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Plane Sense On Engines: Pre-Buy

If you search the web for “Aircraft Pre-Buy Inspections”, the results are staggering. The new Bing search engine comes up with 660,000 hits, Google with 80,700 hits and Ask Jeeves provides 56,500 hits. With results like these, it is easy to conclude that this is not only a popular subject but many have an opinion on how pre-buys should be accomplished.

Steve Watkins   |   13th March 2010
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Steve Watkins Steve Watkins

Steve Watkins is Technical Services Manager, Western Region for Jet Support Services, Inc....
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Pre-Buy Inspections:
Everyone has an opinion.


If you search the web for “Aircraft Pre-Buy Inspections”, the results are staggering. The new Bing search engine comes up with 660,000 hits, Google with 80,700 hits and Ask Jeeves provides 56,500 hits. With results like these, it is easy to conclude that this is not only a popular subject but many have an opinion on how pre-buys should be accomplished.

Back when I first started in the aviation business in the grand year of 1972 and my tools still fit in a bread box, I took part in what was then called a pre-buy inspection. My task was to open up the areas of the aircraft so the inspection could be performed. I was so proud when I had the aircraft prepped and ready to go in about an hour. Now after all the years of being around aircraft, I have figured out that an hour to open up a Cessna 152 was no great feat and a pre-buy inspection like this might be a waste of time for the buyer and seller, but good revenue for the shop.

38 years later, I know that a pre-buy inspection on a Cessna 152 may be a good idea, but not a great one - and a pre-buy on a Gulfstream V is not only a good idea, but absolutely critical. In today’s world, most aviation professionals understand and agree that pre-buys are important and valuable for most aircraft. The typical way that a pre-buy works is that the buyer pays for the inspection and the seller pays for the squawks (items identified as needing to be fixed). Either party or both together decide on where the pre-buy will be performed.

In my opinion, a neutral pre-buy manager should be involved from the very beginning. This pre-buy manager does not represent the buyer, the seller or the maintenance facility that is performing the inspection. It is his or her function to be the overseer for the entire inspection. This key manager becomes responsible for designing a pre buy inspection for that particular aircraft, recommending the maintenance facility to be used, monitoring and approving the cost of the inspection and squawks, assuring that all paperwork is completed and that the final invoice is appropriate and properly billed. I know from experience that having someone in this pre-buy management position will, in the end, save everyone time and money.

The purchase transaction without a pre-buy manager may work out just fine, but what happens when the buyer decides that he doesn’t want the airplane, that he found another one that he prefers, or that Congress has another session and the buyer’s shareholders do not want to invest in an aircraft? Now who pays for what? The aircraft is only part way through the pre-buy work scope, the aircraft is scattered over 10,000 square feet of hangar and some of the components are at different shops. The buyer is no longer going to pay his part of the cost, the seller is looking in the yellow pages under lawyers with aviation expertise and the maintenance facility is complaining and threatening to charge hangar rent because of an accounting hold that stopped the work.

This is where a well-known neutral pre-buy maintenance manager that is involved from the start becomes very critical to the seller. The seller should continue with the pre-buy inspection, repair the discrepancies under the pre-buy manager’s control, and have a documented, unbiased pre-buy for another possible buyer, resulting in an aircraft in ready-to-sell condition.

If this aircraft was also under an hourly maintenance program that has continued to maintain the aircraft and engines in a ready-to-sell condition while a new buyer is identified, no other pre-buy inspections should be necessary or requested by any future buyer.

The challenge for many is they’re not sure what a good pre-buy inspection on an aircraft like a Gulfstream V needs to include. Can you use the same inspection that you would use on that Cessna 152, or one that was designed for a Lear, or one that was created by the OEM? My answer to this is: None of the above!

In the years that I have spent in maintenance and lately with JSSI as a Technical Representative, I have heard the phrase, “Rode hard and put away wet” many times, and it is based on the aircraft’s maintenance history. My opinion on the right pre-buy inspection has changed to one that is created for the particular aircraft. This inspection should be based on the history and maintenance condition of other aircraft/engines with similar profiles, such as Total Time, maintenance history, how it was operated and where it has been located throughout its life. This prevents the work scope from including the performance of a massive cabin inspection looking for corrosion on an aircraft that operated out of the panhandle of Texas for its entire life. Or, not performing this same inspection on an aircraft that sat on the ramp in Singapore for 10 years of its history.

In conclusion, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to pre-buy inspections (in my opinion), and hiring a neutral pre-buy manager can save you critical time and money, especially if anything goes awry with the transaction. There are many more opinions and experiences regarding aircraft maintenance that I look forward to sharing with you in future articles.

 

Read more about: Engines for Business Aircraft | Pre-Buy Inspections

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