Those in the mar­ket for jets need to get in touch with the ex­perts – The Pre­buy Guys

For the Pre­buy Guys, an in­formed buyer is a smart buyer, which is why they’re the go-to if you want to pur­chase your next air­craft.

Jetgala - - CONTENTS -

Caveat emptor, or “buyer be­ware,” is a good-sense phrase to live by, and es­pe­cially so when one is con­tem­plat­ing the pur­chase of a used air­craft that could cost mil­lions of dol­lars.

Buy­ing an air­craft is a nat­u­rally in­tim­i­dat­ing process be­cause no two air­craft are alike, even when they are of the same make, model and year. Com­pli­cat­ing the process is a myr­iad of fac­tors such as the long ser­vice lives of many air­craft in op­er­a­tion to­day; the in­ter­change­abil­ity and over­haul of com­po­nents such as en­gines; up­grades such as glass in­stru­ments; main­te­nance records (or a lack of them); gen­eral up­keep (such as hangared ver­sus non­hangared); and in­ci­dents (of course).

This is where The Pre­buy Guys come in. This duo’s straight­for­ward mis­sion is to help peo­ple make smarter, more in­formed de­ci­sions when pur­chas­ing an air­plane.

What, ex­actly, is a “pre­buy?” A pre­buy helps a prospective buyer de­ter­mine the value of an air­craft – its con­di­tion and its his­tory, in­clud­ing in­spec­tions.

The Pre­buy Guys are ex­perts at eval­u­at­ing all types of air­craft from the sim­plest sin­gle-en­gine trainer to the largest in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal busi­ness jets. They know from ex­pe­ri­ence the hid­den risk fac­tors to look for. Their in­spec­tion ser­vices can save a buyer from ac­quir­ing a lemon, or at least pre­vent over­pay­ing for an air­craft that ap­pears on its sur­face to be more valu­able than it re­ally is.

Jet­gala had the op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­view the founders of The Pre­buy Guys. Their in­sight is valu­able for any­one who is con­sid­er­ing the pur­chase of an air­craft with the help of an ex­pert or on his own.

Just who ex­actly are these avi­a­tion ex­perts? A pi­lot, flight in­struc­tor, air­craft me­chanic at var­i­ous times in his life, Don Se­bas­tian is an avi­a­tion ex­pert with more than 50 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence. He’s rated in air­planes, he­li­copters and glid­ers as well as type-rated in sev­eral jets.

Like Don, Adam Snipe is a pi­lot, me­chanic and avi­a­tion man­age­ment ex­pert with more than 10 years ex­pe­ri­ence in main­tain­ing and manag­ing planes. He was also crew chief, me­chanic and qual­ity as­sur­ance in­spec­tor in the US Ma­rine Corps.

How did The Pre­buy Guys get started? DS:

I have been in the pre­buy busi­ness for 45 years. Two years ago, Adam and I be­came part­ners and the de­mand has been in­cred­i­ble. Last year, over 200 prospective air­craft buy­ers hired us to eval­u­ate ap­prox­i­mately 450 air­planes. Half­way through 2018 we have al­ready worked with 190 buy­ers and eval­u­ated al­most 500 air­planes.

How do the two of you have the time to eval­u­ate as many as 1,000 air­planes in a year?


We of­fer what we call a “vir­tual pre­buy.” Us­ing a smart­phone, an In­ter­net con­nec­tion, and some­one who is phys­i­cally on site with an air­plane, such as the prospective buyer or an­other friendly per­son, we can con­duct most of the pre­buy vir­tu­ally.

How much of a pre­buy is re­search into the his­tory of an air­craft and how much is the on­site in­spec­tion or even test flight?


Of­fice re­search is the start of the buy­ing process. About 90 per­cent of our cus­tomers pay us to se­cure the govern­ment files of the prospective air­craft. In the USA this is called the Air­wor­thi­ness File – a list of ma­jor re­pairs and al­ter­ations with sup­port­ing doc­u­ments. Then there is the Regis­tra­tion File – past owner records and liens. We can de­ter­mine if the air­craft has been based in a cor­ro­sive en­vi­ron­ment and ob­tain pre­vi­ous own­ers’ phone num­bers to ask about gaps in us­age that might in­di­cate ma­jor re­pairs not recorded in these other govern­ment files.

Who are your typ­i­cal cus­tomers? DS:

We have a di­verse set of cus­tomers. They range from first-time buy­ers to wealthy Tex­ans seek­ing jets. We also have had fa­mous race­car driv­ers and lots of com­puter ex­perts from Sil­i­con Val­ley.

Do air­plane sell­ers some­times hire you to proac­tively demon­strate the value of the air­craft for sale?


About 99 per­cent of our cus­tomers are buy­ers. That said, we made three videos for a Ci­ta­tion CJ1 and posted them on YouTube. The videos had 39,000 views, which led to five of­fers. The Ci­ta­tion was sold within a week. We didn’t even need to make an in­flight video.

What are some of the typ­i­cal and sur­pris­ing find­ings that are un­cov­ered dur­ing a pre­buy in­spec­tion?

DS: We have un­cov­ered planes with de­fec­tive wings. There was a small Piper Chero­kee that seemed great in terms of its glass panel and ADS-B out. How­ever, a gap in the pa­per­work re­vealed that it had been on fire and as a re­sult, the air­plane was ac­tu­ally only worth sal­vage value.

We also dis­cov­ered that a Hawker 125 had the wrong wing and dur­ing the flight-test­ing of a Lear­jet at 50,000 feet the air­craft mach tucked – we lost 10,000 feet and al­most the wings! Dur­ing the pre­buy flight test of a Bom­bardier 805 last year there was an in­op­er­a­tive light in the rear cabin. The seller ended up pay­ing a three-man crew for five days to fix it.

A lot of peo­ple are fa­mil­iar with the con­cept of a ti­tle search for a house but not so much for an air­craft. If an air­craft has been sold nu­mer­ous times it may ap­pear to have no other po­ten­tial own­ers but heirs of for­mer own­ers can con­test own­er­ship. Imag­ine fly­ing a jet out­side of your home coun­try only to find it im­pounded be­cause its own­er­ship is con­tested.

How do sell­ers typ­i­cally re­act when they find that a prospective buyer has com­mis­sioned a pre­buy in­spec­tion?

DS: The seller does not need to co­op­er­ate, but then again, the prospective buyer would likely get ner­vous and cease con­sid­er­a­tion of the said air­craft.

When we do con­duct a pre­buy in­spec­tion we show the seller that we are hon­est. We fully doc­u­ment all air­wor­thy de­fects, known as squawks in the in­dus­try, and we email them to the seller each day so that the seller can con­firm them with the seller’s tech­ni­cian. Typ­i­cally, air­craft un­dergo an an­nual in­spec­tion or in some cases, quite reg­u­lar in­spec­tions as stip­u­lated by lo­cal laws. How does a pre­buy

in­spec­tion com­ple­ment a reg­u­lated in­spec­tion?

AS: Of course, a pre­buy in­spec­tion is not recog­nised or re­quired by the FAA (in the United States) or any air­craft man­u­fac­turer. Be­yond that, a pre­buy in­spec­tion starts with a fact-find­ing mis­sion. We re­view and an­a­lyse the of­fi­cial regis­tra­tion and air­wor­thi­ness files. We au­dit the air­craft’s log­books and main­te­nance records which in­clude past an­nual in­spec­tions. From our fact-find­ing mis­sion, we for­mu­late a squawk list and check­list cus­tomised to that spe­cific air­plane. The data found dur­ing our ini­tial re­search helps the buyer qual­ify or dis­qual­ify the air­plane. To bor­row pi­lot lingo, it helps the buyer with a go/ no-go de­ci­sion. If ev­ery­thing checks out and the buyer qual­i­fies the air­plane, i.e., if the buyer de­cides to pro­ceed, then we com­mence the rest of the pre­buy.

DS: Adding to what Adam said, no two pre­buys are alike. They vary based on the needs of the cus­tomer and the co­op­er­a­tion of the seller. In gen­eral, our pre­buys in­clude a flight test; en­gine borescope and com­pres­sion test; in­spec­tion of the en­gine(s), prop(s) and ac­ces­sories; air­frame and in­te­rior in­spec­tion and eval­u­a­tion; lo­cat­ing miss­ing doc­u­ments and records; air­craft­spe­cific items, and our own eval­u­a­tion tech­niques.

Are the ser­vices of the Pre­buy Guys avail­able to buy­ers in Asia to­day?

DS: While we are phys­i­cally based in the US, we have a net­work of what we call Avi­a­tion Field Agents in Europe and Latin Amer­ica as well as the US. These agents are typ­i­cally close to an air­craft that is for sale so we can con­duct a vir­tual pre­buy within a day of be­ing com­mis­sioned to do so. We have started to gar­ner some in­ter­est from po­ten­tial Avi­a­tion Field Agents in Asia-Pa­cific, so the short an­swer is “yes.” Of course, Adam or I could also fly to Asia so long as our di­rect ex­penses would be cov­ered by the buyer.

Im­ages cour­tesy of the Pre­buy Gruys

FROM LEFT:Some of the planes that the Pre­buy Guys are cur­rently test­ing; you can lis­ten to Adam Snipe and Don Se­bas­tian on their Air­plane In­tel Pod­casts or their Pre­buy Guys videos on YouTube and their web­site, air­planepre­

Gen­er­ally, pre­buy in­spec­tions in­clude among oth­ers, a flight test

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