Since late May, I have been scouring three web sites, waiting for the Piper Cherokee 235 of my dreams to appear. I search Trade-a-Plane, ASO and Controller, with a tab set up in my Firefox browser so I can open all three at one time and go straight to their 235 listings:
And since May – with a couple of exceptions – there have been basically the same collection of available birds. I know them all well. There's the one that the NTSB says suffered "substantial damage" in a crop dusting accident in South Dakota (who the hell dusts crops in a Cherokee anyway?), and the one in SoCal with zero time on the engine, perfect paint and interior that commands a high asking price, but without a GPS or autopilot. Then there's the one with the custom wood panel, which looks pretty but has the steam gauges positioned in a wild, non-standard panel that would make the FAA Examiner on my IFR check ride cringe.Week after week, the same planes sit...and sit...and sit. Once in a while, one leaves the listings, only to reappear a week later a little cheaper after a deal falls through. As my pre-determined date of "September" for a purchase nears – and without any real "lookers" in the listings with the right combination of low engine, good GPS and altitude hold A/P – it became apparent that we needed a more direct means of making this plane appear.
I cannot take credit for the plan that was devised. My wife Julie – who is easily the wisest person I know – calmly said I should search the online FAA database for 235 owners in Oregon and Washington, send them personal letters and tell them I may want to buy their plane if it fits my mission profile. Jules comes up with lots of ideas every day, and this was a good one.
So I authored a nice personal letter, ran the search and found 51 owners in WA and OR. After dropping a few dimes on "Forever" stamps, I sent the letters out, hoping for the best. Since we're in the advertising business, I know a one percent return on direct mail is about all that can be expected, so just one call would have been awesome.
I got six...so far...five calls on Tuesday alone!
This "power of the pen" strategy produced a handful of very nice prospects. One, in fact, looks to be "the one", with a 75-hour engine, Garmin 430, S-Tec 50 GPSS autopilot, digital fuel flow and EGT, 8/8 P & I, and a long, long list of upgrades and replaced components...all at a price that I think is fair to me and the owner. I haven't seen pictures yet, but unless this one is a complete dog, I feel like it's our next plane.