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Thread: So You Think You Want To Own a Short Wing Piper? The Pre-Purchase Inspection

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    Administrator Steve Pierce's Avatar
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    Default So You Think You Want To Own a Short Wing Piper? The Pre-Purchase Inspection

    Pre-Purchase Inspection
    Most everyone on this website realizes the attributes to Short Wing Piper ownership but quite often someone new comes along that has not yet realized what theses airplanes have to offer. It is my intention in this thread to help a new, would be Short Wing owner in the pursuit of the airplane that will serve their mission and provide economical service for many years to come. In my opinion these airplanes that we call Short Wing Pipers are the best bang for the buck. Where else can you find an airplane that can carry 4 people, or 3 people and stuff at 110-130 mph, get off of relatively short grass runways, travel comfortably for 3 hours plus for anywhere from $20-40K? To add icing on the cake they are a very simple design, parts are readily available and they are pretty easy to maintain, not to mention so many people on this website are willing to share their experience in flying, maintaining and restoring them as well.
    Ok, you see the light and want a Short Wing Piper of your own, what’s next you might ask? Start your search and be diligent. Start looking at Barnstormers and Trade-A-Plane and get an idea of what is out there, where they are located, what the asking prices are, upgrades, modifications and how long they are advertised. There is a reason one is snatched up quickly and another has been on the market for years. One of the advantages we have now is we can gather a lot of information on a perspective airplane without having to travel great distances. A seller’s description and some small pictures posted in an advertisement don’t give the whole story and sometimes can be deceiving. With my experiences over the years in maintaining, restoring and helping others buy Short Wing Pipers I hope I can help someone else avoid a lot of the pitfalls that are out there. An airplane is supposed to be fun. One thing to remember, the purchase of an airplane is only the “Price of Admission”. Many do not take into account hanger rent, insurance costs, maintenance and those yearly annual inspections. Once it is determined that you want to own your own airplane the hunt is on.
    The first thing I like to do when I find a perspective airplane is call the owner and ask a lot of questions, “how long have you owned the airplane?”, “why are you selling the airplane?”, “are there any issues with the airplane?”. There are those airplanes that were bought to “Flip”, fix up quick and cheap, and sell for a profit. Then there are the airplanes that have been a part of the family, they were well loved, cared for and for whatever reason they are no longer being used and the owner has decided it is time to sell. A lot of owners are passionate about their airplanes and can give you a lot of history on theirs which can be very helpful. Has the airplane been hangered, lived in a dry climate, maintained by a meticulous mechanic who knows Short Wings? I also like to talk to the mechanic who maintains the airplane and the one who recovered it. I like to ask what was done at recover as well as previous inspections. It gives me an idea of the mechanics general knowledge and more history on the airplane. These are tid bits of information that can be helpful in your decision to pursue this particular airplane.
    I ask when was the airplane last recovered and by who? Same for the last engine overhaul, when, who and what documentation is there. I really like it when an owner will scan and email complete logbooks. It is amazing what little things you can determine. If an airplane sat a lot, flew a lot, had an accident, incident etc. When an aircraft is recovered it is considered a major repair or alteration so there should be a FAA Form 337 filed which should give pertinent details on what was done at that time. 337 forms are also used to record modifications such as conversion to tailwheel, alternator installation, skylight, wing modifications etc. They can provide a lot of useful information and can be requested directly from the FAA for any registered aircraft. https://www.faa.gov/licenses_certifi...craft_records/ Engine records can help shed light on the quality of overhaul as well. Are there yellow tags, 8130 tags for the crankcase, crankshaft, cam, lifters, rocker arms etc. or is there just a logbook entry? Were new cylinders installed or rebuilt? Sometimes rebuilt are ok but I have pulled a lot of rebuilt cylinders with only a few hundred hours after overhaul that were cracked and not repairable. This can lead to repair costs well over $1000.
    Along the lines of documentation what about airworthiness directive compliance? Is there a complete list of applicable ADs on the airframe, engine, propeller, magnetos, carburetor, air filters? I like to see a comprehensive list with all ADs, how they were complied with and if they are recurring, when and a signature and date. If there is no signature and date on each AD how can you verify that it was actually done? One of my pet peeves is the phrase “PCW or Previously Complied With”. I want a date, time and what was done to comply with the AD. Another pet peeve is no AD list of appliances such as carburetors, magnetos and other components. It can be a time consuming task to research old appliance ADs and verify their compliance without costly disassembly. An equipment list with all part numbers, model numbers and serial numbers of installed equipment and modifications is also very helpful. To be airworthy the airplane has to meet the Type Certificate Data Sheet or have Supplemental Type Certificates or FAA approved 337 forms to substantiate any alterations or modifications. Proper documentation is very important and can be a nightmare on a 60 year old airplane if it is not there.
    Along with requesting as much documentation as possible I like lots of high resolution pictures. Pictures of the entire airplane are good but pictures of the engine with cowling removed, interior, inside of wings, tops of wings, bottom of wings, control surfaces, fuselage fabric, fuselage tubing though the belly panel etc. I can spend a lot of time combing over good high resolution pictures and verifying there are no obvious issues. Things I look for are the condition of the cowling, boot cowl, wing root fairings etc. These parts tend to crack and wear over time and can give a good indication of the type of care and maintenance the airplane has seen. Exhaust systems can be an issue, are there patches, welded cracks, condition of heat shrouds etc. Engine in general, clean, dry, cracked baffles, good baffle seals? Is the firewall clean, properly sealed and things routed correctly? Instrument panel well laid out, what about under the panel, wiring, cable routing etc. What is the condition of the interior upholstery, headliner, carpet or floor boards? What about the fabric, any cracking of the finish under the fuel tanks in the wings, stringers of the fuselage, leading edges of stabilizers? Good pictures can tell you a lot about an airplane and above all can help you walk away or spend the money to go take a look for yourself.
    The next step is to get a disinterested party who knows Short Wing Pipers to look over what you have found. Don’t get the guy who has been maintaining the airplane for the seller. Get a fresh set of eyes that is working for you, preferably the mechanic that will be maintaining the airplane. If their review is favorable then I see if anyone I know knows the airplane or someone I know can go by and actually put eye balls on it. I have had friends look at airplanes for me who are not mechanics that come back with a lot of discrepancies by just walking around it. On the other hand I have had them tell me how nice it is. That is when it is time to spend the time and money to have a look and have someone knowledgeable look as well. Remember that these things can take time and try not to get emotionally involved. I have seen people fall in love with an airplane, buy it and then have it in pieces within a year. Use the resources at hand and educate yourself prior to writing the check. Problems overlooked now can be very costly and take the fun out of airplane ownership. On the other hand if you do your homework and find the right airplane the enjoyment of owning and flying your own Short Wing and the comradery of fellow Short Wing owners is priceless.
    Hope this will start an informative thread where others can share their pre-purchase and aircraft ownership experiences and perspective buyers can ask specific questions in their pursuit of a Short Wing Piper.

  2. #2
    andya's Avatar
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    Default Re: So You Think You Want To Own a Short Wing Piper? The Pre-Purchase Inspection

    excellent start.
    Regards aircraft records from the FAA, some will shy away because they might not wish to
    pay the price ($5.00 or $10.00) per each airplane's records, especially if there are 3-4 you're interested in.
    This is a small price to pay when you consider the amount of money to buy and the extras that Steve mentioned.
    Just looking over the 337 and comparing how they were written between different A&Ps and different airframes
    can give you some insight to how well the bird was taken care of. When I bought my first plane, a PA-22/20,
    some of the wording and quality of the back side of the 337 was such that if I knew what I know today,
    probably would have passed on it. Yet have flown it safely for more than 20 years and it is finally down
    for the rebuild. You can follow the thread here and you will see that a lot was done NOT IAW any standards.
    It's a credit to the design that it served me almost 1000 hours utilization. Not trying to scare anyone off
    but I don't think there is a single airplane that you could buy that you won't find something you want
    to change or improve after a year or two.
    "Progress is our most important problem"

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    Default Re: So You Think You Want To Own a Short Wing Piper? The Pre-Purchase Inspection

    Thanks!
    This is all very useful info when one is searching for that "right" plane
    I appreciate the time taken to write this primer

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    Default Re: So You Think You Want To Own a Short Wing Piper? The Pre-Purchase Inspection

    The FAA records may show you several things worth the price - previous ownership & registrations & liens on record, discrepancies between 337s recorded & listed in logs, damage/accidents. You need to be patient with the FAA, it takes 2 weeks or so to receive the cd after you make the request.

    Be patient & detached in your search. The time to fall in love with your plane is AFTER you buy it.

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    Administrator Steve Pierce's Avatar
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    Default Re: So You Think You Want To Own a Short Wing Piper? The Pre-Purchase Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Old3pacer View Post
    Be patient & detached in your search. The time to fall in love with your plane is AFTER you buy it.
    So very true, I have seen way too many people fall in love with an airplane prior to purchace and allow it to cloud their judgement which cost them some serious time and money later. Have a friend who fell for a J3, got impatient with the schedule of those in the know, had an unfamiliar mechanic look at it and it has been down almost a year to get it airworthy. Some lessons are best learned this way but not always pleasant.

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    Jim Hann's Avatar
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    Default Re: So You Think You Want To Own a Short Wing Piper? The Pre-Purchase Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Pierce View Post
    So very true, I have seen way too many people fall in love with an airplane prior to purchace and allow it to cloud their judgement which cost them some serious time and money later. <snip> Some lessons are best learned this way but not always pleasant.
    I resemble that remark, and the hole in my wallet reinforces it. It wasn't pleasant to learn this way but I gained a lot of knowledge and some new friends out of my two year "ordeal" with 43D.
    1957 PA-22/20 "Super Pacer" based 1H0
    Lifetime EAA member
    Vintage Aircraft Association member
    Lifetime EAA Chapter 32 member


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    Homer Landreth's Avatar
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    Default Re: So You Think You Want To Own a Short Wing Piper? The Pre-Purchase Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Old3pacer View Post
    The FAA records may show you several things worth the price - previous ownership & registrations & liens on record, discrepancies between 337s recorded & listed in logs, damage/accidents. You need to be patient with the FAA, it takes 2 weeks or so to receive the cd after you make the request.

    Be patient & detached in your search. The time to fall in love with your plane is AFTER you buy it.
    Reference to FAA Records, here is a "war story" I am knee deep in. The aircraft logs say STC 12345 installed in accordance with manufacturers instructions. FAA 337 attached to log books.
    Issue: No 337 was found. Told owner that I would send off for the CD because a copy of the 337 would be on the CD. CD came: No 337 was on the CD. However in the myriad of papers in the airplane, I found a letter on the modification center stationary signed by an I/A that said that STC 12345 was installed on such and such date.
    Now, comes reality, I looked at one of the components of the STC and noticed a gross installation issue (my opinion at first look). Owner was told it had been that way for years and numerous annuals signed off as airworthy. So, what to do ?? Well I called the STC owner and asked about my observation. He said send him a picture. I emailed a picture and about 30 seconds after I hit the send button, the owner was on my phone saying "that part is NOT of my manufacture, and the STC purchase cost includes the authorized parts to use, and the picture is NOT one of them. So, now we get granular, He asked for the plane type and serial number, and upon review, he stated that he has NEVER sent an STC for that plane.
    So, as Ricky used to say to Lucy "someone's got lots of splaining to do ". Namely how did a Mod Center and an I/A sign off on an STC as complying with the STC and not use the parts that are procured with the STC ? and it looks a bit fraudulent that there is no 337 with the FAA or in the log book but this letter on company letter head says there is one.
    Bottom line of all this issue verbosity, if you see a pretty significant STC or several STCs, spend the $10.00 to get the CD and remember that it takes an FAA 337 to get it into the plane and it takes the actual STC document to be in the aircraft records, so if one of them is missing, it would also be a good idea to see if the STC provider has in fact documentation of selling or has authorized that planes serial number the use of the STC.
    BTW: the quote for making this plane airworthy is almost $9,000 for STC parts and installation labor. AND, I was absolutely correct in my observation that started all this out was indeed a major fault (STC or not) and made the plane non-airworthy.

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    Default Re: So You Think You Want To Own a Short Wing Piper? The Pre-Purchase Inspection

    Wow, Homer! That is quite a story, and one that should be heeded by anyone planning to purchase.
    I understood you changing the names to protect the innocent, but could you give a hypothetical description of the system that it involves? Just curious as to what would take such major dinero to remediate.
    Thanks!
    Mark Ohlau
    PA-20 N7744K 2018 Donation Paid

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    Administrator Steve Pierce's Avatar
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    Default Re: So You Think You Want To Own a Short Wing Piper? The Pre-Purchase Inspection

    Dito what Mark posted.

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    Homer Landreth's Avatar
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    Default Re: So You Think You Want To Own a Short Wing Piper? The Pre-Purchase Inspection

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Pierce View Post
    Dito what Mark posted.
    It was an installation of aux fuel tanks in a plane with wings not built for aux fuel tanks. $3500.00 was for fabricating tanks and STC charge, then Two men three days @ $100.00 each labor charge, for removing the previous installation, and adding new correct equipment and Installation hardware and tubing and wiring etc., and flight test. Must have had some paid Starbucks Coffee Breaks and Sushi for lunch, it was a Southern California shop making the quote, wasn't me. (Don't lick your chops over the cost, trust me, you would not want to do it. I am told this mod has a lot of "return for warranty issues " (AKA no charge) activity associated with it.
    Last edited by Homer Landreth; 01-09-2017 at 11:37 PM.

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