for your favorite FBO. Is power (110 or 220) available? If you will be in a multiple aircraft hangar, who are the tenants? Can you store the various items (power cart, nitrogen bottle, cleaning supplies) near your airplane?


Simulator availability can be challenging for some models. Get on their schedule as soon as you can. Do a full recurrent or initial course very near your closing date.  If you are using a mentor (and you should) call them early and book them. I always have one meet me at delivery and off we go for training.


I have used  an aviation attorney in some deals but not all. But in every case, I engaged someone who had experience in airplane transactions.


Often, an airplane enrolled on engine overhaul  and parts programs will sell for hundreds of thousands more than one not on programs. Each program has a current “balance.” Some accounts may be negative or in arrears. Find out if the dollars in each account will be transferred to you after purchase. Make sure your purchase contract specifies what happens to these monies.


Before closing , contact data providers such as Garmin, Rockwell Collins and Serious XM Weather to set up an account. Make sure you update your flight planning vendor to reflect the avionics status of your new airplane. If you are waiting on RVSM approval post closing, make sure your airplane’s limitation is noted in the proper “box.”


If you are replacing a prior airplane, take the opportunity to throw away about half the “junk” you had on the old one. This will lighten the weight you have been carrying around for years.


Call your broker and get coverage approval early. Have them review your hangar lease for coverages. Many insurance carriers offer rebates on insurance premiums to members who participate in annual operators conferences.


If you are changing your N number you will need a new certificate of airworthiness. Failure to do so can be painful. Get your RVSM application (if flying above FL280) prepared in advance. I have seen the approval time reduced from 3 months or more to less than four weeks for my latest Mustang purchase. Proper planning when purchasing a new aircraft should allow you to depart from delivery with RVSM approval.

Enjoy your new ride.

Fly Safe.

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