Should you even consider buying an aircraft that is missing logbooks?
Every now and then you run into a situation where the aircraft logbooks are missing, or have been lost and reconstructed. Should that stop you from buying the aircraft?
Well, maybe. Just because the logs are gone doesn’t mean it is a bad deal. Try to substantiate the aircraft and engine hours (along with compliance with Airworthiness Directives (AD’s) and service bulletins) through the use of past maintenance records (invoices, shop tickets, etc.) If it doesn’t have any records, all the hours, overhaul estimates and repairs, are a guess. With past work orders and shop tickets you can attempt to rebuild the records. This would at least provide a reasonable base of hours to start from. It also depends on the use of the aircraft. Some commercial operations require that the hours and the TBO requirements be validated in the logs or maintenance records or the part cannot be used. If you don’t have a record of those, the use may require the overhaul of that component. For most general aviation owners, the logbooks for the engine will probably be more valuable than the airframe. The airframe, like the engine, can have critical AD’s that need to be monitored. Most pilots worry more about the engine condition than the airframe. Additionally, it would be worthwhile to do a search of the FAA records for any Major Repair or Alteration reports (Form 337).
This also brings up another question, should you pay less for an aircraft without logbooks?
As a personal buyer for a non-commercial use, the logbooks still have a value, although not as much as a commercial operator, but the price should still reflect the incomplete or missing logs. How much money are the logs worth? The guideline for most single engines aircraft logs is somewhere around $5,000. Light twins are worth $5,000 to $10,000. Establishing a price hinges on what information is available. If the work orders and records are there, and hours can be substantiated, the logs are less critical. If the missing logs are from years ago, but the aircraft has been maintained, overhauled and recorded since the time of loss, it would be less of a concern. Logbooks have also been known to show up after the purchase of an aircraft. The holders of the logbooks might have a reason for keeping the logs from the seller. In those cases of “re-appearing logs”, the holder usually wants to be paid for the logs. In some cases it might be worth the cost.