Yes, you all have read it correctly. Finally the ultimate guide on how-to... and... FOR FREE! Wow, I must be generous (not really, not even my wife would claim that I am a generous person). The article was published in a monthly business magazine, so I needed to use fancy words to grasp the hot-shots' attention. Well, what do you know: it apparently worked!
So you just bought your second Ferrari and now you are in the market for a used aircraft. A walk in the park based on your previous experience with high dollar cars, right? Even easier now since an old acquaintance offers you that impeccable Boeing 727, low hours, all checks completed, ready to fly the blue skies! So now, you can do two things: either rush into the purchase of that shiny B727 (you really do get them for peanuts nowadays) or you take a step back and start the good ole thinking process. Guess which action I recommend (not to mention you probably want your lovely wife still to talk to you in a few months down the road).
First you have to realize that, unlike with automobile purchases, an aircraft buyer enjoys very little legal protection. Once the purchase agreement is signed and you fly home to proudly show-off your new shiny metal, you have passed the-point-of-no-return. Landing gear won’t work? Tough luck, buddy, you better get out that cheque book of yours!
Do not get me wrong: I believe it is one of the best times ever to acquire an aircraft. There is a surplus of excellent maintained aircraft currently on the market. Prices have never been cheaper. So how do you prevent an aircraft acquisition from becoming a nightmare (and maybe more importantly: you becoming the laughing stock of the local airport)? Easy enough: PLAN!
Here is what you have to ask yourself: Do I really need that B727 when 90% of the time I fly with my family of five within the region? Maybe a mid-range business jet would be the better deal? And if yes, do I have adequate maintenance facilities nearby or do I need to fly halfway around the world for a minor aircraft check? What support do I have nearby with regards to operating/maintaining the aircraft? What countries do I fly into most of the time? What about their legal requirements? Is there any special modification to the aircraft required? Compare aircraft market prices and operating costs (don’t get fooled by acquisition costs only. In aviation, you are forced by law to perform certain predetermined aircraft checks and modifications). Obviously the list is much longer but if you keep the above points in mind, you are halfway there of becoming a happy and proud aircraft owner!
So after you have done your homework and have come up with a few suitable aircraft for your missions, the fun part begins: you will be able to look at real metal (or composite materials, nowadays)! First: have a cup of tea. Did it take only a day for you to buy that Ferrari? Exactly! Does the seller tell you that he has 27 interested parties and you need to make-up your mind quickly? Good for the seller, have another cup of tea, and call your next opportunity!
Insist on a precise listing of the current state the aircraft is in. Does it come with a coffee-maker? Have it listed since manufacturers of aviation equipment have a tendency to charge double the price of regular equipment. Do a title search. It will reveal the registered current and past owners of the aircraft plus any mortgages on the aircraft (the last thing you want is to pay-off that debt by a previous owner). Audit all the required logs of the aircraft, it will tell you how the aircraft has been treated by its owners/operators. Has it been used extensively on routes from obscure South-American airports to private fields in the US at nights? Might be a good time to have another cup of tea and go see that other aircraft!
Discuss warranties with the current owner. If he has nothing to hide, he will gladly agree to a reasonable demand by you. After all, he is trying to sell his asset!
And lastly maybe the most important piece of advice: get as many professional opinions together as possible. Talk to financial, risk, and operational professionals. Talk to your wife and family. It is worth the extra time. When was the last time you bought a house without consulting a realtor? Exactly...