Buying & Selling An Airplane & The 100LL Revolution!

by Pete Schoeninger
Published in Midwest Flyer – June/July 2019 issue

Q: You said an airplane that is 8 months “out of annual” (defined as more than 12 months since last annual inspection), is worth less than the cost of an average annual inspection. Why?

A: For sale purposes, an airplane that is “out of annual” raises some concern on the part of a buyer. What might be wrong? Will it be expensive to fix? Some buyers will not consider the airplane. You cannot take a prospective buyer for a ride. That is why I recommend having an annual inspection done if it is due, rather than try to sell the airplane “out of annual.”

Q: Does the cost/quality/reputation of an engine rebuilder affect the value of an airplane? I am thinking about my son’s Cessna 150, and my 58 Baron.

A: On a single like a Cessna 150, I don’t think there is much difference in value between a “field overhauled” engine versus a “name brand overhauled” engine. But on the Baron, “name brand” overhauls are more desirable.

Q: I recently purchased an S35 Bonanza. I love it! Very fast and light on the controls. But I am having a difficult time trimming it for level flight. After reaching cruising altitude, I level off and reduce to cruise power settings, but it seems to need more and more nose down trim for the first few minutes or so. Have you ever heard of this or have any ideas?

A: Bonanzas are slick airplanes! After leveling off at altitude, they will slowly continue to accelerate for a few minutes, unlike airplanes with more drag that pretty much level off and accelerate just a bit, then settle down. When you level off your Bonanza at your selected cruising altitude and pull power back to cruise settings, the airplane will continue to slowly accelerate until it reaches cruising speed, requiring several trim changes. If you can reach cruising speed quickly, you won’t have to fiddle with the trim very long. Here are two ideas that some pilots use to quickly accelerate to cruising speed: 1) Leave climb power on when you level off, until you reach cruising speed, then reduce power to cruise settings. 2) Some pilots climb 100 feet above their desired altitude, then push the nose down to their desired altitude, which will cause speed to increase quickly. Doing either or both of these tricks will get you to cruising speed quicker, and eliminate many minutes of fiddling with the trim wheel as you slowly accelerate.

Q: In the late 1970s, both Cessna and Piper changed fuel requirements in their entry-level airplanes from 80 to 100LL octane fuel. Why?

A: During the 1970s, demand for 80 octane fuel dropped and some FBOs stopped carrying it. Some “little engines” did not do well with the surviving 100LL fuel. The most common problem was spark plug fouling. In 1977, Cessna changed the engine in their 172 from an 80 octane 150 hp engine to a 100LL octane 160 hp engine. In 1978, the 150 became the 152, with a different engine requiring 100LL octane fuel. Likewise, Piper changed engines on the Warrior from an 80 octane 150 hp engine, to a 100LL octane 160 hp engine. Piper also introduced a new trainer, the Tomahawk, in 1978, with a 100LL octane engine.

Q: I have a date for ADS-B “out” to be installed in my Beech Sierra. The manager at the avionics shop suggests I consider installing more stuff (and more money) to get ADS-B “in.” Would you install both ADS-B in and out if it were your airplane?

A: There are times of reduced visibility (think summer flying westbound into the afternoon sun with haze, when your forward visibility is poor), and you will quickly be glad you spent the extra bucks if you can afford it for more traffic information. Your avionics shop can give you some options on various installations.

Q: I’ve had a good relationship with my local bank. They hold a mortgage for my house, and they are financing one of my cars. My FICO score is about 770. Recently, I applied for a loan to buy a 1969 Cherokee Six and they politely told me “no thanks!” When I asked why, they said they don’t do airplanes. Why wouldn’t they?

A: There are many reasons why a local bank will hesitate to make an airplane loan. One big reason is their unfamiliarity with recording their security interest. In your case, I suspect the age of the airplane being 50 years old probably has also scared them. There are various institutions that do specialize in airplane loans. Ask your local FBO and other airplane owners on your field for ideas, and do an online search for aircraft loans. Also, AOPA and EAA can help.

Q: I am finally ready to buy a used airplane, and have $50,000 to spend. I am thinking of either a 1970s’ vintage Cessna 172, or one of the many Cherokees in that price range. Now, a friend has approached me, suggesting that we each throw in $50K, and buy a high-performance airplane, like an F33A Bonanza of the same age. Does that make sense?

A: Co-ownership, on paper, makes sense as you usually split fixed costs like hangar rental, annual inspections, insurance, etc. But in the real world, it may become a difficult situation a few years after purchase for many reasons. I have seen some partnerships include one partner wanting avionics, paint or interior upgrades, and the other partner does not; or one partner wants to add his kid to the insurance policy, and the other partner does not; and on and on. My 2 cents of advice is, you’re usually better off being a whole owner than a half owner.

Q: At Oshkosh last summer, I noted that many of the fabric-covered airplanes had what looked like circles in the wings about the size of an inspection cover. But the fabric had not been cut and thus you could not look into the wing, so why did they have them?

A: Those plastic rings doped into the fabric are potential inspection holes. They are there in case you would ever have to open a wing for inspection or minor repair. A mechanic can cut out the fabric inside the ring, do their inspection or repair, then put an inspection cover over the hole. That saves having to make a difficult fabric patch. Pretty slick!

Q: I have given earnest money and signed a contract to purchase a nice 260 hp Comanche from a fixed base operator (FBO) at a field about 40 miles from my base, who is selling the aircraft for an estate. My mechanic has looked at the airplane and given his blessing. I have flown the airplane, and a title company says the title is clear. The seller has given me 10 days to come up with the balance of the funds, which I am doing by selling some mutual funds. I called the FBO yesterday and asked them to take some of my friends for a ride in the airplane before I close on the sale. The FBO manager declined, which frankly upset me. Am I being unreasonable?

A: YES! You have had your mechanic look at the airplane, and the title is clear to your satisfaction. There is a reason a “closing” is called a closing. At the moment you hand over your money and take title and physical possession, the airplane is yours. Until then, it is not. Your request is unreasonable, and as the FBO, I would not take your friends for a ride in that situation.

Q: My friend insists that Taylorcraft made a four-place airplane. I say no way and we have wagered an adult beverage on your answer. What do you say?

A: You’re buying! Taylorcraft made about 30 model 15A airplanes in the early 1950s. About eight are still registered with the Federal Aircraft Registry.

Q: I am considering purchasing a Cherokee 180 about 100 miles away from my base. I took my mechanic along to look at it. He noted an entry in the airframe maintenance logbook which said something to the effect of “All ADs complied with.” My friend said this was not a good sign, but I forgot to ask him why? So, why?

A: When the “feds” issue an Airworthiness Directive against an airplane, or engine, or other component, they will often allow a couple of different means of compliance. A long time ago, a few control wheels in Cherokees were found to have cracks. The FAA issued an airworthiness directive which required EITHER repetitive inspections every 25 hours, or a onetime replacement with an improved unit. How that AD note was complied with, and when, should be spelled out in maintenance records.

Q: My friend says that he is going to put safety cables on the landing gear of his Cub. What are safety cables and what do they do?

A: On Cubs, if part of the landing gear fails for any reason, that gear will often collapse, and the airplane will fall onto the belly and one wing tip. That will cause a prop strike, sudden engine stoppage, and other very expensive repairs. Safety cables, properly attached, greatly reduce this risk by usually not allowing a failed gear to completely fold up.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Pete Schoeninger appraises airplanes for estates, divorces, and partnership buyouts. He is a 40-year general aviation veteran, starting out as a line technician as a teenager, advancing through the ranks to become the co-owner and manager of a fixed base operation, and manager of an airport in a major metropolitan community. For aircraft appraisals, contact Pete at PeterSchoeningerLLC@gmail.com or call 262-533-3056 (peterschoeningerllc.wordpress.com).

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this column is the expressed opinion of the author only, and readers are advised to seek the advice of others, and refer to aircraft owner manuals, manufacturer recommendations, the Federal Aviation Regulations, FAA Aeronautical Information Manual and instructional materials for guidance on aeronautical matters.

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