My father had a major stroke and I’m having to sell off his assets to fund his healthcare. One of the assets is a 1975 Cherokee Archer Piper PA-28-181. Unfortunately, I can’t find his logs/maintenance records. It’s quite frustrating because he was meticulous about keeping records. The plane hasn’t been in the air in 8+ years. It’s always been hangared. He overhauled the Lycoming engine 15 years ago but didn’t fly much after that. Maybe 100-200 hours max. I know there is zero proof of anything without logs. With that said, is there a way to sell it?

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    $\begingroup$ Could you let us know where in the world you're based. GdD has given a great answer but focuses on the US. If you're in a different jurisdiction the same general advice applies but with different agencies/organisations. $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Commented Feb 6 at 8:46
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    $\begingroup$ Lordy, I didn't think to ask @Jamiec! $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Commented Feb 6 at 10:41
  • $\begingroup$ I realise that planes are significantly different to cars, but can't you arrange to a have 'full service' done? You may not have that history, but don't flyers really just want a plane that works and has been serviced correctly? Isn't there a way to do that, without the logs? $\endgroup$
    – Neil
    Commented Feb 6 at 12:19
  • $\begingroup$ To make sure: absolutely no logs are availlable? Flight hours, service/maintenance? $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Commented Feb 6 at 12:33
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    $\begingroup$ @Neil Pilots are extremely safety conscious for a reason, their lives depend on the correct working of the aircraft. Not knowing when or if the engine has been correctly maintained has direct potentially catastrophic consequences for you operation. In a car you simply pull over, but in an aircraft, you might crash! Additionally, you also might not be able to legally fly you aircraft anymore. A service of the engine alone will costs upwards of 20k$. Therefore yes, logs are important! $\endgroup$
    – U_flow
    Commented Feb 6 at 13:03

2 Answers 2


It's definitely worth getting the records figured out, it will make a huge difference to the price and bring many more buyers. Fortunately all is not lost. Maintenance organizations keep records of their work, it's required by regulation for certified airplanes, how long depends on the work done. Some records must be kept for the life of the aircraft or engine. The FAA holds records as well.

Firstly I would ask around the airfield, talk to people and find out what they know. Pilots often love to talk to other pilots as they share the same disease, and owners like to compare notes on maintenance organizations, so you may find a long-time pilot who remembers some details.

Next is to find the maintenance organization which worked on the airplane, and ask them for help. I'd start at the local FBOs, that is fixed base operators at airports that provide maintenance and support services. If you have one or two at the airport that the airplane is based at that would be the place to start, otherwise look at the closest airports that have FBOs as it's unlikely your father went far.

You need to track down what company did the engine overhaul, showing the provenance could double the value of the airplane. There's only so many shops that do a full overhaul, and they have to keep records as well. The maintenance organization again should be able to tell you, or at least narrow it down.

At the same time you can make a records request to the FAA, you could also call your local FAA field office and ask for help. I'm not a legal expert, I suspect as you are not the aircraft's legal owner you'll need to show power of attorney. You waste nothing by trying, it's what they're for. You can also get a replacement registration and other documents.

Before you start it would help you to find the airplane's airframe number and other information from the airplane's data plate, if I remember it's on the airframe down by the pilot's left thigh, which would be in front of the seat on the left side, riveted to the fuselage.

Other countries work similarly, with requirements for maintenance companies to keep records, so I would still approach this the same way, just change FAA to the civil aviation administration/authority of the country the airplane is registered to.

It will likely be a bit of legwork but an investment time and a small amount of money could get you where you need to be. Good hunting!


Logs aren't required to sell it. Just put out an ad saying what you know about it. The sale price will be significantly less, but besides finding the logs there's nothing you can do about that.

Whatever information you can collect will help. You can ask the FAA for records of major alterations and repairs (337 forms), which will include some information like the total airframe time at the time of the repair. If you can track down the mechanics who actually did the work you may be able to get information from them as well.

But you're ultimately still selling an airplane without most of the logs, and one that has been sitting unused for a long time. Either you or the new owner will need to sink a significant amount of time and/or money to make it legal and safe to fly again.

You could get it inspected yourself and get it into airworthy condition before selling it. But this would involve time and money. Potentially a lot of both. It would be all to easy to end up in the red, so I don't recommend this if you need the money.

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    $\begingroup$ Well this wasn't very helpful. An aircraft with no documentation might have the scrap value of the metal or less... $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Commented Feb 6 at 12:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Jpe61 Aircraft get sold without logs all the time. It decreases the sale value to be sure, but not nearly to scrap metal level. All it needs is a new annual inspection (which it would need anyway), along with confirmation that all ADs have been complied with (which is going to be more work without previous records). $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Commented Feb 6 at 15:41
  • $\begingroup$ That would be very different if (as I understood the question when I read it) if there were zero logs availlable. It would be difficult to track total hours, overhauls, maintenance etc. That's something that can't be shrug off by simple inspection. $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Commented Feb 6 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ @Jpe61 Any ADs that are required to be done every x hours will need to be done immediately. One time ADs may or may not need to be done again depending on the AD. Obviously any new ADs since it was last flown will need to be taken care of. TBOs are advisory to begin with so not knowing exactly how many hours are on the engine is not as big a deal as it might seem. If it's been mostly sitting for 15 years it's likely to need an overhaul before TBO anyway. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Commented Feb 6 at 18:10

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