I'm brand new to the private aviation world. I do, however, have a long standing passion for aviation, and I am an avid RC pilot. Not that this means anything, but I do understand the BASICS of flight controls etc.
I am looking to do my private license this summer, and I have decided to purchase an aircraft to do my training with and build hours on. I believe I have found a good deal on a Cessna 150, but I would like to clear some things up before I go to see and/or purchase the plane.
Firstly, the plane passed its annual inspection this October with a certified airplane mechanic shop. To me, this seems like a major plus because as far as I know, the annual inspection is a very comprehensive and extensive process that should have found any serious issues that would stop me from buying the plane. What I'm wondering is how reliable this process is. Do I still have to bring a mechanic with me to check out the plane? This is not a very feasible option for me in the first place, as the plane is located on a private property far away from any aircraft mechanic shops. So should I trust the results of the annual that was recently completed?
Second, I was wondering what sort of checks I should do myself when I go to see the airplane. Should I just print off a Cessna 150 pre flight checklist and use that as a guide? Furthermore, are there any specific maintenance related questions I should ask the owner? For example, I know it is good to ask whether the plane has been flying recently, and when exactly the major engine overhaul was performed (its at 999 SMOH right now, but does not specify a date for when the overhaul happened).
Thank-you so much for any help, it is really appreciated!
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Nothing could be further from the truth. The annual inspection is a snapshot of how the plane is on the day it was inspected. That it passed tells you nothing about what might go wrong in the next six months, 12 months or 5 years. It's not enormously comprehensive nor extensive, and there's no need to report anything that the AME thought might need attention in the future but passes for now.To me, this seems like a major plus because as far as I know, the annual inspection is a very comprehensive and extensive process that should have found any serious issues that would stop me from buying the plane.
I'm afraid there is no comprehensive advice that one can give to someone who hasn't even started flight training about what to look for in an airplane tom make it a safe bet to buy. The good news is that your maximum loss is the price you pay, which for a 150 isn't much.
As far as the engine goes, a 150 engine (O-200, probably) can be trash after 1000 hours, if abused, or it could go to 3000 hours plus with no work needed, if you're lucky. There are some warning signs to look for, like metal particles in the oil filter, high oil consumption, poor compression test results, poor power output, but there's no certainty even there.
Sorry, but there's no comfort to be had in buying a plane. You do what diligence you can (which, if you can't or won't get an AME to strip it down for you, isn't much) and take a chance.
I suppose the good news is that by the time you come to buy your second plane you'll be somewhat better informed.
As previous poster mentioned an annual is not a guarantee that the aircraft is in pristine condition. In an older aircraft there are always things that are nearing the end of their useful life. We recently did an annual on a 150 with all checks met. After a few hours of flight the mags decided they were due for a rebuild, an expensive fix.
When we do pre-purchases we look at things like when the mags were last serviced/overhauled, if and when any cylinders were changed, carb rebuilt, etc to try get a sense of what items may have issues down the road. How many hours a year does it fly, where is it stored, etc can give some idea of its overall state. Does the current owner stay on top of repairs, keep it clean, etc can be an indicator of how well they take care of it.
In my opinion a well done prepurchase can help avoid costly surprises down the road (or at least prepare you that there are things that may need upcoming attention), and may help support a lower purchase offer.
You want an appraisal of life remaining not just that its ok for now (Annual). Engine not wearing out, no corrosion issues, controlls/cables, avionics, hoses, brakes tires etc.
Lots of folks can help with this and the money invested is well worth it!!
One tell-tale sign of problems is to look at the costs and items repaired over the last five years.
If its been cheap with little done then you could get a big bill sooner or later. Its better to see steady moderate costs. Basically there is a reason they cost $100+hr to rent thats becauae on average thats what it really costs.
The fresh annual said that it was airworthy. The test flight said it was a neat old plane I could enjoy flying. The pre-purchase inspection told me what sort of shape the plane was in - good, as it turned out. The journey and technical logs confirmed ADs, maintenance issues, and so on. I was happy to hand over a bank draft.
1) Has the plane flown regularly- around once a week but no more than no flights in a month. If the plane isn't flown regularly, there is a good chance that you will see a lot of maintenance costs once you fly it regularly. I would buy an 8000 hr flight school airplane before a 1500 hr airframe.
2) Is there regular documentation of snags in the log books. Things break- do they get fixed promptly or is the owner just improperly deferring them? The worst is seeing an annual inspection with very few defects found or fixed on an old airplane. Lots of alarm bells. I agree with cgzro's post above.
If you do a pre-purchase inspection have the AME do a 200 hr inspection as per the the Service Manual. It's far more comprehensive (and yes, expensive) than an annual IAW CAR 625 App B but there won't be any surprises later.
Also, unfortunately, I would not trust an annual done by an AME who is now selling you the airplane. Too much conflict of interest. I have seen two airplanes sold by AME's and in one case the airplane had to literally be scrapped because of corrosion (as in the parts taken out and the fuselage and wings brought to the scrap metal dealer). The other one (Citabria) needed a new spar because the previous owner (the AME) just signed out the wing spar inspection AD without actually inspecting it. (It's hard to inspect a spar with no inspection holes in the wings).
I personally wanted a 4 seater due to my mission and future plans and found a solid 172 for less than $25 grand. It checked out pretty well and I have 50 hours on it so far so good. Took most of all my flight training on it soloed in it and did my flight test in it. Keep reading forums like this and don't fall in love with any one plane. Keep researching and be prepared to walk away if it does not check out or feel right. Check out different owners forums like the Cessna 150, 172 clubs and the piper and any other resource you can find. Enjoy the search. Even though I have a plane I still keep an eye on kijiji for whatever comes up.