Imported from Canada
Have you ever browsed the airplane classifieds in Barnstomers or Trade-a-Plane and came across a plane in Canada that fits your criteria? The natural next question is – how hard and expensive is it to get it into the US. This is the story of how we imported our plane.
I was looking for a 1978 or newer Grumman Tiger, which is a fixed gear, 4 place, 180 horsepower aircraft. The AA5-B, or Tiger has a typical cruise speed of 130kts, and about 1,000lb. useful load which makes it a good compromise of speed, function, and low maintenance costs. I found an ad for one in Barnstormers located in High River, Alberta, which like Colorado has a dry climate. After a couple phone conversations and a review of the logs on Dropbox to confirm no damage history and no significant gaps in usage since the last engine overhaul, I scheduled a visit to High River.
I had the owner fly the plane while I sat right seat and checked systems. I used my iPhone video record all of the log books so I could review them slowly later even though the owner had sent his own file earlier, I found my copy to be more complete. I also recorded the flight instruments during the flight for later review. The Canadians keep an additional log that records all flights for a given plane, which was really helpful in determining if the plane sat for any long periods. The Lycoming 0-360 is a rock-solid engine, but because the camshaft is on the top of the engine, it is more susceptible to corrosion damage if the engine doesn’t get flown regularly.
After a short negotiation and a prebuy inspection in Canada, I used a purchase agreement to lock in the price, timing and contingencies that included a full US annual inspection and the requirement that I could successfully import the aircraft into the US.
Here is an outline of the steps and costs to get the import done:
- Confirm with the FAA office in Kansas City that the plane did have a US airworthiness certificate – in the past, this is a must have or it will add too much cost and kill the deal
- Contact closing/escrow company to facilitate the escrow/payment/title search
- Contact Import/Export company to facilitate customs/border patrol – AD Rutherford
- Seller flew airplane into the US and cleared customer by requesting a temp. import permit
- Seller flew the airplane to Leaders Flying, AP/IA, a fresh US annual is required.
- A US FAA Designated Airworthiness Rep. (DAR), Tom Seaman from St. Cloud, MN inspected the airplane to confirm that it conforms to its type certificate and any mods done in Canada are acceptable in the US
- Before the DAR formally signs off, the plane needs to be deregistered in Canada- you need to be confident the DAR will sign off on the US airworthiness certificate, or if not, which changes he needs to have done to sign off. In my case, he wanted the Loran pulled out, but it easily could have been something major.
- This is the time to bail and get the plane back to Canada if you can’t complete the deal!
- Have the Canadian owner deregister the plane-must be done before you registered it in the US
- I used a closing/escrow/time company Aero-Space Reports to send the money and close on the sale and register the plane with the FAA
- The AP/IA removed the Canadian markings, and added US N number
- The DAR completed the issuance of the US airworthiness certificate
- Contact Import/Export Broker to convert the temp. import to permanent
- Get US insurance and pick the plane up and fly it home!
Costs (2019) specific to Canadian importation
- $617 – Import/Export Broker; AD Rutherford
- $168 – Fees US Customer and Border Patrol
- $3,039 – US Annual Inspection
- $750 – FAA DAR Tom Seamans
- $10 – N Number Reservation
- $225 – Closing/Escrow company (560 total, split 50/50 with seller)
- $4,809 Total
- There are companies that will complete an import for a fee and simplify all these steps- these services are too expensive in my opinion for this value of plane.
- You aren’t required to use an import/export broker, however, I found it nearly impossible to navigate the process of clearing customers without it
- You aren’t required to pay for a DAR; technically the FAA is required to do the inspection at no cost, however, they don’t like to do them and will not get it done in a timely fashion, so you’ll need to hire a DAR.
- Any mods that can’t be verified as acceptable by the DAR will likely need to be changed back to the stock/original configuration. Who installed it? With what paperwork? Etc.
- Canada has a process that allows aircraft to be put into a category where the owner is allowed to do all the mechanical work; I’d recommend staying away from those aircraft as I don’t know how the DAR would navigate those records
- Be prepared for import fees/taxes that are much larger- if the aircraft was not originally manufactured in the US
I think I had about 30 hours of my time into the entire process. I think in the end it was worth the effort. We continue to fly the Tiger in our club- Freedom Flyers and our 5 members. Dave Ries, Ted Rogers, Dave Henriksen, Dave O’Farrell and Grant Soyka.