Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Most people do not like lawyers...until you need one. Then there are specialities where if you need an aviation attorney you can not use your estate planning attorney and so on.

I have a good friend who started flying in his early 50's. He trained on glass Diamond DA40, and when he got his private ticket decided to buy a brand new Piper Saratoga. He has no debt or children and paid cash for his airplane. A few years later he built a large spec home which did not sell quickly and needed some cash and sold his Saratoga. About 4 months later his house sold and he bought another Piper Saratoga.

Now he is in his young 60's and decided to upgrade to a late model Piper Malibu. He worked a deal with Keystone, a Piper dealer, in Salt Lake City. Unfortunately he never obtained any advice from friends in the aviation community and made the deal. From what he told me about this 11/2 YO Malibu after the purchase it had different cylinders changed 7 times in 11/2 years. That would have led me to believe this engine had a problem that was not addressed in just changing out cylinders. It would be a plane that I would have walked away from. He did a real faux pas in letting Keystone do the pre buy on this airplane.  If there is one thing I was taught at an early age is to never use the selling party or their mechanic do the pre buy.

He flew up to Salt Lake to pick up the plane with a Malibu certified CFI and flew it back to Scottsdale. His insurance company required he take 25 hours of dual before flying solo. When he finished his 25 hours the engine had approximately 320 hours on it. His first solo the plane lost power and he was able to return to SDL. When he did a runup the plane again lost power. He took the plane to a FBO on the field that works on Malibu's and they could not replicate the problem. He then went to fly it again and lost power before lifting off.

After taking it back to the FBO they found several issues under the cowling. Cylinders did not pass the torque test and there was oil in the bottom of the cowl. The FBO called Lycoming, and Lycoming never sent anyone out to look at the engine. The second year warranty only covered cylinders. My friend made calls to Keystone and Piper as well as Lycoming. He was told by Piper we will look into it, and they were aware of this plane and the troubles it had in the past. He also found out that this plane had loss of power problems before. He relayed this to Keystone and again was politely blown off. Keystone never came to SDL to look at the plane.

So now my friend has a $1M investment that has been grounded for four weeks of phone calls and emails. I told him all along that no one would do anything until an attorney was involved. He ran it by his personal attorney, and I explained that he had to involve an aviation attorney who speaks the language.

Finally he went to see an aviation attorney here and had everything documented for the attorney. The attorney wrote a demand letter to Keystone for knowingly selling a lemon of an airplane and gave them 2 choices. One was to return the money and his Saratoga or put in a new engine firewall forward and overhaul the propeller. After several back and forth phone calls and emails Keystone agreed to do as requested verbally but never signed the agreement as was. A lawsuit was prepared for fraud and other reasons and served to Keystone. The next day they agreed to do everything as requested.

It will take about 4 weeks for a new engine to arrive and in the meantime the prop will be overhauled. My friend will be down for 16 weeks before he can be back in the air.

As I said earlier his first mistake was letting Keystone do the pre buy. The fox was in the henhouse. A reputable shop would first review the logbooks and say something is not right with this airplane. He was lucky that he had deep pockets where he could sue Keystone, and if necessary Piper and or Lycoming. We are all glad it did not come to this. If there is something that does not sit right about an airplane purchase pass and go on to the next one.

Everything I have written was told to me by my friend who purchased the plane, and I am passing on the information as given to me.

No comments:

Post a Comment