Forecasting maintenance costs on high total time aircraft

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Gliderrider
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Forecasting maintenance costs on high total time aircraft

Post by Gliderrider » Thu Nov 07, 2019 4:55 am

I am looking for advice from experienced AMEs. I am a private pilot looking for an affordable aircraft for local flying. There are a couple of aircraft (1979 Cessna 152 and 1979 Warrior II) that meet my needs on paper that are ex-flying schools and have high total time on the airframe (18,000 to 20,000 hours) but recently overhauled engines (ie. low hours SMOH and overhaul completed within the last two years) and reasonable instruments. Their logs indicate frequent inspections and maintenance as you would expect in a busy flight school. From your experience in a maintenance shop what are the pitfalls of buying an aircraft with high total time? Assuming that a full annual is done by the buyers AME prior to purchase.
I would really appreciate your advice....thanks for your time.
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PilotDAR
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Re: Forecasting maintenance costs on high total time aircraft

Post by PilotDAR » Thu Nov 07, 2019 8:25 am

Look for a PM.

In the mean time, aging aircraft are a growing issue. Age and hours are an indicator of possible condition, though too little use is also a problem. Piper low wing Cherokee series deserve a special understanding before a decision. Cessna too are the subject of additional aging aircraft inspections, though so far, the 150/152 have not had burdensome inspections imposed.

Engines can easily be rebuilt, and returned to near new condition (or replaced with new, if desired), 'same for props. Instruments and radios can (and should) be replaced with new and better. So those are not issues.

The airframe is the variable. It is important to do lots of research on the maintenance history and present or proposed inspections for the airplane model you're considering - it'll differ model to model, and even within serial number ranges. The fact that there is not now a maintenance requirement, does not mean that one won't be imposed in the future. It's the chance you take with the pride of ownership, no way around it.

Cessnas are more permissive than some other types, in that more of their primary structure (but not all) can be made in the field by a good sheet metal shop. There is also a large supply of airworthy condition used parts. For any type, the availability of airframe parts, and cost should be researched and considered. Cessnas also define negligible damage for some parts and areas, which other types do not. This allows minor defects to remain in service. Small Cessnas are very easy to inspect thoroughly, and the Cessna SID document directs the inspector to exactly what should be inspected. Though seemingly burdensome, the SIDs are very well written. In the near future, Cantilever 201's and all 177's may have more burdensome inspections imposed, as may also be the case for some 172's, 182's and strut braced 210's. Do your homework on these types before buying. Trust me, the inspections which may be imposed (possible AD's) are for real concerns, I have been involved with these defects in each type, and they're justified concerns for aging aircraft.

I have found ownership of a C 150 M for the last 33 years to be remarkably economical, and I could not be more happy with the plane. But you must buy a plane with the understanding that it should not be considered an investment, you're buying it to use it, and there could come a point where its airframe value has really depreciated. That's okay, you got your value out by flying it. It was a good investment for flying (which is why you bought it) it was just not a good investment in retained value. Twenty years ago, yes, a good condition Cessna was an investment, not so much any more.

Consider a type which is eligible for owner maintenance. It's a bad word in some worlds, but it could allow you to change to that in the future to keep the plane flying, if manufacturer's parts and support becomes too expensive. OM does not mean that you have to do the work, and AME/AMO still can, just that they can do the work, and be a little more flexible with the parts they use for the maintenance, and you are required to sign for the work that is accomplished. It's a good system, if used as intended, by maintainers and owners who understand the intent. If you select a type which cannot be registered OM in the future, you may be tied to the manufacturer's parts and service methods, and that could become expensive.
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Gliderrider
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Re: Forecasting maintenance costs on high total time aircraft

Post by Gliderrider » Fri Nov 08, 2019 4:23 pm

Thank you for your detailed response PilotDAR. Some great information and points to look out for.
Sorry I did not understand your first sentence "Look for a PM"
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