Pre-buys, Pre-Sales, and Consultation on Amateur Built Aircraft
Many times a pilot buying an Amateur-built aircraft isn’t certain of what to look for. Fancy paint jobs can hide
damage or poor construction. Between my building, flying, and DAR experiences I can help you decide what
is right for you and what potential problems you may see with a particular aircraft, whether they are
maintenance/safety issues, flying qualities, or even supportability problems.
Please do not get emotionally attached to the airplane until we have completed the pre-buy examination.
A surpisingly large portion of the airplanes for sale will not pass a pre-buy examination. I have performed
hundreds of these examinations over the years and can help you make an informed purchasing decision.
I am recognized as the go-to guy for pre-buys, especially on RV-type aircraft. I've traveled all over the
USA (30 States) via airlines or RV-10. Every single customer will tell you it was worth it, and sellers have asked me
to do their next pre-buy examination. Both the seller and the buyer win, as we will all understand the quality
of the aircraft along with any potential safety items that need to be fixed.
It does appear that some types of airplanes are getting snapped up as soon as they are presented for sale.
Don't fall into that trap. There are gems, but be patient and together we will find the right aircraft for you.
All of my customers will tell you it is money very well spent.
As for RV's, all of them really need a prebuy examination, especially the earlier models that were not
prepunched (RV-3, RV-4, RV-6, RV-6A, and early RV-8's). The later models such as the RV-7, RV-7A,
RV-8, RV-8A, RV-12, RV-10, RV-14, and RV-14A, were pre-punched, but still need to be checked for proper
assembly and Service Bulletin compliance. All of them have some very critical areas requiring examination
of proper building technique.
See my article on Pre-buy Inspections in the Kitplanes October 2014 issue and the updated articles in
KitPlanes July & August 2016. The 2014 Article is at the end of this web page. I recently examined an RV-10 kit
advertised as 95% complete. The riveting was so bad throughout the entire aircraft that it is a restoration project.
The buyer dodged a big bullet on this one. Unfortunately, a first-time buyer purchased this kit a few months later without a prebuy examination. He got a second opinion, confirming my results. He was out $35K.
needs, and types of aircraft you are interested in.
time in the future. This examination is to help you make a purchasing decision.
in order to command a fair market price. About 50% of the airplanes I examine end up not being bought due
to the list of discrepancies discovered during the pre-buy process. Almost all of them are fixable, but it tends
to delay or even sour the prospective buyer on the airplane. By getting this examination completed before you
even list the aircraft you are way ahead of the game, and I will talk to any prospective buyer for you. It will
certainly shorten the sales cycle for you, and perhaps even command a higher price. I will not represent the
airplane for you, and I will not take any commissions on the sale. It keeps me as the un-biased third party.
I hired Vic to complete an inspection on an RV-10 prior to purchase and from my perspective the plane was in great
shape. Vic flew to the home airport of the plane and did a very thorough inspection, checking areas that I would have
never thought of looking at since I had not personally built the plane. He advised me that this plane needed much
work and was concerned with the craftsmanship. Based on his advice, and what he showed me in the visual inspection, I did not purchase this plane. I am so glad because the owner had to spend several thousand dollars to get some of the items on Vic's report corrected for safety reasons.
Vic's services did not stop there. He got on the internet and looked for other RV-10's, unbeknownst to me and
called me a couple of days later and said that a RV-10 had just become available, looked great and recommended someone
on the west coast that could go do a visual inspection right away. That very night I made a conditional offer, set up the inspection
and bought my ticket to fly out and pick it up if all worked out well. I now own this almost perfect RV-10 and love it!
I have called Vic many times over the last two years for advice and he has always willing and able to help me out. He is a master
at Advanced Flight Systems, The Garmin GPS systems, and avionics. Having built many RV's and mastering incredible panels, he is the go to
person for advice.
I would highly recommend Vic's services to anyone.
-John P. (South Carolina)
I recently sold my RV-10 aircraft. As we all know an important aspect of any aircraft ownership change is the pre-buy inspection.
In my case the pre-buy inspection was done on behalf of the buyer by Vic Syracuse of Base Leg Aviation.
Vic’s inspection of my aircraft was thorough, and efficiently completed. The result of his work was instrumental in the sale being completed smoothly.
I believe the buyer is confident he is getting a good airplane and I am confident he is in good hands as he becomes safely acclimated to his new airplane.
I can without reservation recommend Vic to anyone looking for someone to complete a pre-buy inspection or any of the other many services offered by Base Leg Aviation.
Kitplanes Article from October 2014:
So why do I need a pre-buy inspection, you ask? You've already seen the airplane, you really like the paint scheme and the panel has most, if not all, of what you want. And you went and flew it for 30 minutes and she handled great! I would ask how many of you got married after one date, but I fear there is always one who would raise his/ her hand. Instead I will share with you some of my thoughts on the need for a pre- buy inspection and why I think they are becoming even more important as time passes on. Then you can decide if you should take this step prior to buying. Remember, we're supposed to be having fun here, so no so sense taking the beauty home only to find out it wasn't all that we thought it was.
My experience has led me to believe there are 3 critical areas that need to be closely scrutinized: the airframe, the engine compartment, and the aircraft wiring/plumbing. And each area has it's own areas of specialty. And to accomplish a good prebuy the aircraft should be opened up as if ready for a Condition Inspection, and performed by a knowledgeable and experienced person relative to the specific aircraft.
I like to start with the airframe, which is a little different than in the Certified world. Why? Because Amateur-Built aircraft aren't built on assembly lines where we can be reasonably sure that everything aft of the firewall is the same. Here we can be reasonably assured that every aircraft IS going to be different. And a good place to start is with the tail, as that is where the builder usually started, and this is where you can see how the progression of skills begins. There are some critical holes in the tail that don't leave a lot of room for proper edge distance if not done carefully. I have seen some tails on aircraft that had boltholes mis-drilled and covered up, and some even missing bolts and/rivets. I have seen one that I thought was not even airworthy enough to be flown home. I had one customer whom I really felt sorry for, as he had purchased the aircraft sight-unseen. It took him a while to make things right but eventually it sold. The rear spar bolts are another very critical area to check for proper edge distance. I think it is important to check and see if the aircraft has been built according to plans, or if there have been any modifications, especially those that might affect the structural integrity, such as drilling holes into longerons for equipment without adhering to edge distance rules, or removing too much bulkhead material behind the instrument panel to fit all of the wiz-bang equipment.
The landing gear is another area to check, especially if the airplane has been routinely operating off of grass or unimproved strips. These types of operations do take a toll and lead to cracks in weldments and wheel pants brackets, as well as corrosion due to the moisture from dew or wet grass. A good cleaning followed by and inspection with a bright light and magnifying glass will usually do the trick here. On fabric aircraft the age and type of fabric, as well as the covering process should be considered. With regards to composite aircraft, checking for bad bonds and/or possible delamination in structural areas should be a high priority. Again, an aircraft-specific knowledgeable person is critical.
When it comes to plumbing, wiring, and systems, my experience has shown that these aren't really the strong areas for a lot of builders. The proverbial rats
nest of wiring can make it difficult to chase down problems, and sometimes is the source of unexplained gremlins, such as instrument gyrations when the microphone is keyed. It seems not everyone understands that the rubber motor mounts not only dampen the engine vibrations, but also electrically isolate the engine from the airframe thus requiring a bonding strap from the engine to the mount/ firewall to insure electrical continuity. And just because the bonding strap was initially installed doesn't mean it is still intact. It needs to be checked regularly for structural and electrical continuity. I really like it when I see two bonding straps. :)
Sometimes I see prospective buyers thinking they are going to buy a cheap airplane and spend money upgrading the panel, not realizing that it could take a substantial amount of rewiring, sometimes having to replace all of the old copper automotive wire with aircraft grade wiring and proper grounding in order for the new stuff to work properly. Sad to say, but electrical systems do not seem to be a strong point for many builders. And the simple electrical needs of the early VFR-only aircraft are a far cry from the requirements of all-electric glass panels and entertainment systems in today’s aircraft. Wire routing, antenna distances, and grounding are so much more critical to insure proper performance and reliability.
I'm also seeing a common theme among the older types of aircraft, especially RV's. Early RV kits were a far cry from the pre- punched kits of today. And many of the pre-punched parts in today's kits actually had to be made out of raw materials, requiring more refined metal-working skill sets as well as an understanding of the various types of metals and where and how they could or could not be used. I don't mean this as disparaging in any way, but I think the last generation was more frugal when it came to aircraft building. It was a generation with not a lot of extra spendable income, so build times were longer and there were many trips to OSH scrounging for the deals in the Fly Market. I know. I was one of them! I'm seeing this show up now as the fleet ages and many of builders are selling their airplanes. I see a lot of surgical tubing behind instrument panels that has become very brittle with age. When used in vacuum systems it is a recipe for disaster. I've seen hoses with date stamps of 3Q 76 going to oil coolers. Sloshing compounds in wing tanks are also a prime candidate for problems.
The bottom line on the airframe is to make sure it is solid. While all things probably can be restored to flying status with some time and money (Glacier Girl is certainly a prime example), most likely you are not interested in a project. Fixing a poorly built airframe can take a lot of time, unlike an engine compartment, which can be completely replaced in a couple of days.
Speaking of the engine compartment, let's zero in on some prime candidates in this area. Certainly a compression check and a visual/sensory check of the oil, as well as cutting open the filter, should be mandatory. Lots of kudos here for builders/owners who have had the aircraft on an oil analysis program! Looking at the spark plugs will also yield some clues as to how the fuel and ignition system are working, as well as some insight regarding internal cylinder health. Are they oily? Worn? Lead fouled? Be sure to check the baffling for security and cracking, the engine sensors for proper mounting and the oil and fuel hoses for age and wear. Don't forget to check the propeller leading edge as well as the spinner, and especially the spinner bulkheads for cracks. And here are a couple of things that routinely get overlooked: the carburetor or fuel servo inlet screens, the gascolator screen, and the oil sump screen. I had one original O-320 (no dash number) on an rv-6 that still had the original blue paint on the oil sump screen AN-900 crush gasket. Hard to believe but it appears that I was the first one to remove it in many, many years!
The rubber motor mounts are also an area that needs looking at for 2 reasons: they do age and some builders used less-than-ideal rubber mounts for the initial installation. I've replaced a number of these with real Lord mounts and the owners really notice an improvement with regards to engine vibration.
In the end, a list of discrepancies should be presented to the prospective buyer, and any potential safety issues should be discussed with the current owner. Some may need to be fixed right away, and some may be able to be addressed in hue he future as a budget allows. Either way, everyone is more informed, and hopefully the flying fun can begin!