If I hear one more story of someone buying a King Air without doing a prebuy….
So, you’re thinking of buying a King Air without a prebuy, or a pre-purchase inspection.
What’s your motivation? To increase your chances of getting the seller to sell you the airplane?
If the answer to that question is “yes,” then you might ask yourself: why would the seller prefer to sell the airplane without a prebuy?
If it’s to negotiate a lower price… bad strategy. You can’t buy an airplane cheap enough to cover the potential cost of the issues found in a proper pre-purchase inspection.
One of the great things about owning and operating a King Air is that maintenance costs are typically very predictable and the “gotchas” are minimal. Although they’re minimal, that doesn’t mean they’re nonexistent.
Just today, I heard a story of an owner taking his new (to him) King Air in for maintenance. The maintenance facility found corrosion and the estimate to repair it is $150,000.
My next question was… yep, you guessed it. Did you have a pre-purchase inspection done?
We charge our clients a fraction of what that repair is going to cost these folks, and that charge enables us to handle the entire purchase. Even if they included the full cost of the prebuy and our fee, they would have only spent about half of what this single problem is going to cost them and I suspect they aren’t done.
We have a King Air in prebuy right now that has the dreaded “black death” contamination in the air-conditioning system. We have another that has multiple cracks in the sub-floor. Each of these problems costs upwards of $40,000!
Without a pre-purchase inspection, you can’t find either of these problems. I might have been able to uncover the corrosion problem or at least see signs that there might be corrosion issues during my visual inspection, but there’s no way to see the other two problems without a full inspection.
I hope if you are considering buying a King Air, I have convinced you to DO a prebuy… but that is just the beginning. The quality of the prebuy and the subject aircraft actually making it through prebuy with the seller paying for the discrepancies and closing at the end are also major concerns.
Not all prebuys are created equal. Some maintenance facilities are more thorough than others, but they can only do so much and they can only do what YOU ask them to do. If you don’t know what to look for when completing a prebuy on a King Air, you can’t rely on the shop to tell you what to do. In most cases, their primary business is handling the maintenance of an aircraft, not performing prebuys. If you don’t know the King Air well enough to tell the shop what to look for, hire someone who does. A prebuy on a King Air includes numerous items. The phase 1–4 inspections are the base, not the totality.
As I mentioned above, when we do a visual inspection of a King Air, one of the things I am looking for is corrosion. There is certainly the potential for corrosion that is hidden, and you can’t always see corrosion during a visual inspection. However, if you know where to look, there are places that tend to reveal corrosion first. If you see an indication of corrosion there, you can expect to find it elsewhere. If corrosion is expected, the potential buyer should either pass on the airplane altogether or have a discussion with the owner about the suspicion of corrosion and what the remedies might be. Is the current owner willing to pay to have the corrosion corrected? Is he willing if it’s $150,000? Is that good enough? Should there be a reduction in the sale price as well? In my opinion, if it’s bad enough to impact the value then the buyer should pass, but these discussions need to happen BEFORE the prebuy.
Again, we’ve touched on the importance of a visual inspection here. If you don’t know the King Air well enough to do the visual inspection yourself, hire someone who does. The visual inspection is very important. If the airplane falls out of prebuy, everyone loses. Especially the buyer. The buyer may be out for the cost of the prebuy, the borescopes, the test flight, and the relocation flight, not to mention the time and effort! You need to know that you have a good airplane and that it will make it to closing before you ever take it to prebuy. If this doesn’t tell you have crucial the the visual inspection is, then I don’t know what will.
The visual inspection isn’t just the airplane. It’s the logbooks as well. The logbooks are literally a book that tells the story of the airplane’s life. The logbook inspection can uncover damage and corrosion repairs, detect who has maintained the aircraft, and reveal recurring problems.
PRO TIP: When inspecting aircraft logbooks, look for lines near the binding where someone may have used a razor blade to remove a page from the logbook.
The reality is, there’s no way to guard against all of the potential pitfalls present when buying a used airplane. Even if you do everything right, there’s always a chance something will slip through, but PLEASE start off by doing EVERYTHING right. If you buy an airplane without doing a prebuy or with a “Fresh 1–4” you are asking for trouble.
I’ve dedicated my career to helping turbine aircraft buyers avoid getting taken for a ride. If you’re interested in hiring us, we’re ready to make sure your next aircraft purchase goes smoothly and that we avoid the pitfalls. If you’re not interested in hiring us, there’s nothing wrong with doing it on your own, but don’t do it alone! Call or email me and give me the opportunity to educate you on where to go for a King Air prebuy and what to do before you get there!
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