Last month I attended the NBAA Maintenance Manager's Conference in San Diego. It was an excellent opportunity to meet some of our industry's maintenance leaders as well as to sit in on many excellent presentations geared toward the maintenance professional. One of the topics that struck me particularly was in the area of the aircraft sale and pre-buy process. Listening to several folks comments about the good and bad experiences they had it became evident that even among the professionals in attendance, emotion plays a factor in aircraft deals.
We've heard stories about the owner buying a particular aircraft solely because it looks sexy or because their spouse liked the color, not because it was a best fit or a great deal. Even among we professionals, emotion comes into play. When we are in the process of buying or selling an aircraft we need to pay attention to those emotional cues. The aircraft deal is a business process, not a marriage courtship.
As a professional, we take pride in our work. Our aircraft is a reflection of that professionalism, especially to a maintainer. That person works daily on the upkeep and safety of the aircraft. If during a pre-buy the prospect provides a list of squawks or issues, it is very easy to feel our pride being wounded. "How dare they talk about MY airplane that way!" Our defenses come up and we seek to dismiss their issues or to minimize them as meaningless or even as an attempt to screw us out of money. We need to take a deep breath and reflect on each of those pre-buy issues, evaluate them in a neutral manner, and to put ourselves in the buyer's shoes.
In the 1980s the US was in negotiations with the Soviet Union regarding nuclear arms reductions. Then President Reagan used the term "trust but verify" to describe the negotiation process. It is the same with the aircraft. Whatever we agree to must be verifiable. The buyer is seeking to verify the status of the aircraft. The fact that the deal is in pre-buy indicates a level of trust that the aircraft is what they want. The pre-buy inspection is to verify the state of the aircraft so that the deal can be completed with no surprises.
One way to minimize the emotional issues of a pre-buy as a seller is to understand that we no longer own the aircraft. The day you list the aircraft for sale, you have relinquished ownership and are acting as caretaker for the next owner. Remember when you first took delivery of the aircraft, whether from the factory or a dealer or wherever. You did (or should have done) a pre-buy and acceptance of the aircraft. You trusted the aircraft was as advertised, but you just wanted to check everything over for yourself. At the resale, you need to take a close look at the aircraft as if you were evaluating it for purchase all over again.
Unchecked emotions have wrecked more deals than they have made. The best deals are made when both parties prosper: the seller gets an amount for the sale that is satisfying and the buyer gets the aircraft that expect. My grandmother's adage of "When you are angry, count to ten before your respond" holds true. The Aircraft sale/purchase process is stressful and needs to be done with a level head. Had a deal go south due to emotions getting out of hand? Click reply and let us know (keeping the names of the guilty anonymous!), we would love to hear about the ridiculous and the serious.