AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 94

P&E 

SAVVY MAINTENANCE
A HIGH-TIME ENGINE

is one of the easier
issues to deal with
because engine time
is almost always fully
reflected in the selling price.

A HIGH-TIME

airframe can
be both good
and bad.

With an engine that's somewhere
between " fresh overhaul " and " run-out "
it's often impossible for the buyer to know
how much time he can expect to get out
of the engine(s) before overhaul. There's
only so much you can tell during a prebuy.
That's why I think that one of the
best ways to buy a used aircraft-all other
things being equal-is to buy one with a
high-time engine, plan to overhaul it or
swap it for a factory engine shortly after
the purchase, and make sure the cost of
doing so is factored into the selling price.
If the engine turns out to be healthy
enough to go past TBO, it's a gift.
HIGH-TIME AIRFRAME

To be honest, at this stage in my life I
really don't need a twin. Often when I fuel
it or annual it, I wish I didn't. Before long,
I may have no choice but to move back to a
single, because I rather doubt any underwriter will be interested in insuring me
in a twin once I reach age 80. This will
probably compel me to do what I know I
should have done years ago.
HIGH-TIME ENGINE

Inexperienced buyers often shy away
from aircraft listings that have high-time
engine(s) close to (or beyond) TBO. I consider that wrongheaded because engine
time is almost always fully reflected in the
selling price. An aircraft with a run-out
engine is almost always priced far enough
below the price of a similar aircraft with a
zero-time engine to account for the cost of
a major engine overhaul or factory-rebuilt
exchange engine.
I bought my Cessna T310R with nearly
run-out engines-it had a bit more than
1,300 hours since new when I bought it,
and published TBO is 1,400 hours-and
I'm convinced that buying an airplane with
run-out engines has a lot of advantages.
First, the new owner gets to choose
whether to overhaul or exchange for a
94 | AOPA PILOT May 2021

factory rebuilt. If he opts to overhaul, he
gets to choose the overhaul shop, the kind
of cylinders he wants on his new engine(s),
and more. That's as it should be, since it's
the new owner who will live with the consequences of these decisions for years to come.
Second, the seller is probably motivated to sell (rather than shell out big
bucks for a major overhaul or factory
rebuilt), and so may be a bit more flexible
during price negotiations. I'm always a bit
suspicious when I see an aircraft listed for
sale with a " fresh overhaul " or unusually
low engine time. I can't help but think that
the seller most likely knew he was about
to get rid of the airplane when he had the
engine overhauled and might have been
tempted to cut corners.
Third, you might just wind up getting a pleasant surprise. After buying my
T310R with engines just 100 hours shy of
published TBO, I wound up flying the airplane for 600 more hours of trouble-free
operation before deciding to overhaul the
engines at TBO plus 500. With a reserve for
overhaul of $24 per hour per engine, that
wound up being a $24,000 windfall for me.
(If I knew then what I know now, I would
have gone far past TBO plus 500 and my
windfall would have been much bigger.)

A high-time airframe is more difficult to
analyze. Unlike engine time, airframe time
cannot be " rolled back " by doing an overhaul. It is what it is.
High airframe time isn't necessarily a
bad thing. The airplane has probably been
flown regularly and often throughout its
life, and that's good. It might well have
been a " working airplane " (flight school,
charter, cargo), and those tend to receive
better and more regular maintenance than
owner-flown " hangar queens. "
An airframe with unusually low hours
is often one that has experienced lengthy
periods of disuse, and unless the aircraft
was based in a dry climate or stored in a
heated hangar, it's a likely candidate for
having hidden corrosion damage.
Very high-time airframes are another
matter, however. We used to think that
airframes would pretty much last forever
if adequately protected from corrosion.
That may still turn out to be true for
some airframes (like strut-braced highwing singles), but in recent years there has
been increasing concern over the useful
fatigue life of cantilever-wing airframes,
and costly airworthiness directives have
affected some Beech, Cessna, and Piper
aircraft.
You probably shouldn't pay a premium for an ultra-low-time airframe, and
might even do well to be a bit suspicious
of one. A mid-time airframe-with hours
commensurate to its chronological age,
indicating that it has been flown regularly and often-is probably your best bet.



AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021

Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Intro
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Cover1
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Cover2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - 4
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Cover3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - May 2021 - Cover4
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