So after a night of walking through paperwork…
So step 1 for me was to walk through the paperwork; the detailed logs of all of the repairs done to the aircraft.
The good news: all of the logs for the airplane I’m planning to buy: a 1978 Arrow III with the larger fuel tanks (72 gallons useable, in case we decide to go for very long flights), seem complete–he even sent me the paperwork for the original airworthiness logs when the airplane rolled off the factory floor back in late 1978 and the original buyer of the airplane.
It appears during the 1980’s it was used commercially: I see a lot of “100 hours” instead of annuals. And it appears at one point in the 1980’s one of the wings was bent–probably rolling it into something on the ground. (The logs show a rib being replaced and some skin being repainted.) None of these things concern me: many older aircraft have some minor damage at some point in their history; the important point is that the plane continued to fly for years afterwards.
It also appears the current owner only flew the airplane perhaps 50 to 70 hours a year–which to me is sad: as soon as I have an airplane, a clear afternoon and can play hooky I plan to go up every chance I get. (Until I moved out to RDU and got caught up in stupid expensive rental rates and long hours on my current project, I was averaging around 120 hours/year.) Because flying is fun!
So the logs look complete. And I verified that all the ADs published on the FAA web site appeared to be handled in the logs; the current owner was pretty thorough about compliance. (Of course you cannot really know until you pop the covers off the wings and peek under the cowling of the aircraft. Not all A&P Mechanics got an A+ in school.)
Next step: going up to take a look at the airplane. JetBlue, for whatever reason, (a) flies direct to Boston, and (b) was offering me a nice deal despite the fact that I’m flying on the holidays and flying at the last minute. So a quick $330 round trip puts me in the area so I can drive down and take a look at his airplane.
And if it looks good–well, honestly, if the bones look good, since the price point is one where I don’t expect cosmetic perfection, only structural soundness–then we move onto the step where I find a mechanic to do a full pre-buy inspection.
(As a footnote I plan to own this airplane for a long time. So for me, it’s more important that I find something with good bones–and later, if I decide to paint the airplane or to upgrade the avionics or reupholster the airplane, I’ll have the budget and I can pick my own style. Otherwise I’m paying extra for someone else’s paint job and someone else’s aesthetics.)
Meanwhile I’ve contacted the same insurance broker my father uses for airplane insurance. Right now I have a rough quote from AVEMCO for around $2,400 a year, but everyone I’ve talked to suggests AVEMCO is relatively expensive. We’ll see if I can save any money by contacting the same broker my father uses. (My father claimed to have saved about $1,000/year using them, and while I don’t expect anywhere near that level of savings, since the hull value of the airplane I’m buying is about half what my father flies (a Beechcraft F33A Bonanza), even a couple of hundred dollars is worth it.)
(My father’s broker is True-Course Aviation Insurance in Camarillo, CA.)
And now, time to get someone to return my damned phone calls about actually renting a hanger at RDU. I’m so fed up with the general manager of Landmark Aviation not returning my calls that I called TAC Air. I suspect the bank of hangers they both rent are actually owned by RDU, and they basically handle the paperwork to rent them out.