Buying an Aircraft in Arizona: Tips and Tricks for You, Your Wallet, and Your Wellbeing

Congratulations, you have decided to purchase your very first plane right here in Arizona! Now comes the tricky part—the buying process. Unlike buying a car, which has become so commonplace that it is no longer considered a “big deal” by  purchasers, lenders, and sellers alike, purchasing an aircraft comes with a lot of hidden pitfalls that even the most seasoned pilot can fall victim to, putting their finances and even safety at risk.

One of the primary differences between buying a car and buying a plane in Arizona is that while a majority of cars are sold at dealerships, most planes are bought and sold privately. While some people may be looking to buy a new aircraft from a dealer, an overwhelming percentage of general aviation planes will be several years old. Because of this—and the paramount role that safety plays in aviation—it is absolutely critical that you know the plane that you are buying inside and out.

The Golden Rule: Find an Impartial and Thorough A&P

While many may argue that the golden rule in aircraft purchasing is not to get emotionally attached to a plane, even if you do slip up and fall for a particular bird, having an impartial and honest A&P for your pre-buy inspection can save you—literally. Many aircraft with seemingly clean and up-to-date logbooks are out of compliance with critical ADs or have other hidden mechanical problems that could cost you money or your safety further down the road.

Many first-time buyers balk at the cost of a truly thorough pre-buy inspection, but finding out about any “gremlins” the aircraft may be hiding before you commit can help give you all of the information you need to make an informed purchase that you will not regret later. And while it may be tempting to use an A&P that the seller recommends—especially if you are unfamiliar with mechanics or inspectors in the area—be aware that he or she could be biased, and trying to help the seller move an aircraft.

Fly Before You Buy

Just like you would never buy a car you did not test drive, be sure that you have an opportunity to take the plane up for a quick turn in the pattern to see how it behaves. The owner may request to be the pilot in command and have you simply observe, since they do not know your flying ability and their insurance may not cover damage for pilots other than themselves, but even being in the plane for a test flight can reveal a lot about a plane’s characteristics and performance. Just make sure before you buckle in that a mechanic has given the plane the “OK.”

Why We Care

Just like you, we want your first aircraft buying experience to go as smoothly as possible, but we also want to help you ensure that you are purchasing a plane that is airworthy and safe. Most general aviation planes that are bought and sold around the Phoenix valley are between 30 and 60 years old; even with careful care and maintenance over the years, planes can deteriorate and weaken in critical areas.

If you have been injured in an aircraft that you have recently purchased and feel as though the previous owner may have kept crucial information from you that may have prevented your accident, give the Arizona aviation attorneys at Curry, Pearson & Wooten a call today at 602-258-1000 to discuss your case.