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Prebuy inspections vital to preowned aircraft deals

Why many buyers choose factory-owned service facilities

Pre-purchase inspections on used aircraft allow buyers to identify and assess damage and wear that isn’t immediately evident and to anticipate maintenance needs in the future.

The buyer and seller generally decide the details of the pre-purchase inspection and which facility will perform the work. The service provider and technician should have experience with the aircraft model in question and have a broad understanding of its nuances. It’s why many buyers choose to take the aircraft to a service center owned by the manufacturer.

“It adds a lot of value when the manufacturer does the work,” Jeff Melang, an aircraft manager, said. “It means more confidence on the other end of the transaction.”

Records to inspect before buying a pre-owned aircraft


  • Aircraft and component serial numbers

  • FAA Form 337 for major repairs or alterations

  • Airworthiness Directive compliance

  • Service bulletin/letters status

  • Logbooks

Melang recently assisted one of his customers in the purchase of a Citation® Excel® which included a pre-buy inspection.

There are other benefits to using a factory-owned facility. Technicians are intimately familiar with specific models, because those are the only models they work on every day. They also adhere to manufacturer standards, which are often more stringent than a third party’s. And factory technicians have better access to parts and precise information.

“Because the condition of the aircraft, engines and equipment can be a sensitive issue during negotiations between sellers and buyers, we offer our services to make these transactions as smooth as possible,” Jennifer Whitfield, general manager of Textron Aviation’s Wichita Citation Service Center, said. “The best way to lessen risk with the purchase of a previously flown aircraft is to know what you are getting into, and conversely, the best way to sell a used aircraft is to demonstrate its value to the buyer. Our service centers’ pre-buy inspection program accomplishes both.”

Some factory-owned service centers offer plans that guarantee inspections for used aircraft buyers. In the case of Textron Aviation, it’s called the Pre-Buy Assurance plan. The program offers people buying or selling Citation, King Air® and Hawker® aircraft six-months of parts and labor coverage on components and systems technicians inspect during the pre-purchase process.

Once buyers have full reports, they can decide whether to require the current owners to make any repairs before taking final delivery of the aircraft. In certain instances, sellers may be wary of a pre-buy inspection, but buyers should certainly insist on one to avoid unexpected expenses later on. Once deals close, buyers are unlikely to convince previous owners to pay for repairs.