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CEO Corner April 2019



After 30 years of “Making Dreams Come True” for pilots and aircraft owners across the United States, I am asked weekly, if not daily, “How do I know if I am getting a GOOD DEAL ON MY AIRCRAFT PURCHASE

As a Lender that has “Seen a Thing or Two”, I can honestly say, “If a deal seems too good to be true, it usually is”.

That is a lot of smart “one liners,” but it all boils down to the simple fact that buying a quality airplane usually requires a purchase offer that exceeds the average retail value as suggested by VREF or Aircraft Bluebook.

  • An aircraft that has been well maintained and cared for has required the previous owners to spend a lot of money to keep it in that condition for you to have an opportunity to purchase it.

  • An aircraft that has always been stored inside a hangar has required the prior owners to fork over many months or years of hangar rent to keep the aircraft well protected.

  • An aircraft that has new paint or paint that looks new didn’t happen by accident.  The prior owner(s) wanted their pride and joy to look really sharp. It takes serious money to strip, repair, and paint an aircraft correctly.  You should appreciate the fact that someone has invested lots of time and money to make your new airplane look like a 10.

  • An aircraft with a really nice interior didn’t just happen by chance, either.  A previous owner decided it was a necessary upgrade and was willing to pay big bucks to have the interior upgraded and refurbished to improve the appearance and value of the airplane.  You should appreciate the efforts of the prior owner(s) and be willing to show your appreciation with a respectable purchase offer.

  • The condition of the engine matters.  While many buyers only look at time (hours) since major overhaul (TSMOH); many other factors are equally important.  How many hours per year has the engine been flown? When not being flown what are the storage conditions? Is it stored inside a climate controlled hangar, in cold storage in the desert southwest, or flown for short trips and never warmed up correctly?  These important factors do not show in any logbook entries or 100 hour inspections. They can only be discovered by a detailed inspection for corrosion by a qualified and certified power plant mechanic.

  • Finally, has the airplane had a recent avionics upgrade?  I am old enough to recall when a new “radio stack” was good for 10-15 years and it was bragging material to your fellow aviators for the next 4-5 years.  Of course, this was back in the good old days when we flew by following the roads, VOR’s and ADF signals. Then LORAN came along and we all thought this was the best!  Today, it’s all about electronic navigation and information (GPS, ADS-B, XM Weather, etc.) Due to the speed of change in aviation electronics (ADSB, Moving Map GPS, Bluetooth to your iPad, and electronic charts), a radio upgrade is now similar to buying a laptop computer; it maybe has a life of 10 years.  The days of old steam gauges and vacuum pump driven gauges are being replaced by small display devices like your iPhone.  The electronic world is changing faster than we can keep up and avionics installed two or three years ago already have a new version available for probably less money.

Which brings me to the big question:  

“What should I look for when buying an airplane so I don’t take a DIVE on my purchase?”

I have basic guidelines I advise most every buyer, or a “shopping checklist” if you will.

  1. Does the airplane or engine have ANY damage history

  2. Does the airplane have ANY missing airframe logbooks since new

  3. Does the engine have ANY missing engine logbooks since the last certified major overhaul?

  4. Is the airplane in airworthy condition and have a current annual/100 hour inspection

  5. Have ALL AD’s for the engine and airframe been documented as addressed on an annual basis?

  6. Does the airplane have ANY missing official paperwork as follows:

    1. Airworthiness Certification

    2. FAA Registration

    3. Radio Registration (if required)

    4. Operating Limitations, POH, and a MEL (if applicable)

    5. Weight and Balance

  7. Does the airplane have any title defects that can’t be solved by the current owner?



  1. Engine:

    1. Engine Overhaul less than 7 years prior

    2. Mid time engine or less (hours from/to TBO)

    3. Has the engine had a sudden stoppage incident requiring mandatory teardown inspection?

    4. Are there any mandatory AD’s on the engine and or cylinders that are applicable?

  2. Avionics:

    1. Does the aircraft have an operational autopilot that can couple to contemporary electronics without breaking your budget to do so?

    2. Does the aircraft have a GPS Color Moving Map that addresses your minimum requirements?

    3. Has the airplane been upgraded for ADS-B as required for your intended flying usage?

    4. Are all currently installed avionics working properly as advertised?

    5. Have all avionics been properly installed by a certified shop or mechanic/technician and documented with the FAA (form 337)?

  3. Exterior Paint:

    1. Is the exterior paint acceptable or does it need painting and or repairs?

    2. What is the age of fabric and condition?

  4. Interior:

    1. Does the glass need replacing?

    2. Does the interior/carpet need to be replaced and repaired?

    3. Are the seats needing to be replaced or refurbished?

    4. What condition are the side panels and headliner in?

If you have made it this far on the above checklist, and you have your heart set on buying this airplane, it is time to have the bank to do a title search for you.  If the title search comes back acceptable, “GREEN LIGHT”:

PERSONALLY GO AND LOOK AT THE AIRPLANE.  Spend some money and personal time to inspect the airplane with your own eyes and get a test flight by the seller or current owner.  

At this point, if it is still the airplane for you, I would make an offer on the airplane subject to a satisfactory pre-purchase inspection by a certified mechanic (IA).


So this brings us to the final question:  how do I know what to offer as a fair purchase price.  After watching the aircraft markets for over 30 years, I can honestly advise you that buying a quality, well maintained airplane will not be available for “a great deal.”  Everyone else would have found it and bought it, just like you!

The airplanes that are below average, with an above average asking price will be on the market week after week.

If you locate an above average airplane for a fair price, be ready to lock it down with a purchase agreement, subject to a pre-purchase inspection.  If you don’t, it will not be there in a week. Buying quality will save you big bucks in future maintenance costs. The adage of ”Pay now or Pay Later” applies.



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CEO Corner

October 2018:

It seems like only yesterday I passed my first FAA check ride. It was a hot muggy night in August 1975 at the Hector Airport in Fargo, North Dakota.  I worked hard to gain my private pilot’s license while attending college and never thought it would be just the beginning of a lifetime journey in the world of aviation. 

That fateful night of my private pilot check ride, I was flying a powerful Cessna 150 with a 100 horsepower Continental, and it seemed like a rocket ship as I tried to keep up with everything (the aircraft). The FAA Designated Examiner sat next to me not saying much of anything.  This was a drastic change from my flight instructor, who was always nagging me about something that I was doing wrong.

Anyway, when we got out of the airplane and tied it down for the night, the examiner said to me:  “I will provide to you a license to go out and learn how to fly.”   I will never forget that night - never knowing how wise the examiner really was.

Now, some 43 “accident free” years later, with pilot ratings of Commercial, Instrument, Multi Engine, Seaplane, and CFI, I wonder “HOW HAS LIFE FLOWN BY SO FAST?”

Aviation has been a large part of my life and provided many memories to reflect on.  Our family has five FAA licensed pilots, and two of them work at the bank in the aviation lending division as of today (read “future” between the lines).

As with many aviation families, we took many trips in the family airplane(s) and have stories to tell about some of those trips in future “CEO Corner” articles.

The most important part of any hobby or occupation is to “Keep it Fun and Interesting.”  This all began back in 1994 when I was working at the Red River State Bank (yes, the same bank as today) and I thought it would be interesting to bring my passion for flight and aviation to work, and begin lending money on private airplanes.  What more could I ask for than to be able to “LIVE MY DREAM OF FLIGHT AT WORK.”

Now, thousands of aircraft loans later, we are still providing aircraft loans to the first time aircraft owner, corporate owned airplanes, seaplanes, experimental aircraft, agriculture aircraft, and even a few warbirds.  We never lost sight of our original mission, which is the same as our local airport mission statement “TO KEEP FLYING FUN!”

After serving on the local airport authority for 30 years, I have to laugh looking back to realize you also agree to be a full time lawn mower, runway lighting repairman, snow removal operator, and master sprayer of the weeds around everyone’s hangar, never expecting to get paid or a thank you for a “Job well Done”.  All knowing:  “This why aviators are such great people”.

It is not all work, and I was able to locate this old photo of “We might actually go flying one day” taken years ago in a Piper J3.  We were all much younger in those days gone by.  Names and ages to be disclosed later.