When buying a used aircraft, it is wise to have the selected aircraft inspected by a qualified person or facility before you buy. The condition of the aircraft and the state of its maintenance records can be determined by persons familiar with the particular make and model. These should include an FAA certificated airframe and powerplant mechanic (A&P) or an approved repair station. Questions Most Frequently Asked;

l. Q. What Is meant by a clear title?

A. A clear title is a term commonly used by aircraft title search companies to indicate there are no liens (chattel mortgage, security agreement, tax lien, artisan lien, etc.) in the FAA aircraft records. The Civil Aviation Registry does not perform title searches for the aviation public; however, the aircraft records contain all of the ownership and security documents that have been filed with the FAA.


The Civil Aviation Registry records acceptable security instruments. In addition, some states authorize artisan liens (mechanic liens) and these may also be recorded. Check your state's statutes. Federal liens against an owner (drug, repossession, etc.) may not show at all, Know your seller!

2. Q. How can I be sure that the aircraft has a clear title?

A. Either search the aircraft records yourself, or have it done by an attorney or qualified aircraft title search company. A list of title search companies qualified in aircraft title and records search can be found on AC Form 8050-55, Title Search Companies, available from the Civil Aviation Registry.

You wouldn't think of purchasing a house until you have the records examined. You should do the same when purchasing an aircraft, which also represents a substantial investment. Even though you are planning to purchase the aircraft from an established dealer, it makes good sense to determine the true status of the aircraft records before you buy. CAUTION: FAA registration cannot be used in any civil proceeding to establish proof of ownership!

There is no substitute for examining the aircraft records to secure a history of' the ownership of the aircraft and to determine if there are any outstanding liens or mortgages. The procedure should help avoid a delay in registering an aircraft and the headaches many have suffered because they failed to take this one important step before purchasing their aircraft.

  1. Q Where do I go to search the records ?

A. Aircraft records maintained by the FAA are on file at the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center. Microfiche copies of aircraft records maybe requested for review. For more information on how to order and costs, contact the Civil Aviation Registry at (405) 954-3116. There may be other records filed at federal, state, or local level that are not recorded with the FAA.

4. Q. What documents may I expect to receive with my new or used aircraft?

A. 1. Bill of sale or conditional sales contract.

2. Either FAA Form 8100-2, Standard Airworthiness Certificate, or FAA Form 8130-7, Special Airworthiness Certificate.

3. Maintenance records containing the following information:

(a) The total time in service of the airframe, each engine, and each propeller;

(b) The current status of life limited parts of each airframe, engine, propeller, rotor, and appliance (s);

(c) The time since last overhaul of all items installed on the aircraft that are required to be overhauled on a specified time basis;

(d) The identification of the current inspection status of the aircraft, including the time since the last inspections required by the inspection program under which the aircraft and its appliances are maintained;

(e) The current status of applicable Airworthiness Directives (AD) including, for each, the method of compliance, the AD number, and revision date. If the AD involves recurring action, the time and date when the next action is required; and

(f) A copy of current major alteration to each airframe, engine, propeller, rotor, and appliance.

  1. Equipment list, and weight and balance data.

  2. Airplane Flight Manual or operating Limitations.

5. Q. What manuals should I receive with the aircraft?

A. The manufacturers produce owner's manuals, maintenance manuals, service letters and bulletins, and other technical data pertaining to their aircraft. These may be available from the previous owner, but are not required to be transferred to a new owner. If the service manuals are not available from the previous owner, they usually may be obtained from the aircraft manufacturer.

6. Q. What is the meaning of airworthy ?

A. Two conditions must be met for a standard category aircraft to be considered airworthy. These conditions are:

(1) The aircraft conforms to its type design (type certificate). Conformity to type design is considered attained when the required and proper components are installed and they are consistent with the drawings, specifications, and other data that are a part of the type certificate. Conformity would include applicable supplemental type certificates and field-approved alterations.

(2) The aircraft is in condition for safe operation. This refers to the condition of the aircraft with relation to wear and deterioration.

7. Q. Does a current 100-hour or annual inspection mean that the aircraft is in first class condition?

A. No. It indicates only that the aircraft was found to be in airworthy condition at the time of inspection.

8. Q. Who is responsible for my aircraft's maintenance?

A. FAR Section 91.403 makes the owner/operator primarily responsible for maintaining the aircraft in an airworthy condition including compliance with Airworthiness Directives. The owner/operator is also responsible for ensuring that maintenance personnel make appropriate entries in the aircraft maintenance records indicating the aircraft has been approved for return to service. It is the responsibility of the owner and operator to have maintenance performed which may be required between scheduled inspections. Inoperative instruments or equipment that can be deferred under FAR Section 91.213(d)(2) shall be placarded and maintenance recorded in accordance with FAR Section 43.9.

9. Q. What should I look for before buying an amateur-built aircraft?

  1. (1) Examine the Airworthiness Certificate and its Operating Limitations. The Airworthiness Certificate shall be a Special Airworthiness Certificate, which is used for all aircraft that fall under experimental status, and states for what purpose it was issued. (Refer to figure 7, page 19.) The Operating Limitations specify any operating restrictions that may apply to the aircraft.

(2) Check the aircraft maintenance records of the airframe, engine, propeller, and accessories. Under FAR Sections 91.319(b) and 91.305, all initial flight operations of experimental aircraft may be limited to an assigned flight test area. This is called Phase I. The aircraft is flown in this designated area until it is shown to be controllable throughout its normal range of speeds and all maneuvers to be executed, and has not displayed any hazardous operating characteristics or design features. The required flight time may vary for each type of aircraft and is covered in the Operating Limitations.

After the flight time requirements are met, the owner/operator endorses the aircraft logbook with a statement certifying that the prescribed flight hours are completed and the aircraft complies with FAR Section 91.319(b). Phase I records are retained for the life of the aircraft. This concludes Phase I.

(3) In Phase II, the FAA may prescribe Operating Limitations for an unlimited duration, as appropriate.

(4) Before taking delivery of the aircraft, make a final prepurchase inspection. Make sure the Airworthiness Certificate, Operating Limitations, Aircraft Data Plate, Weight and Balance Papers, Aircraft Maintenance Records and any other required documents are with the aircraft. If the Airworthiness Certificate, Operating Limitations, and Aircraft Data Plate are surrendered to the FAA, by the original builder, you may not be able to re-certificate the aircraft because you are not the builder.

It would be advisable to have someone familiar with the type of aircraft you are interested in, check the aircraft for workmanship, general construction integrity, and compliance with applicable FAR's. Contact the Manufacturing Inspection District Office (MIDO) or Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) serving your locale and ask to speak to an airworthiness inspector who can explain the requirements for experimental certification.

10. Q. Does a 100-hour or annual inspection requirement apply to an amateur-built aircraft?

A. No. Amateur-built aircraft require a condition inspection within the previous 12 calendar months. This inspection requirement and those who are eligible to work on the aircraft are addressed in the Operating Limitations of that particular aircraft.

11. Q. What should I consider when buying a surplus military aircraft?

A. Certain surplus military aircraft are not eligible for FAA certification in the STANDARD, RESTRICTED, or LIMITED classifications. Since no civil aircraft may be flown unless certificated,' you should discuss this with the local Aviation Safety Inspector (ASI), who can advise you of eligible aircraft and certification procedures.
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