Posted by: Orlando Web Services | December 15, 2011

Looking to Buy a Plane? Do the Research!

The Research Road

I have taken a great deal of time in the last couple of years in examining aircraft ownership for myself. In this update I have outlined just some of the initial research steps involved in getting clarity before there is even a pre-buy inspection. I started down this road because I saw a 1969 Cessna 182 in VERY good condition and really wanted to KNOW WHAT I DIDN’T KNOW in order to sum up an aircraft which would NOT need an overhaul. The research starts out like this…

Use the N# to contact the FAA Registration office for records of ownership (registration) and maintenance. It is cheap ($10.00) and won’t take long to get.

Use the N# on the NTSB site to see if there is any accident history.

Use the N# to learn what year/model the aircraft is and who it is currently registered to.

Use the FAA free web site to download the Type Certificate Data Sheet (TCDS) for the plane.

Use the FAA free web site to obtain a list of Airworthiness Directives (AD) notes on the major components of the aircraft (aircraft, engine, prop, mags, carb or fuel injection, vacuum pump, prop governor, etc)  that are listed on the TCDS, when you review the maintenance records you MUST be able to SEE PROOF that the AD notes have been complied with. If there is no proof than they will have to be compiled with as per the AD note instructions.

Now you will need information from the owner (real – matter of fact – backed by logbook information).

  • When was the aircraft last annulled?
  • When was the aircraft last flown?
  • What are total times on aircraft, time since overhaul (TSOH) on engine, carb, prop and all accessories.

How is the aircraft equipped? (Garmin 430, auto pilot, turbo charger?  etc) Begin looking at industry publications to try and find aircraft prices that are comparably equipped and same time. Use the AOPA listing or other blue book type listings.

Liens and Title

In the first step we talked about contacting the FAA Registration office for records of ownership (registration) and maintenance. You may request a copy of the aircraft record on a CD for $10 on-line at to review the record for outstanding liens yourself. However, this is no guarantee that a lien will be shown on the CD that you buy, especially if it’s a new lien. Keep in mind that the Aircraft Registration Branch does not do lien searches. For additional piece of mind you should contact a private company to do the search for you.  Under “AC Form AFS-750-55, List of Title Search Companies” you can find a list of companies and law offices that provide lien searches for a fee.

List of Title Search Companies

If you have any further questions, please contact the Aircraft Registration Branch directly at 405-954-3116 or 866-762-9434.  There are Legal Instruments Examiners on duty from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. CST to answer your questions.



  1. Buying an airplane is definitely a learning experience. Most of the time, it is an expensive one.

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