Buyer in airplane
4 min read

It was time to sell my plane. My 90th birthday was approaching and I was having mobility problems due to spinal stenosis that were only partially corrected by surgery. I had bought my Mooney 231 in 1981. My wife and I had traded in my Arrow and her Cherokee to move up a level. We added more avionics and an engine along the way during the 39 years we owned the bird. The engine presently was low-time and the interior was redone by Tom Trudeau at AeroDesign Concepts at Barnes Airport.

Zingesser in Mooney

Memorable trips in the airplane include a North Atlantic crossing.

I had read that 12 was the average number of buyers interviewed before a sale. That was not how it worked out for me. I had placed ads in Trade-A-Plane and in the MAPA log. My first prospective buyer showed up at Westchester County Airport (HPN), my home base. I actually fell on my ass in my eagerness to demonstrate the best features of my plane. All to no avail as he turned out to be just shopping around with no desire to commit.

The time for an annual was coming up. After the annual was completed, Tom Trudeau generously offered to keep the plane and to handle prospective buyers. George Merriam, a CFII I had worked with, would demonstrate the flight characteristics to prospective buyers. Over the course of several months there were a number of tire-kickers who showed up, but no sale. Some expressed an interest but never got around to making the trip to actually see the plane. I did not take seriously the people who expressed interest but who lived on the West Coast. I was irritated by buyers who asked if the plane had speed brakes—in my mind, simple planning eliminated the need for speed brakes.

My first really serious prospect was an active airline pilot. He wanted a Mooney and was planning to sell his old Bonanza before closing the deal on my airplane. He made a trip up to look the Mooney over, but was disappointed in the cosmetics.This was a blow to me as I thought he would be the perfect steward of my beloved Mooney. In parting, he sent me a copy of a non-fiction book he had written. I read the book and found that it was filled with arcane aeronautical information, but lacked the glue that would make a successful, gripping story. I’m not sure what he ended up buying if anything.

Still another serious prospect was put off by minor leaks around rivets along the upper surface of the wings. The tanks had been stripped and resealed a couple of times. Looking into the future, there might be another reason to strip and reseal but there was certainly no need to do this in the immediate future. Nevertheless this this was the deal-breaker for him and his brother who had put the money in escrow for the purchase.

Buyer in airplane

Finding the right buyer for an airplane like this isn’t always easy.

Strangely, another prospect with the exact same name turned up with an interest in buying. I thought this was a flakey attempt to provoke me and wrote him to back off. However he denied that he had ever dealt with me before. The mystery remains unsolved.

Still another prospect expressed strong interest in a buy, but wanted to knock $20,000 off the asking price, which was $110,000. This was not going to happen. A little research on my part turned up the fact that he was in his early twenties and had not established himself in his present occupation until recently. His arguments relating to supposedly similar Mooneys fell flat on my ears.

Finally, my buyer showed up. He settled on the asking price. After the buy he planned to wash and wax the plane, polish the landing light plexiglass covers, and change the landing light to LED. I have fine pictures of him in the cockpit and of him taxiing out for takeoff. My friend George Merriam gave him some instruction and signed him off. I’ve been following him on FlightAware, and see that has put the plane to good use. He recently completed a trip out west to Colorado Springs. Great going, Ryan.

Since selling the plane I’ve received four queries about the availability of the plane, a year later. My reply: it’s sold!

Lawrence Zingesser
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14 replies
  1. Lindsay Petre
    Lindsay Petre says:

    I just sold my 152 after 10 great years of ownership. I guess I was incredibly lucky, the first person to contact me through Facebook actually closed the deal. I did cry as I watched my baby fly off, but I think the buyer is happy with her.

  2. Lawrence Zingesser
    Lawrence Zingesser says:

    Just 3 days ago I received this email.
    “Good morning, i found an old post about you selling your mooney N3663H, did you sell it? Is it still available?”
    Presumably the old post was a Trade-A-Plane ad. or a Mooney Pilots Assn. magazine ad.
    Was he looking for single owner planes?

  3. bruce adornato
    bruce adornato says:

    Great story. I read it to my 95 yo father in law, former glider pilot, who is agonizing about me selling his beloved Fiat 500 and retiring his driving privileges after a parking lot fender bender. He was somewhat assuaged. And he liked the part about falling on the ass. He can identify.

  4. Donny Griffin
    Donny Griffin says:

    God bless you sir, what a lengthy productive life you have had. I have several old flying buddies, Bill Adams being one. Several of them have stayed with flying. The oldest was the Wing Commander at Moody AFB when I was a student, he sold his airplane when he was 92. Another was the last living pilot to fly the ME-163 in WW2 Luftwaffe, he passed last spring.

  5. Bob Hamer
    Bob Hamer says:

    Hi Lawrence,
    I am also the owner of a 1981 Mooney 231. Second owner since 1990. After 31 years I, too, have decided its time to part with my baby. Any advice would be appreciated. Haven’t flown it in quite a few years, but it has been hangared and maintained at the same TX airport the whole time. She just needs a knowledgeable and caring pilot to guide her to her next life. Bob

    • Lawrence Zingesser
      Lawrence Zingesser says:

      Other than what I posted I have little to offer. Obviously luck plays a role, as does having friends who act as a go-between you and the buyer. AOPA offers advice about legal aspects, but I did not choose to go the route with lawyers. Again, I was lucky. Set a fair price. Ignore the tire-kickers. Advertise and take care to emphasize the best features. Both Trade-a-Plane and the MAPA log should be used. The MAPA log is free.

  6. Lawrence Zingesser
    Lawrence Zingesser says:

    One more point. I was advised not to use a broker, and I didn’t although their e-mails keep landing in my in-box.

  7. Robert A Appel
    Robert A Appel says:

    I offered my ’77 201 for sale a year ago. A lot of tire kickers and critics but no serious buyers. I have since added a GFC 500 AP, 2 G5s, new shock discs and a tank strip/reseal at KFXN. If/when I put it up for sale again, the ask will be significantly higher and non-negotiable.

  8. Rich Wilde
    Rich Wilde says:

    The speedbrakes on my M20K Rocket were just great fun. I would descend out of the Flight Levels with the VSI pegged and airspeed ion the green. Then take the speedbrakes off and be in a nice stable approach descent. They had a nice rumble just like heavy iron does with speedbrakes out. I would only do that without passengers because of the pressure change. Great fun!

  9. Lawrence Zingesser
    Lawrence Zingesser says:

    @Rich Wilde
    Using the words “Great fun” forecloses on the possibility of a discussion about the actual utility of speed brakes.


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