Preowned: The Prepurchase Inspection

Whether you’re buying or selling, you should care who performs this crucial check.  

The prepurchase inspection is a key event in any business aircraft sales transaction. The prospective buyer pays for it and decides where it will be performed, but the seller has a stake in the decision, too. While the buyer wants to make sure no expensive fixes are overlooked, it’s to no one’s benefit to have unqualified people transforming minor issues into deal-killers.

How to find a facility in which both parties have confidence? Consider the following checklist, which includes some items suggested by Gary Dunn, project manager for prepurchase inspections at Duncan Aviation’s Battle Creek, Michigan location:

• Determine that a facility has experience with the aircraft model involved in your transaction and that it employs an in-house technical representative for that model. Contact parties from the last inspection the facility performed on the model to solicit reviews.

• Ensure that the facility has procedures for disseminating information during the inspection. Aircraft sales typically involve multiple parties in addition to the buyer and seller, and keeping them all informed is important.

• Make sure the facility can perform any work that could be required to correct squawks or to complete upgrades that the buyer might want done before taking possession.

• Review the prepurchase inspection contract, and ask when it was last updated. Buyers and sellers have become more cautious on several fronts in recent years, and many providers have changed contract language accordingly; an updated contract can be a bellwether of a facility’s ability to adapt to evolving market realities.

Even when you’re dealing with a highly regarded facility, it makes sense to hire a maintenance consultant to take part in the inspection if you’re on the buy side and have no experience with the aircraft model you’re considering. Many former employees of major aircraft manufacturers and operators are available. “You need someone who has a lot of background with the airplane and who’s able to ask the right questions,” says John Link, a New Jersey-based maintenance consultant who has advised buyers on Falcon Jet, Gulfstream and Bombardier aircraft purchases.

James Wynbrandt, a private pilot, is a longtime contributor to BJT.

Today's Difficult-to-Define Market 

The preowned market continues to defy generalizations. Large-cabin aircraft are reputed to have held their value in recent times better than other categories, but over the last two years the asking price of a Bombardier Global 5000 has fallen 57 percent, according to JetNet. The Cessna Citation CJ2, in the supposedly moribund light-jet category, has seen an asking-price decline of just 5 percent over the same period.—J.W.