March 2008 Issue
Autopilot Pre-Buy: How to Avoid Clunkers
A hidden pitfall in buying a used airplane is underestimating the replacement cost of its autopilot. Worse yet, owners may pay little attention to the health of the existing system during the demo ride. Donít be fooled by the sales ad saying the autopilot was a flagship model with huge capabilities. It could be as old as the airplane and ready to tank. (A 30-year-old piece of equipment is ancient in the electronics world.) Autopilots are major systems and replacement cost can double that of a new engine. You can eliminate this high-stakes gotcha during the pre-buy inspection, or better yet, during the aircraft search. At the least, autopilots can be helpful bargaining tools when closing the deal. Some systems youíll want to think twice about getting involved with. Others are keepers. No matter what you choose, there are a couple of sound strategies for upgrading older systems.
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