Purchasing an Airplane – Deciding Your Typical Mission
November 30, 2021
Purchasing a Cirrus Aircraft

Purchasing an Airplane – Deciding Your Typical Mission

Purchasing an airplane is often looked at as a daunting task. There are many caveats to be aware of and it is a large transaction that will be taking place. For many passionate aviators, purchasing an airplane is a lifelong dream, for others it is purely a business decision. Regardless of the reason why you are deciding to purchase an airplane, prudence, practicality and careful thought should be at the center of the decision.

The excitement of an airplane that you have always wanted can potentially lead to making an unwise decision when purchasing. One might ask, how do you find the right airplane? How do you ensure that you are making a balanced decision that factors in practicality, cost to operate and level of skill? One excellent way to do so is first deciding your typical mission. Once you know how you will be flying or using your airplane it is easier to narrow down which airplanes will fit the bill and help you avoid impulsive decisions.

Asking yourself the right questions before purchasing a plane

Some typical missions for airplane owners are to build time instead of renting, flying to different locations for business, strictly for fun, commuting and for commercial air transport operations. Within these typical missions are certain factors that must be considered. Some of these questions to ask yourself are what and how much you want to carry? How far do you want to go? How fast do you want to go? Do you need the redundancy of two engines? What level of experience do you have (important for insurance purposes)? How often will you fly and how much do you want to spend?

What will you be carrying and how much?

You may just be carrying your family of 5 and a dog. Your kids may be very young and you may just be flying to visit family or for vacation. On the other hand, you may be carrying industrial equipment for your business to different job sites or to showcase for potential buyers and clients. It is not just about if the airplane can carry the load, but also how the cabin is equipped. Certain airplanes are better for comfortable cross-country flights with the family, whilst others are more suitable for easily loading equipment or cargo. Knowing this will help to narrow down the airplane.

How far do you want to go and how fast do you want to get there?

These two questions go hand in hand. You may need to go far but speed is not a priority. Conversely, you may not need to travel far, but speed is of high importance. These questions influence the decision on what kind of fuel burn you would be comfortable with. Some airplanes are flexible in that they have great range and are fast but can also be flown a lot slower for better economy. Potential buyers with more business interests may need something faster. Even though the fuel burn may be higher, accomplishing business tasks more efficiently would offset the higher cost. Someone who is just flying for more leisure activities may prefer going slower and spending less on fuel since time en route is not a priority.

Do you need the redundancy of two engines?

Airplane engines are more reliable than in the past. With the rise of many high performance small single-engine turboprops and improved maintenance on single-engine piston airplane, the case for acquiring a twin is lower. But then again, the question arises. What is your mission? Will you be flying at night, over and around mountainous terrain or over large bodies of water? In this case, a twin may be the overall safer choice. It is important to note that if considering a twin, it is absolutely imperative that you are proficient at flying a twin. Also, it is recommended that you regularly train with a multi-engine instructor (MEI) in one engine inoperative procedures. Costs will double with a twin, but should you need the extra engine you will have it.

What level of experience do you have?

A private pilot with 60 hours may have the budget, the means and the need for a high performance, long range single pilot jet. That definitely does not mean that he or she will have the level of skill to safely and proficiently fly a jet. The same goes for another airplane. You should be aware of the level of experience you have, your confidence level and how comfortable you are in certain types. A good training program offered by or in partnership with a manufacturer or dealership can help to make you a proficient pilot in the type of airplane you want. Even a knowledgeable certified flight instructor (CFI) can train you so that you are comfortable in the airplane you are looking to purchase. However, insurance companies will demand that you have a certain amount of flight hours or at least possess an instrument rating before they will insure your airplane.

How often will you fly and how much do you want to spend?

The amount you will fly helps in determining how much money you need to put aside every time you fly to cover costs. Your pocketbook or line of credit will have the final say on what you will actually be able to buy. Even still, there are a few things to consider. An older airplane may be cheaper but may require more regular maintenance and may have hidden maintenance discrepancies that will be expensive later on. It is also important to be aware of time between overhauls on engines, props and other life limited parts. Furthermore, you must consider if spare parts will be available and if there are mechanics that can work on your airplane. Some older and rare airplanes have limited spare parts and some mechanics may not be familiar with the airplane.

Getting help with purchasing your plane

Some final things to consider is if you will need the airplane repositioned to your home base and how you intend to do it. If able you can fly it home yourself or for convenience hire a ferry pilot. Buying an airplane can be a highly rewarding experience when done right. Always have an experienced licensed airframe and powerplant mechanic to inspect the airplane for you and consult with experienced pilots who are familiar with the airplane type. A reputable brokerage can alleviate many of the complications that can arise with purchasing an airplane and help to make the whole process smoother. High Performance Aviation helps airplane owners buy the right airplane. Our experts will guide you through a buying action plan to get the perfect airplane. Schedule a call today.

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