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What’s Important When Importing An Aircraft?

October 2022

Gulfstream-Beauty Image.jpgThe secondary aircraft market in the United States is very tight with little available inventory. Many transactions are negotiated and closed without the aircraft ever officially entering the market. For this reason, serious aircraft buyers are exploring opportunities outside of the country where many high-quality well-maintained aircraft are available.

Importing an aircraft into the U.S. for purchase is a complicated process, and is sometimes performed with the buyer not actually seeing the aircraft until after the sale has been closed and is flown to the United States. Having a skilled aircraft sales broker on your team navigating the process can make the experience a positive one.

Is the aircraft considered unairworthy by the FAA?

Prior to beginning an aircraft sales negotiation in a foreign market, the aircraft’s modification status needs to be determined, and what is required if the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) finds them to be unacceptable.

Just because an aircraft meets EASA standards is not a guarantee that the FAA feels the same way. If the aircraft you are considering has had any modifications, they may not be acceptable to the FAA.

Additional modifications or a reversal of the existing modifications may be required before it can be imported into the United States. And that will impact the price. And before settling on a price, determine the availability of the necessary parts, resources, and downtime required to perform the additional mods.

The most direct route to knowing if the aircraft you are considering is FAA compliant is to work with a DAR (Designated Airworthiness Representative). They are able to research the make, model, and serial number information, to determine if the aircraft is deemed airworthy by the FAA.

Airworthiness Documentation

  1. OEM airworthiness documents at the time of delivery, for both foreign and domestic aircraft, may be required.
  2. OEM may issue a SB (Service Bulletin) specific to the aircraft for any required modifications.

Where will the pre-purchase inspection be performed?

While the preference is to have the aircraft brought to the US for the pre-purchase inspection, it is the seller’s right to make this decision. However, a buyer can have an influence on the decision.

If the aircraft is to be inspected in the country of registration, we recommend our clients insist it is taken to a factory-authorized facility or a facility that is recognized for quality maintenance of that specific make/model of aircraft.

Taking Ownership

After the pre-purchase inspection is complete, there are a number of ways the buyer can take ownership of the aircraft.

  1. With documents stating the aircraft is FAA airworthy, it is common to take ownership of the aircraft in the country of registration. After the aircraft arrives in the US, the buyer may choose to have additional modifications performed.
    1. For example, converting AC power system back to 110v. This is not required for FAA airworthiness.
  2. Have the aircraft ferried to and registered in the US. This is negotiated and stated in the contract.
  3. Seller can fly the aircraft to the US under their own registration and close the deal here. Also negotiated and agreed upon by both buyer and seller.

Duncan Aviation Advantages

Every import transaction has a personality of its own. There are always unknowns and irregularities that need to be identified and addressed. It all comes down to knowing how to ask the right questions at the right time. And that comes with years of experience with importing/exporting aircraft.

At Duncan Aviation, we never enter into any transaction with preconceived notions of what’s going to happen. We always remain open to other pathways. We take what we’ve learned from all previous transactions and apply it to the transaction in front of us.