Friday, April 29, 2016

{CoffeeShop Family Flying Circus Adventures}: Chapter 2, "Hanger Crash Queen"

Interested to read more of the {CoffeeShop Family Flying Circus Adventures}! 


After our experience dealing with unsafe rental airplanes and deciding the cost of purchasing our own plane was completely out of our means, Paul and I had put our dreams of flying on "hibernation-mode".

Meanwhile I was getting tired (slightly embarrassed?) of driving my "Granny Mobile" around. Sure, it is a powerful, comfortable car with the added bonus of having an actual tape deck (!!!), but it is a 2000 Grand Marquis with close to 100,000 miles on it and kind of lacks the "cool" factor. 

I decided I needed a new (or new to me) car so I went shopping and almost died of sticker shock. We hadn't purchased a car for over ten years (my husband drives a 2005 Ford Escape) and I had no idea cars were so expensive.

While I was looking at cars I was also "shopping" for used planes on-line, just for fun.  I was honestly surprised to see 4-person planes cheaper than many of the cars I had on my list. So I talked to Paul and we decided we would keep both of our cars (they are paid off), and for fun we would start looking at airplanes.

And unknowingly we entered a rabbit hole... 

(Hooks Airport)

And we got to see a whole lot of amazing war planes at various airports on the way down that rabbit hole (you can see some of them in this post)!

We spent hours and hours on-line, looking at ads, emailing people, and reading up on buying an airplane. It was a massive project since buying a plane is somewhat like buying a house. You can get a really cheap plane that ends up being a fixer-upper, so you have to shop very carefully, and sometimes for years, to find the right plane.

(Conroe Airport)

We started out looking at the cheapest planes around town just to learn the ropes, and boy did we see some junkers. And we also met a lot of "Liar-McLiars". People selling used-airplanes are no different than people selling used-cars.  

(West Houston Airport)

After six months or so we found out there were three important things we had to have before purchasing a plane. 

1) The engine must be in great shape and the plane must have been flown regularly. We didn't want a "Hanger Queen" (a gorgeous aircraft that sits in a hanger and is never flown).  Just like boats, planes must be used regularly to stay in peak condition.

2) The aircraft must have no damage history. If a plane is ever damaged that history follows it forever and really lowers the buyer pool and the price, even if everything else seems fine.

3) The plane must have all aircraft logs. Many people won't buy a plane unless it has every logbook from the day the plane was born. The logbooks must have every maintenance check, inspection, damage, and repair noted. 

 (Hooks Airport)

This check list might sound easy, but that is the Holy Grail of aircraft shopping and almost impossible to achieve when you are looking at 40-60 year old planes that are priced within the range of a basic new car. So we internet shopped, emailed what seemed to be a zillion people who were selling their planes, and made a list of potential ones we wanted to visit.

One of our scouting trips was to Taylor, Texas to see what appeared to be the "perfect" plane. It met all of our check lists, had amazing equipment, and was priced to sell.

(Pretty Piper Archer in Taylor)

When we got there we fell in love instantly. This Piper Archer was one sweet plane. Paul went up in her and was convinced this was it.  Since we had done our research and had looked at several planes already (we just knew enough to be dangerous), we sat down to look at all the logbooks. The person selling the plane for the owner (let's call him Sam) assured us once again that everything was there and that the aircraft had no damage history. 

The aircraft frame logs looks perfect, no reported damage history. Then Paul picked up the propeller logbook and flipped through it. He found a little piece of folded paper stapled to the final page, and as he is very detail-orientated, he carefully opened and read the brittle paper. 

It was an 1992 invoice from a repair shop that noted that they had replaced the aluminum "skin" on both wings, replaced the entire front window, and made major repairs to the roof of the plane. 

!!!Major Damage History Alert!!!

Note: This is not a photo of the actual plane, just what I imagined happened to it.

Paul pointed out this extreme damage repair (which should have been recorded in the actual airframe logbook) to Sam and he turned white as a sheet. He started stuttering and looked incredibly ill and he said "I was the one that did the prebuy (inspection) for my buyer last year, and I completely missed this form". 

Wow, I had no words. I could see Paul was incredibly disappointed and Sam knew that he was in hot water. Then Sam started back-pedaling, not wanting to lose interested buyers, and he said that maybe the plane had some hail damage that needed to be repaired. He noticed that the repair shop had the previous owner's phone number, so he decided to try to call him (on intercom) and ask what had happened to the plane. 

This was over 20 years ago, so Paul and I had no faith he would reach him, but we admittedly were curious and he made the call. And he reached the guy and we heard "The Rest of the Story".

(West Houston Airport)

This beautiful plane used to live in Maryland and was dearly loved by her owner and slept snug and warm in her fancy hanger. Maryland was having a really brutal winter and one night they got several feet of snow. The owner wasn't able to get out to check on his baby for several days, but when the snow was cleared off the roads he was able to drive to the hanger.

The heavy snow on the roof of the metal hanger caused the roof to collapse onto the plane. One 2x4 crashed through the front window and the wings and roof of the plane were covered in wood supports (which penetrated the thin metal skin of the wings), metal debris, and heavy snow for several days. 

The owner at the time had great insurance and they paid for the repairs in full and made her "good as new". But this plane had major damage history and was marked for life. Not to mention that it was not built to be crushed by heavy weight for days, so we questioned the integrity of the wings. 

Paul and I looked at each other and then Paul turned to Sam and told him  we wouldn't be buying the plane. Sam didn't look surprised and said he was going to call the owner and a person who had already made a low-ball offer earlier that day and let them know about the damage history.

We walked away, disappointed but also happy that we had noticed the damage history before really getting excited about buying this plane. 

(Hooks Airport)

As we drove away, Imp suddenly started violently throwing up all over the back seat (this was the car trip from HADES!) and we completely moved on from this Piper. However, a few days later Sam called and said they were considering an offer and wanted to see if we were still interested in the plane and wanted to make an offer. 

Yeah, I think Sam had a few screws loose...

So our search for the perfect, affordable, safe plane would continue.

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  1. I'm enjoying all your plane adventures! Keep them coming!

  2. I have never been interested in flying or in planes, but I find this so interesting! Good dodge on the lemon there!

  3. I look forward to the next installment of your family plane adventures.

  4. I really hope Paul gets to realize his dream, just as you do! Ya'll are such a cute family! I, too, enjoy reading about your escapades! I agree, too, with not wanting to take ANY risks. This is your entire family!
    Blessings to each and every one of you, even those furry ones! LOL


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