This may seem like common sense, but we’ll say it anyway. Never purchase an aircraft without having a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) performed. Would you purchase a car, or a home, without an inspection? We’d bet not.
At Double M Aviation, we specialize in aircraft inspections, as well as maintenance and repairs, and our aviation maintenance technicians perform PPIs on a regular basis. So what’s involved in performing a PPI?
What is it?
A PPI is an inspection that consists of a comprehensive review of an aircraft’s airworthiness, first via paperwork items such as the logbooks, airworthiness directive compliance, and other important documents. Second, it delves into a visual inspection of the engine, airframe, and avionics for functionality and condition.
A quality PPI is critically important because it provides you with all the information you need in order to make a smart, informed decision on the purchase of an aircraft. So what steps should you take to get the best, and most reliable, PPI? To answer that question, we will walk you through a typical PPI by referencing some common inspection items. Keep in mind that each aircraft is unique and each PPI is extensive. As such, please remember that the items referenced below may or may not be applicable to your specific aircraft. A quality shop will tailor the inspection specifically to you and your aircraft’s needs.
It’s important to look for a credible shop with a solid reputation. Our team is not only a reliable resource for aviation maintenance, but proudly operates a center that provides superior service. We recommend checking out our Finding a Maintenance Facility page on our website for more information.
First order of business — the paperwork check.
Are you being provided the following?:
- Valid airworthiness certificate
- Current registration
- Weight and balance with a current equipment list
- The Pilot’s Operating Handbook
Are they all in good order? A thorough inspection examines the airframe, engine, and propeller logbooks, documents pertaining to the aircraft’s maintenance history, airworthiness directive compliance, and looks closely at entries suggesting repairs due to a previous incident or accident. One final thing: a quick title search, just to ensure that there are no liens that may impact your financing or salability in the future.
The next part to a successful inspection is a little more physical. The technician will look at the engine and check for the following:
- Is it clean and dry?
- Is the engine compartment spotless? (If so, this could mean that the engine was repainted for some reason).
- Any fluid leaks or signs of fluid leaks?
- Are the baffles misshapen or eroded? This could be a red flag that suggests improper engine cooling over an extended period.
- Are there any signs of corrosion, leaks, worn gaskets, or loose connectors? This is critical.
Lastly, your inspectors will administer a cylinder compression and battery check.
The next step in a proper PPI is to check out the empennage. Inspectors will observe multiple points throughout the empennage, including, but not limited to: the horizontal and vertical stabilizer attach points, elevator/stabilator hinges, the rudder trailing edge, and overall skin condition to note any minor dents or signs of damage or previous repairs. The condition of the paint is observed as well. Paint not only makes the airplane visually appealing, it plays a vital role in protecting your aircraft from corrosion and harmful UV rays.
Wings, Ailerons, and Flaps
Are the leading edges of wings and trailing edges of ailerons and flaps in good order? Are there dings which will need repair in the future? Are there any wrinkles, warps, or chafing rivets? Particular attention will be paid to clean, freshly painted or waxed aircraft because it may be more of a challenge to spot any problem areas. Lastly, the underside of the wings near jack points should be inspected for dings, and the wingwalks or strut steps examined for dents, corrosion, and any worn-off rivet heads.
The fuselage, including doors, hinges, and latches, should be checked for proper functionality and free from rust or corrosion. Do the doors close easily and with a tight seal? The skin will be examined for wrinkles or warping, and the belly inspected for scrapes, dents, replacement panels, and patches that would indicate previous damage history. Any previous damage should have been properly repaired and recorded in the logbook entries.
Almost done! It’s time for inspection of the landing gear. Struts are checked for leaks and proper extension. What is the condition of the brake discs and rotors? Last but not least, how worn are the tires? You want to safely land an airplane on these tires, so don’t just kick them; get a professional to examine them thoroughly for wear, dry rot, and/or cracking.
Cabin and Cockpit
The final phase of the PPI involves examination of the cabin and cockpit. Seats and seat backs, tracks, seat belts, and shoulder harnesses must all be examined for wear and tear. Was the interior recently replaced or should you be budgeting for new seats and carpet in the near future?
Remember, a small investment of time and energy during a PPI could save you from surprise major expenses later, and can save you from operating an aircraft that is not airworthy. Remember, too, that there is no replacement for experience, and when it comes to maintaining and inspecting aircraft, you can be sure that at Double M, your aircraft is in the most capable hands.
To learn more about our inspections and to schedule an aircraft inspection or maintenance, call us at 863-940-3450.