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From the Archives — 50 Years Ago

By Ian Brown, Editor

Exactly 50 years ago this month, Herb Cunningham from Scarborough, Ontario, wrote an article in EAA Sport Aviation titled "So You Are Going To Buy A Homebuilt?" It's an excellent article for its time, but it’s also extremely relevant today. You can read the whole article here. There are some interesting examples of what to look out for.

A significant part of the article gives some advice on what to look for when buying a pre-owned homebuilt. He advised the following:

  1. Find the nearest EAA technical counselor in your area and take them with you to inspect the aircraft you are considering. If the owner does not want to permit a careful inspection, you are probably better off forgetting about that particular airplane. If you cannot find a technical counselor, obtain the services of a licensed aircraft mechanic. A few dollars spent on this could save you hundreds of dollars in the long run — or your life!
  2. Look for evidence of damage such as signs of a ground loop, recent repairs, wrinkles in the fabric, etc. If you know that the aircraft was involved in any type of accident, check carefully to make sure that all of the damage has been found and corrected.
  3. Ask around. Chapter members know quite a bit about any given homebuilt in their area and will usually venture an opinion as to the quality of the airplane. If the airplane is a long way from where you live, locate the president of the nearest EAA chapter and ask their opinion.
  4. Check if the airworthiness certificate or flight permit for the aircraft is valid. If it is not, it may be that the owner has let it lapse or forgot to renew it. On the other hand, it might be because the FAA or department of transportation has grounded the aircraft because they do not consider it safe to fly. The presence of a flight permit or airworthiness certificate with the aircraft does not necessarily mean that the aircraft can be legally flown. For example, in Canada, if a homebuilt is grounded by the DOT, the flight permit is not physically removed, and you would have no way of knowing that it had been grounded unless the present owner told you. A call to the DOT or FAA local office could be worthwhile in a case such as this.
  5. If possible, check the title to the aircraft. While there are not too many liens on homebuilts, there just might be one on the ship you purchase and, unless the seller is a financially responsible person, you could find that you still owe money to someone else even though you have paid the person who sold you the aircraft. In the sales agreement, there should be a clause stating that "the aircraft is free of all liens and encumbrances," although this statement is only as reliable as the person from whom you purchased the aircraft.

You might also consider having a builder of the type of homebuilt you’re considering assist with the inspection. For more, see Budd Davisson’s column, "Buying an Uncompleted Project" (Shop Talk), in the March 2019 issue of EAA Sport Aviation, and his feature "Buying a Flying Homebuilt" from December of 2018.

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