This is the first in a series of blog posts regarding pre-purchase inspection planning. These are, however, good ideas for all owners and departments to watch for throughout the life of your ownership. Each post will focus on a different part of the aircraft.
Start with a complete external aircraft walk around by maintenance personnel looking for small areas of missing paint, small dents and scratches, even if previously known (pay particular attention to all leading edges, lower surfaces of flaps from runway debris, and also the area around the baggage door). If they do not have engineering dispositions already these will at the very least be written up and require engineering judgment during the pre-purchase inspection. Also pay attention to any leaks from any area of any type of fluid (the biggest concerns here are blue fluid from lav area and hydraulic leaks) and any polished surface for corrosion (all surfaces should be polished just prior to input) as any pitted area will be a major concern. Check engine inlets and fan blades for anything out of the ordinary. Also all windows and windshields should be checked for scratches or delamination.
For anything found during this inspection it would be best to address in house as minimally as possible for example touch up paint areas, polish or remove corrosion, investigate, repair and remove evidence of leaks. Thought could be given at this time to evaluation of dents or scratches, larger areas unfortunately will require some sort of historical evidence as to how the dent occurred. Any old notes or photographs from incidents (even minor) that you have should be assembled to help tell the story to a prospective buyer. These are much easier to explain to a buyer with historical data, engineering support and a log entry than to be a surprise on the discrepancy list. No matter how small they will probably be found and written up. With the right steps they quickly become a non event.
At this time it is also good to check maintenance manual requirements for all external placards and markings required by Part 91 certification. If they are missing or faded and illegible they are much easier replaced in house than at a service center. Other items such as tires should be checked for wear and cuts in the tread. If it is certainly out of limits then it would be best to change, if it is close consideration could be given to leaving it. A tire changed at a service center can cause added exposure to wheel issues which probably would not be dealt with. Also be sure that all lights are operable. Maintenance Manual Limits will be applied to any issue found. Wheel well areas should be looked over and the same law applied, any leaks or damaged areas investigated, repaired and cleaned up. Things such as rusty bolts or hardware will most likely be written up. Usually they will be dressed out by the service center, but sometimes this can require hardware replacement, spending a little time to dress the area and apply touch up paint can prevent that requirement.