An Aircraft’s Final Sale — Originally published in BusinessAir Magazine, February 2020, Volume 30, No. 2.
As more aircraft reach the end of their useful life, understanding the process for the final sale of an aircraft is becoming more important. If there are no buyers for an aircraft or if an aircraft is more valuable for its parts than as a whole unit, then the aircraft owner should endeavor to find the best possible solution for the aircraft’s final sale. Depending on the aircraft type and the parts inventory at the time, there may be multiple interested buyers for the parts of the aircraft. Once the best offer is found, a sale agreement should be drafted and include all of the necessary deal points. For the final sale of an aircraft, there are additional deal points that don’t apply to a normal sale. Here are a few to consider:
• Is the delivery location going to be the same location as where the aircraft will be parted out? If so, then will the aircraft be deregistered at the time of sale? If so, the sale agreement should not require the purchaser to prepare and file a registration application, but instead file a deregistration notice with the FAA. However, if there is any chance that the purchaser will not part out the aircraft and may instead resell the aircraft, then the deregistration request should not be filed.
If you file the deregistration notice with the FAA it is very difficult to then register the aircraft again at a later date and requires filing proof acceptable to the technical branch of the FAA that the aircraft is still airworthy.
• A detailed list of the loose equipment that is being sold on the aircraft should be attached as an exhibit to the sale agreement. For example, is the aircraft being sold with the china, glassware and flatware on the aircraft or does the seller plan to reuse the china on a future aircraft? Does it include any equipment that was used in the hangar for the aircraft, like a tow bar?
• Is the aircraft airworthy and/or are there inspections that are past due? Usually a sale agreement would require the aircraft to be airworthy. However, that may not be necessary in the case of a final sale. If there are inspections that are past due, then the inspections may not be necessary if the aircraft is already at the location where it will be sold and parted out. However, if the aircraft is not at the closing location or has to be flown after closing to the location where it will be disassembled, then one of the parties may need to obtain a ferry permit. The cost of the ferry permit should be measured against the cost of doing the necessary work on the aircraft in order to make it airworthy.
• The aircraft records, especially burn certificates, are very important when selling an aircraft for parts. The records need to be complete for each part so that the part can be sold and used again. If the records are incomplete the part will have far less or perhaps no value.
• Is it important that the seller retain the registration number? Unlike when an aircraft is being sold and will continue to fly, if the aircraft is being deregistered, there is no need to file a request to change the registration number at the time of closing. Instead, when the deregistration is filed, a request to reserve the registration number back to seller should also be filed. If the purchaser doesn’t plan to deregister the aircraft immediately, the parties should agree on a timeline to return the registration number back to the seller.
• The pre-purchase inspection is far less extensive for an aircraft that will be sold for parts. It is not always as important that all systems be fully functional and therefore the timeline from execution of the sale agreement to closing is more compressed, because the inspections prior to closing may just be a review of the aircraft records and not a fully survey of the aircraft.
Making a decision to sell an aircraft for parts, can be an emotional decision for an aircraft owner because they have often times flown in the aircraft for many years, arriving in many locations with lasting memories. The emotional impact is greater when the aircraft is being sold for parts instead of to someone else who will use it. As a result, the emotional component can sometimes prevent the best business decision from being made. As an example, I have had a client who searched for someone to buy the aircraft for reuse and sold the aircraft at a lower price than could have been achieved if they had considered selling the aircraft for parts.
When an aircraft is sold for the final time, there are differences in the sale process. The delivery location is far more important, as is loose equipment list and complete aircraft records. Be sure to take the differences into account when entering into the sale agreement.