How To Buy Your First Light Airplane

Investing in an aircraft is a big decision that should not be taken lightly, even if you just want a small airplane for your private travel and business engagements.

But first things first: what is a light airplane?

The United States Department of Aviation – Federal Aviation Administration defines a light airplane as a small aircraft of “12,500 lbs or less maximum take-off weight.” Simply put, as long as an airplane does not exceed 12,500 lbs, it is considered a light airplane.

Despite its smaller size, all plane purchase requirements still apply, expect the process to last from weeks to months depending on different factors.

To give you an idea of how light aircraft transactions normally go, here is a step-by-step guide on how to own your first small airplane.

A Piper light aircraft parked on a private airfield at a small airport.

1. Determine your budget for an airplane

Let’s put it plainly, buying one will leave a big dent in your wallet but before looking at how much will it cost to buy an airplane, you should first determine your financial capability.

When you buy an airplane, you not only pay for the value of the plane itself but of the operating cost after the purchase. Factor that in when setting up a budget for your purchase.

Think hard and set a limit as to how much you are willing to shell out to fly high.

2. Research on different airplane models

Figure out the make and model of the airplane that you want to buy. Much like buying a car, make sure that the size, aesthetic, and features match your travel needs.

With everything going digital now, you can easily do your research online and check out aircraft selling sites and pricelist.

3. Used Planes vs Brand New Units

Aside from choosing the model, you have two options when you buy an airplane, you either purchase a brand new unit or a used aircraft.

If you are willing to do the homework and have an aircraft specialist that can assist you or is an experienced pilot yourself, buying a used airplane can save you a fortune.

Make a list of the things that you are willing to compromise. Say you want a Cessna 172 but no listing is available, are you willing to buy a different model?

On top of that, it is recommended that a pre-purchase inspection should be conducted on the unit. This is to make sure that damage and wear that are not visible to untrained eyes are determined before the actual purchase to avoid future problems.

On the other hand, buying a brand new airplane unit eliminates pre-purchase assessments and always comes with a warranty. This option is great for newly-licensed pilots or individuals who are willing to invest in their aviation needs.

4. Check the aircraft yourself

Once you already considered a make and model that works for you, visit the aircraft yourself.

Do not agree on anything with seeing it with your own eyes first. If possible, bring an expert that specializes in the make and model you chose to inspect the airplane.

At times, the seller opts to have a broker or an escrow agent between the buyer to streamline the process but you can also negotiate to choose someone you trust instead.

Woman standing beside light aircraft

5. Hire an aviation attorney for the Purchase Agreement (PA)

If you are ready with your purchase, hire an aviation lawyer to review and revise the Purchase Agreement. The PA is an essential part of the process because it will cover, in written form, all the terms in your agreement — deposit, payment terms, delivery, warranty, representations, and others.

6. Closing and Aircraft Registration

And finally, you reached the closing and delivery stage. Review all the terms and make sure that nothing is missing from your end to ensure that nothing can go wrong.

Now, you just need to register your new airplane to an aviation authority in your country. Rules may vary per country but in general, you must submit the registration application and proof of ownership like the billing and contract with the seller.

This usually takes weeks depending on the volume of applicants and the documents you provided.

A Final Word on Purchasing a Light Aircraft

Light airplanes are great for aviation enthusiasts, both first-time pilots and seasoned aviators alike.

The market has a lot of great options no matter what your requirements or personal preferences are, and the process of owning your own plane today has never been easier.