Plane & Pilot
Sunday, May 1, 2005

Buying Your First Plane

It’s an issue practically all of us must address at one time or another. Virtually every pilot—student, private, commercial or ATP—dreams of owning an airplane.

In most cases, the first question a pilot must answer is the obvious one: How much money are you willing to spend on an airplane? In the majority of cases, this will be a finite number that will make the selection process easier. In others, a prospective buyer may be willing to spend as much as he or she needs to buy the airplane he or she wants. One way or another, a smart purchase, like a small fight, begins with gathering all the important information." />

Finding The Best Airplane For You
Rather than concentrating on one model, you may be better served to expand the field of potential candidates to two or three models, especially if the number of available used examples in your primary choice is limited. Confine your search to an older airplane such as a Stinson Reliant, and it may be difficult to find that perfect example you’re seeking.

Whatever your choice, many pilots looking for used aircraft turn to the old standard, Trade-A-Plane, published three times a month and bulging with ads for every possible kind of flying machine, from a Thorp Sky-Scooter to a P-51 Mustang. Trade-A-Plane is distributed nationally and overseas, so you’re likely to see ads from Europe and Australia in its pages. The Internet also has become a heavily traveled place for aircraft buyers and sellers (see the sidebar “Click & Buy”).

New aircraft are a wonderful treat as well (see the sidebar “The New Deal”). Not only do they come with that new-car smell (albeit a new-airplane smell), but brand-new birds have all the latest technology and a warranty. (To see new aircraft listings all in one location, click on "Aircraft Mall" on the navigation bar to the left of this page.)

If you live in or near a major metropolitan area such as Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles, Chicago or New York, you very well may find what you’re looking for at one of the local airports. Check local newspaper ads and FBO bulletin boards. Chances are, however, you’ll need to explore the national market in order to locate that
special airplane.

As a general rule, buying a fixer-upper at a low price is a poor idea unless you happen to be an A&P mechanic with your own tools and maintenance shop. Trying to save money with a ratbag airplane can be a deeper money pit than you’d believe. While it’s true you might be able to customize the aircraft to your personal specifications, the bottom line will likely be more expensive than if you had continued shopping for a pristine example of the same model.


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