"So what, if I worked my heart out for the money to buy it, or if I rebuilt the whole thing up from sticks in my basement, or if I cared for it to the exclusion of every other element of a normal life. So what, if I spend nothing on liquor or cigarettes or movies or bowling or golf or boating or eating out or new cars or stocks or savings. So what, if I value this airplane when no one else in all the world has valued it, it still makes no difference, it's still unbelieveable that anything so beautiful could happen in the world to make an airplane mine."
Richard Bach, from the short story "Help I am a prisoner in a state of mind" (1970)
(published in his book "A Gift of Wings")
How comes that I write a page about how to buy an aircraft, as I am doing/have done this recently for the first time?
Well, this was simply started because I couldn't find any relevant information on what is involved in this process in Germany. There is no (or I couldn't find it) information on what to consider before deciding on a type, no info regarding pre-purchase inspections, nothing about what you will have to deal with the LBA and other bureaucratic branches, very little on insurance and all the other stuff that you only happen to find out too late. To put it short, I felt a little bit left alone. To try to help avoid this problem for others, I have collected the information below.
With this said, it becomes obvious that the information presented below is not necessarily correct or complete. It is just a write-up of things I happened to note during my trials before and after buying my plane, supplemented by information gained through newgroups and private discussions. Should you happen to know more about the subject or find some errors, I would be happy to hear about it.
At the moment, the information is also geared mostly to the situation in Germany. For the U.S., there is plenty of information available on the web. For other countries, I don't know about it. If someone is willing to supply me with the relevant information, I'll be glad to put it up on these web pages.
When looking for a plane, there are several ways to find the one you like. You can either go to a specialized used aircraft show like the IGM, which is taking place once a year (in 1999 it was at Speyer, for 2000 it seems to have been canceled, also for 2001) or check out airplane windows at local Fly-Ins -- often people go to Fly-Ins if they want to sell their aircraft so it gets some exposure to potential buyers. Another good but time-consuming place to look are the various bulletin boards on airports, where sometimes aircraft are offered for sale. Or you can look for your dream aircraft in one of the aviation periodicals with good GA coverage. In Germany this would include magazines like
among others. Or you can start searching the web. This is especially promising if you are also considering to buy an aircraft abroad. Some good starting points are listed below, sorted by country (although the offers are not always restricted to that country):
Type-Specific For-Sale pages
If you consider purchasing from or through a dealer, remember that you will have to pay sales tax on your purchase.
If you have found a plane you are seriously interested in, make a personal inspection of the plane with the help of a type-specific pre-purchase inspection list, preferrably with the support of a mechanic that knows this type of plane well but doesn't know the seller.
If you like the plane and have come to an agreement, you will need some kind of sales contract. It has to be modified to fit you, your plane and the seller. Before you sign the sales contract, you might want to check if there is a lien on the aircraft. In the U.S., this can be done with the help of one of several title search companies (like AOPA USA, which have discounts for members). In Germany, all such liens must be registered with a lien register at the local court in Braunschweig, where the LBA is located. There is a little paragraph on the change of ownership form which reads:
"Pfandrechte an Luftfahrzeugen werden nicht in die Luftfahrzeugrolle, sondern in ein Pfandregister beim Amtsgericht Braunschweig eingetragen. Um nach erfolgtem Eigentumswechsel nach Paragraph 90 LuftfzRG den neuen Eigentümer in das Register eintragen zu können, bedarf es vorab nach Paragraph 62 LuftfzRG der schriftlichen Zustimmung des Voreigentuemers. Hierzu bitten wir den in NfL II-76/95 veröffentlichten Vordruck, vollständig ausgefüllt, den Unterlagen beizufügen oder dem Amtsgericht Braunschweig direkt zuzusenden. Dieser Vordruck kann auch beim Luftfahrt-Bundesamt angefordert werden. Anschrift: Amtsgericht Braunschweig, Postfach 32 31, 38020 Braunschweig, Tel.-Nr.: 0531/488-0, Fax-Nr.: 0531/488-2496."
Get adequate insurance protection for your aircraft. Third-party liability with a coverage of DM 5,000,000 is the minimum mandatory coverage for most countries. Some countries do want higher liability coverages (i.e. all Scandinavian countries) and others also require passenger liability insurance (Austria). The insurance company will provide you with a statement that you have the required coverage and also an extra copy for the LBA, which must accompany the change of ownership form.
Change of ownership in the German Civil Aircraft Registration List ("Luftfahrzeugrolle") maintained by the LBA
This form must also be signed by the seller, so it would be a good idea to have the form available during the signing of the sales contract.
A word of caution here: The person signing this form on page 2 must be the same person that signed the form when he/she bought the plane before that (at least if you buy from a private person and not from a club or a company). If this person is unable to sign the contract (for example because the registered owner is no longer alive), the LBA will require proof that the person signing the form is the lawful owner. I did find out about this only after several weeks after the purchase, when the LBA required a copy of deceased persons' testament (last will) so that they could be sure his wife was the sole lawful owner (and not her children or other beneficiaries also). If there is no last will of the last (now deceased) owner, something called an 'Erbschein' is required by the LBA for proof of ownership. If this document is not already present, the seller should apply for it as soon as possible as it seems that it takes quite long (up to 4 months) to get this document, and it also seems to be quite expensive (around DM 800).
Before you can send the change of ownership form to the LBA, you also need to know where the aircraft will be based in the future, as this information is required to fill in the form.
Application for the approval of the COM and NAV radios
At the moment, these approvals are handled by the "Regulierungsbehörde für Telekommunikation und Post". The application and the payment go to one of several regional offices, which are listed on the RegTP's Homepage.
Above is the application form in question, which I have scanned and converted to PDF from an original form of the RegTP. Although the quality is good, I don't know if this will be accepted so better check with your RegTP office first. Probably the form at least has to be printed two-sided in order to be accepted.
Information for non-German citizens wishing to buy a German-registered plane and keeping it on the German Register (new 24 Jul 2001)
Regarding this matter, I had a talk with somebody at the LBA in late June 2001. As of that date, there seem to be no objections from the LBA for citizens of European Union member states to register their aircraft in their name with the LBA. No German address or P.O. Box is necessary for this to work. The only 'requirement' is that the annual inspections have to be carried out by an LBA-licensed maintenance company, which essentially means you have to return to Germany at least once annually for the annual inspection. I do not know if other unscheduled maintenance work in between or 100 hour inspections etc. could be done by non-LBA authorized shops, but I seriously doubt it.
A little bit more involved seem to be the requirements put forward by the insurance company, which has to be a German one as far as I know. My insurance company told me that there should be no trouble insuring the aircraft as long as the certificates of the owner/operator are accepted by German authorities. It was not made very clear if this also involves national licenses or only licenses made/issued according to JAR.
As these facts might change at any time, make sure to check your case with the LBA and an insurance provider if you intend to put an aircraft on the German register as a non-German citizen. No guarantee as to the accuracy of the information given above is made or implied.
The following again applies to the situation in Germany only and is the result of a newsgroup thread in de.rec.luftfahrt in early March 2000. The usual disclaimer (there might be errors or omissions ... etc. etc.) again applies here.
Ok, so you just bought you a new plane of a type you have never flown (or not during the last 3 years, see later) before? Then what do you need to do? The basis for all the following is this excerpt from the German LuftPersV:
LuftPersV § 69
Erteilung und Umfang der Musterberechtigung
(1) Die Musterberechtigung wird durch Eintragung in den Luftfahrerschein erteilt. Sie kann für einzelne Muster oder als Sammeleintragung für mehrere Muster erteilt werden. Der Inhaber ist im Rahmen der erteilten Erlaubnis ber echtigt, Luftfahrzeuge des oder der eingetragenen Muster zu führen und zu bedienen.
(2) Die Musterberechtigung kann mit Auflagen versehen und insbesondere auf die Tätigkeit als zweiter Luftfahrzeugführer oder auf Flüge nach den Sichtflugregeln beschränkt werden. Die Erlaubnisbehörde kann die Erteilung der Musterberechtigung von einer theoretischen und praktischen Überprüfung durch einen von ihr bestimmten Sachverständigen abhängig machen.
(3) Die Musterberechtigung wird als Sammeleintragung für solche Luftfahrzeuge erteilt, die vom Bundesminister für Verkehr als gleichwertig anerkannt sind.
When you get your PPL(A) in Germany, you get a general type rating for all single engine piston aircraft with max. weights up to 2 tons. If you want to fly heavier aircraft, turbine aircraft, seaplanes or multi-engine aircraft, you have to get additional formal instruction which has to follow certain guidelines (theoretical part (systems, performance), a certain number of flying hours, and sometimes (??) also a checkride). These ratings will be noted in your license upon successful completion of the instuction. But as I assume that your new pride is still a single engine piston aircraft with max t/o weight below 2 tons. What are the requirements for this kind of aircraft?
In this case, German regulations require a familiarization with the type of aircraft to be flown as stipulated in section 4 of above paragraph:
(4) Bei einer Sammeleintragung muß der Luftfahrzeugführer vor Antritt eines Fluges mit einem Muster, das er bisher nicht oder innerhalb der letzten 24 Monate nicht geführt oder bedient hat, durch einen Fluglehrer oder Einweisungsberechtigten nach § 92 theoretisch und praktisch vertraut gemacht worden sein. Das theoretische und praktische Vertrautmachen hat sich auf den Aufbau und die Ausrüstung des Luftfahrzeuges, auf die Führung und Bedienung des Luftfahrzeuges im Normalflug und in besonderen Flugzuständen sowie auf das Verhalten in Notfällen und bei Unfällen zu erstrecken.
This familiarization does not have to follow strict guidelines as is the case with formal instruction for a multi-engine rating, for example. But authorities are not pleased with a self-familiarization or one done with the help of a non-authorized person. An authorized person is one that has an instructor certificate or a 'Einweisungsberechtigung' (see LuftPersV § 92). The completion of the familiarization has to be documented by the 'instructor' in the other persons' logbook with his signature and certificate number. This requirement to document the familiarization came up in the newsgroup discussion and makes sense but I can't find it as such in the regulations (see Note 1).
A few assumptions often made but nevertheless wrong are:
Now only the question remains as to what is considered a 'Muster'. Is it necessary to get a familiarization in a Cessna 172N if I am already familiar with a Cessna 172P? Is it necessary to get a familiarization in a Cessna 152 if I am already familiar with a Cessna 172? These questions could not be answered comprehensively in the newsgroup-thread in my opinion. But the trend seems to say that even a 172P and a 172N are considered different enough that a familiarization with each aircraft is required.
Note 1: After I made my familiarization/checkout with instructor Mike Goldhahn at Nittenau/Bruck airport (EDNM) last Sunday (18 June 2000), I can confirm that at least some instructors really make this entry in the "applicant's" logbook.