Is This Used Challenger A Good Buy
By: George Hurt
Challenger aircraft have become very popular over the past 25 years with approximately 4000 kits produced. QCU has produced several airframe models during this time and the Challenger II has proven to be one of its most popular designs. With that many aircraft produced, there are now many used Challengers being offered for sale. Whether you find a bargain or a problem depends on making an informed decision to purchase or pass on specific aircraft. Unfortunately, most people who buy used aircraft have no experience with aircraft and are unaware of the many possible pitfalls involved.
Too often, used aircraft are purchased on the criteria of price alone but a cheap price does not often deliver an inexpensive aircraft. The modern two stroke engines, especially the Rotax as used on the Challenger, are excellent power plants and can be expected to deliver many years of reliable service. However, a two stroke has to be operated and maintained properly. Has it been? Do you know the engine's history or the aircraft's history? Are the logbooks current and complete? Are they even available or do they have large time/hour gaps in the chronological order?
Over the years, QCU has made many upgrades and changes in design to the Challenger for safety, performance and aesthetics. Has the aircraft had these upgrades, especially the ones dealing with safety? Many used aircraft have changed owners numerous times and may not be well maintained or repaired. Can you make an honest, experienced evaluation about the general condition of the aircraft? What about fabric and paint? Has the aircraft ever had any structural damage? Does it have enough instruments for safe Basic Flight and do they work properly? Can you evaluate the integrity and operation of the control system? Was it built correctly? Is the history of the aircraft available in the form of Aircraft and Engine logbooks? Does it fly well or has it been sitting neglected for a long period of time?
A wrong guess or analysis of these and many more items can lead to much additional expense and can be dangerous. To check out the numerous upgrades and improvements to the Challenger over the years as it has evolved, go to www.AdventureAviation.org and click on “Evolution” in the menu. Compare this list to any Challenger you are considering purchasing.
Legally, a two place aircraft must be registered with the FAA and receive a one-time Airworthiness Inspection. Many pilots have built their kits and just flown them without bothering with the FAA and many still do. If you buy an unregistered aircraft with the idea of registering it, you should be aware of the legalities involved. Only the original builder of the aircraft can register the aircraft and the FAA has been aggressively enforcing this rule. Many times, the original builder cannot be found and when he can, he often will be unwilling to assist in the registering of the aircraft. If you fly an unregistered aircraft, especially without a Pilots Certificate, you may not have any problems for years, if ever. However, if the aircraft is ever involved in an accident or gets reported to the FAA, the costs involved can easily be two to three times the value of your aircraft.
The intent of this article is not to dissuade you from purchasing a used Challenger, but rather to help you understand some of the many considerations involved. If you lack the required experience and knowledge to make an informed decision, then get someone to assist you who has that experience and knowledge with the aircraft you are considering. Most experienced owners will be glad to assist you, especially if you cover expenses. For a reasonable fee, most dealers will give you an honest appraisal of any aircraft you are considering. Before buying any used aircraft, a tentative purchaser would be wise to get all the experienced advice they can. That would suggest expert advice that is airframe-specific based. Definitely do a "Pre-Buy" Inspection. Make an Aircraft Buyer's Checklist, too. Plenty of online help to assist in making the checklist. Identify and beware of any risks involved that are mechanical, legal and personal. Keep it or make it airworthy, fly it legal and be sure when you are flying it... you are airframe-specific proficient as the ' PIC ' pilot-in-command. To help yourself structure a deal that may prove to be good for you financially, sit down and make an honest projection of anticipated costs for two, five, and ten years into the future. Think about what you are considering. A smart buyer will have done his homework, and have done it thoroughly. Buying an aircraft is a significant transaction. Careful, well thought out decisions are required.
Many times, however, a new aircraft can be cheaper in the long run. The process of building, registering and inspecting a newly built aircraft is easy and there is lots of assistance available for a new builder. The FAA even has a Recreational Pilot Certificate and a new Sport Pilot Certificate that allows you to take all your training in your own aircraft, fly cross country and with the Recreational Certificate, you can even fly up to a 4 place General Aviation aircraft.
Additionally, the building process is quite enjoyable and nothing compares to the pride and joy of flying a new aircraft that you built yourself. The newer model Challengers will almost always out perform the older used models. If price is still a big consideration, sit down with an experienced, reputable dealer or the factory and make that same two, five, and ten year cost projection. Most times, the new Challenger will be less costly, especially at the five and ten year projections.
There are many costs and considerations involved in purchasing either a new or a used aircraft. I hope this article will help you in considering important areas so that you can be guided in how to make an informed buying decision for an aircract acquistion.