Logbooks... The Buyer's First Impression


They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. When it comes to airplanes, its all about the books! If your looking to sell your airplane, a small investment of your time can help maximize the value of your airplane while simplifying the pre-buy inspection for a buyer.

We all remember the very first time we met our wife, spouse, significant other, life partner, live-in... Whatever moniker you want to assign to the role. We remember it because it was a significant event that got our complete and undivided attention. We were intrigued, captivated and we wanted to know more about this amazing person that piqued our interest. From a first impression, everything was perfect... perhaps even better than perfect; but we took the time to learn more about this person and as we did, we eventually came to the conclusion that they were "the one!"   

Well when it comes to airplanes, it's a similar situation. The first time we see an airplane, it makes an impression on us... the paint and overall appearance gets our attention, and the interior and equipment only add to the sizzle. On the outside everything may look great but a diligent buyer will always turn to the logbooks in an effort to confirm what we believe to be true from our initial impression. 

Aircraft logs are the detailed story of your airplane, an ongoing history of the airplanes we own and care for. They not only represent the pedigree of the aircraft, but speak to the detail in which the airplane has been maintained. And if they're lost, they easily represent a decrease in the aircraft's value of 20-30%. 

Last March I went to see a "gorgeous, loaded, absolutely perfect" (broker speak) S35 Bonanza for sale in Phoenix. This particular broker had represented the seller of a one-owner Twin Comanche that I purchased directly from the seller last September so I thought I knew him well enough to trust him. When I stopped by his office to review the records of the S35 he was representing, he put a cardboard box of paper in the middle of the conference room table and said, "here's everything" and at that moment I knew, before I even got the chance to see the airplane, that I had wasted my time... and I had.

Aircraft logbooks and records can be incomplete, disorganized, hand-written and hard to understand, full of stapled yellow tags and work orders, deceptively well crafted and thrown in a box. Or they can be complete and continuous, well organized, neat, transparent, typed and easy to read and understand...detailing every aspect of the care that's been invested in an airplane throughout its entire life. In either case, when I look at an airplane for a customer, invariably the state of the logbooks and records accurately reflect the state of the aircraft itself... well kept logs and records typically mean a neat and clean airplane and vice versa. 

When we do an acquisition or broker an aircraft for a customer, organizing the logbooks and records (as well as updating the POH and the AFM) is part of the standard services we provide. We do it because it provides value to our clients, protection for their records, and it makes a good impression. While it takes a few hours to do the job right, I would encourage all of you to consider doing the same for your aircraft logs and records. Obviously, you can organize your logbooks and records however you please but as a starting point, here's how we do it.

First, we start by culling out all of the irrelevant records and digitizing all of the logbooks and records in PDF format, reviewing and organizing them by category (logs, 8130's, 337's, etc.) and date (most recent first). 

I would highly recommend the Genius Scan phone app for digitizing any documents... it's quick, easy and it auto-formats your log pages exactly how they appear in real life.

Next, all of the digital records are then placed on a flash drive keychain for the aircraft keys. 

This way, our customers can leave the hard copies of their original aircraft logs and records in a safe place and provide the shop with the digital records that are always in the aircraft on the flash drive keychain. If your IA says they need your aircraft logs to make the appropriate entries, ask them for a sticker to place in your logbook, and make sure the entry is typed and not hand-written. With digitized logs available, there is no reason for the aircraft owner to EVER leave his or her valuable maintenance records with a shop and run the risk of having them lost or misplaced. 

Third, we organize all of the hardcopy records in the same manner, placing all of the paperwork in plastic sleeves, and in new 3 inch heavy duty binders, tabbed by the record category (STC's, 337s, invoices, installation instructions, etc.). 

Yellow cards and loose items are easily stored in 3-ring nylon zipper pouches that fit handily in the binders.

Next, we place $500 reward stickers in each of the logbooks and the records binders to help insure that if a customer's records are ever lost, there's a valuable incentive to return them to our company so that we can get them back to the rightful aircraft owner. We actually have an insurance policy that covers the rewards.

Finally, we place all of the logbooks and records binders in a split top, combination-locked metal case. 

I used to buy these cases in bulk from Harbor Freight for $40 but they no longer stock the item so I'm looking for a new supplier. We label the cases with laminated plates and attach a laminated copy of my client's business card to the case handle. These cases not only look great, they're rugged, extremely functional and will provide protective storage for ALL or your aircraft records, both now and in the future.

With winter soon upon us, this is a perfect and simple in-home project that will cost you less than $100 dollars, will make a huge and favorable impression on a potential buyer, and will help maximize the value of your airplane when the time comes to sell it. It may require a few hours of your time but I assure you, it will be worth every penny in the long run. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression!