Purchasing homebuilt, confused with required inspections

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Socal pilot

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Jul 18, 2020
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Hi everyone! Thank you for accepting me in your community! I'm hopeful this is my first post out of many and that I'll get to contribute more as I become more experienced.

I'm looking into buying a homebuild experimental plane with Continental A75 engine. This is a whole new world for me, in regards to required paperwork and inspections.

Plane has N number and Airworthiness certificate. It is also currently registered. However it has not been flown in a few years and all the inspections are past due. I have asked mechanic on site (I live in different state) to take a look at the aircraft and he told me that the plane looks good and that the engine runs good as well. However when I asked mechanic to perform pre purchase Annual inspection and sign of the plane as Airworthy he declined under explanation that I'm moving the plane to another state and that it's best for me to do it where I'm going to be based. He suggested that I ask Seller to sign for Condition inspection, however seller is not Builder of the aircraft and to my knowledge he is legally unable to do so?

Seller seems honest, but I'm worried that I may not be able to get the plane to pass Annual after purchase and other than mechanic word I don't have anything in writing about the condition of the aircraft?

What should I do?
Thank you in advance!
 

TFF

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I have a friend who is trying to sell an airplane. It’s not a looker but it’s ok. It’s in annual but the guy buying wants a shop to do a Prebuy on it. The shop on the airport says no. The main reason is if they do find something wrong, who is going to pick up the bill? The original owner doesn’t think there’s stuff wrong and he has a guy happy to sign off the annual off. The buyer wants a guaranteed. The shop does not want to be in the middle. Not for a cheap plane they will have to fight and get a payment. Mechanics also hate when a craft leaves home. Their name is now across the country with no clue on how they might be treated. $500 is not worth being cussed at and trashed, and that is what happens.

If you want to buy an airplane, you are buying the airplane. Box it up and truck it home. Heck fly it home with no inspection; just don’t crash. Criteria for an inspection may be written down but how deep it’s implemented is up to the shop and it’s reputation. A shop working on King Airs is not going to want to work on a Champ. A shop working on Champs is not going to want to see a King Air. A mechanic who feeds his family with that job does not want to stick their neck out for something out of the ordinary. It’s a fragile job. Most little homebuilts are serviced by friends and part time mechanics.

If you don’t have mechanical knowledge, you need to learn some. You might not be able to sign the condition inspection, but you are allowed to maintain the plane except that signature. You need to know how to fix it even if you are not going to fix it. You can grade what is going on. You can not guarantee yourself a cheap airplane. It sits there and is what it is. If you don’t t have someone at home willing to sign it off, once there, you are in the same place. Cheaper to get your guy to go look at the plane and not buy it.
 

D_limiter

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Not trying to pick a fight or anything, but I thought a plane had to be in annual to fly it?
 

BBerson

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The mechanic is correct. Get your mechanic to inspect, repair or completely restore if needed and sign the logbook after the extensive restoration and inspection.
 

pwood66889

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Another option is to go to A&P school.
When every one else in my age cohort was able to draw their full Social (in)Security check, I completed my oral and practical. Then my wife said "You've got to get a job!" Ended up with 9 adventurous years working with the US Army, and a small pension to boot.
All things mentioned above are good data points. Please Consider going to the sale and looking it over. But get a Good Idea of what to look for when buying airplanes. One does not look in the mouth, like for a horse!
 

Dana

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Some mechanics simply won't do condition inspections on homebuilts for whatever reason, usually concerns about liability. The seller, if he isn't the builder, can't sign off on the inspection, but he may well know somebody who will.
 

Wanttaja

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My suspicion is that the A&P feels confident enough for a general examination of the aircraft condition and especially the engine, but is balking at putting his certificate on the line for an aircraft type he isn't familiar with. By signing the airplane off, he's establishing that it's in a condition for safe flight. But he's not going to know if the engine overheats at cruise, nor if it's rigged one wing heavy, or if the circuit breakers pop every ten minutes.

I have a friend who does my condition inspection every year. I pay for his time, but he trusts me to point out the little problems like that.

The other aspect might be that the A&P doesn't want to get in the middle if an annual discovers significant problems that the pre-buy missed.

In short, I think you'd be better off to trailer the airplane home, reassemble it, and get your local A&P (whom you'll probably be working with for years) to sign it off. I've read a lot of homebuilt aircraft accident reports, and there are a number where the individual just bought the airplane and crashed it while ferrying it home.

They're kind of in a corner... they're away from home, spending money on temporary tiedown space, going to Lowes to buy tools they forgot to bring along, paying for a rental car, and the airplane is their only way home. Of course, it actually isn't, but there's a powerful inducement to get that thing flying so they can go home and REALLY start to work on it. Too many of them don't even take a local flight first...it's off onto the cross-country.

It's one thing if the plane has been flying. But that isn't the case, here. Get the plane home safely, then work with your own A&P to get it into a condition where he/she will be willing to sign off the Condition Inspection. Take your time, do it carefully.

Ron Wanttaja
 

Marc Zeitlin

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I have asked mechanic on site (I live in different state) to take a look at the aircraft and he told me that the plane looks good and that the engine runs good as well.
What does that mean? Did you hire him to do a real Pre-Buy examination of the plane, or just walk around it twice, kick the tires and see if the engine runs?


However when I asked mechanic to perform pre purchase Annual inspection and sign of the plane as Airworthy he declined under explanation that I'm moving the plane to another state and that it's best for me to do it where I'm going to be based.
That's a reasonably ridiculous excuse. If he doesn't want to put his name on it, he's either not qualified to determine if the airplane is in a condition for safe operation, and knows it, or doesn't understand the minimal liability of signing off an E-AB aircraft CI.

I'll ask again - did you ask for a Pre-Buy examination, with a full report? There's no signature in a logbook for something like that, but it essentially can give the same feedback on the condition of the plane. Also, you want this done by a guy who's never worked on the plane or signed the logbook before, so he's objective and has no dog in the hunt.

Worry about a CI after you find out what the plane actually is with a PB.

He suggested that I ask Seller to sign for Condition inspection, however seller is not Builder of the aircraft and to my knowledge he is legally unable to do so?
I will certainly agree that it's reasonable to have the seller provide the plane in a legal state, but as Toobuilder points out, that means nothing from the standpoint of whether it's "in a condition for safe operation", particularly since whomever signs off the CI for the SELLER is working for the SELLER, not you.

Seller seems honest, but I'm worried that I may not be able to get the plane to pass Annual after purchase and other than mechanic word I don't have anything in writing about the condition of the aircraft?
E-AB aircraft don't have "annuals", they have an annual "Condition Inspection". And the seller most likely is honest - most folks are - but he may not know what's going on with the plane, particularly if he's not the builder.

What should I do?
Depends on how much the plane costs and how much you're willing to risk. A plane that's not in legal condition to fly, and which the owner isn't willing to get signed off as such, should go pretty cheap in whatever market it's in - you don't say what type of plane or what the price is or what comparable aircraft have sold for. Almost everything is fixable, if it's a project plane, but you have to determine how much work you're willing to do and how much money you want to throw at it if it's a basket case.

You need more information about the plane, unless you're getting it for a few thousand $$$ and you can afford to chop it up with a chainsaw if it's a total mess. I would NEVER buy a plane without an official Pre-Buy examination with a real report as to the state of the plane, and the fact that it's not legal to fly should factor greatly into the purchase price agreed to.
 

D Hillberg

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Answer: Annual Conditional Inspection / Prebuy inspection.

A/P inspects the aircraft and list discrepancies to be corrected given to the owner pilot
(list in AC 43-13 appendix d)
and signed off as a pilots preventative maintenance... By the new pilot owner.

A conditional Conditional Inspection. In the log books...

I Joe the wrench turner have inspected this flying termite box NX000001 - XX/XX/XXXX [failed inspection]
Conditional Inspection completed and a list of discrepancies to be corrected given to owner. (List the issues)

I Dick Pilot have corrected discrepancies listed by Joe W Turner on XX/XX/XXX (Fix the issues)
[corrective actions]

Go fly legally.
 

Socal pilot

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Wow, I'm really glad I reached out and got all this good feedback! Thank you all there are a lot of good points! I can definitely understand all sides, but at the end of the day I have to do as much as I can on the ground in order to join you in the air where I want to be.

Let me answer a few questions, the plane is Pazmany pl-4, I tried price comparison, not too many of them being sold, hard to say but obviously I got interested. Yes, I am fully aware that purchasing price is just one part of the equation, that having a good $ reserve makes for good flying but at this point I don't even have a ballpark what that reserve should be and I don't want to find out when it's too late, or even worse, my wife to find out :) When it comes to my agreement with mechanic, I have agreed to pay for a Pre-Buy, but I'm not getting a report so it's more on the line of kicking tires and a few other things.

I have some mechanical knowledge, but in this case I'm not ashamed to say that I'm over my head, especially because the plane hasn't flown for so long and I can't get in touch with the original builder.

I'm going to follow your advice and try to find out more, talk to the owner again and like someone said, do the math and see what kind of a loss or further investment I'm comfortable with. And yes, towing the plane out was my plan.
 

Victor Bravo

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Where are you based, and where is the airplane?

I am located at KWHP and if it is of any value I can offer a little guidance here and there, but I am not an A&P or IA. I do know several of them here at this field.

The most important thing by far is to have an independent third party look at it, who knows what he/she is doing with experimental airplanes. I can point to several really experienced IA's who have no understanding of E-AB, and would just trash-talk the airplane up and down because it doesn't look like the King-Air they work on. There are also mechanics who will sign off stuff that I wouldn't get in and fly.

I happen to know an Oshkosh champion E-AB builder at my home field, who just got his IA rating. If you are having trouble finding a guy, I can at least put you in touch. He is not the least expensive option, but he absolutely knows what good workmanship is.
 

Dana

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Answer: Annual Conditional Inspection / Prebuy inspection.

A/P inspects the aircraft and list discrepancies to be corrected given to the owner pilot
(list in AC 43-13 appendix d)
and signed off as a pilots preventative maintenance... By the new pilot owner.

A conditional Conditional Inspection. In the log books...

I Joe the wrench turner have inspected this flying termite box NX000001 - XX/XX/XXXX [failed inspection]
Conditional Inspection completed and a list of discrepancies to be corrected given to owner. (List the issues)

I Dick Pilot have corrected discrepancies listed by Joe W Turner on XX/XX/XXX (Fix the issues)
[corrective actions]

Go fly legally.
Not quite. An annual inspection can be signed off by an IA with a list of discrepancies that must be fixed, but not a condition inspection, it's either in "condition for safe operation" or it's not.

In this case, the purchaser needs to find an A&P who is willing to sign off the inspection, or trailer or home.
 

BJC

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That looks like it could be a real fun airplane.

I think that we have an A&P out that way. He may be willing.


BJC
 

rv7charlie

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A ferry permit is a legal option to get it home, but it might not be a wise one, if the plane has been sitting for many years. I don't know much about that type, but if it's as simple as something like an RV3 or RV4, it might be worth thinking about paying and taking your own A&P to the plane to do an annual. But if you do that, you then need to think about your own flying experience and currency. I'd be a little concerned about flying cross country on the 1st flight after the plane has been on the ground for years, especially if I had little or no time in type.

Charlie
 

scramjetter

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You could try contacting the local EAA chapter and ask if they know of an A&P who would be willing to inspect your plane.
 
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