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.
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.
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, airplaneprebuy.com
Generally, prebuy inspections include among others, a flight test