Piper Flyer recently talked to Dodson International, Preferred Airparts and Wentworth Aircraft to find out what you need to know about airplane parts.
For many pilots, the availability—and the affordability—of replacement parts is a deciding factor in which aircraft they choose to own.
For others, availability isn’t an issue—until they find their plane is down for an unusually long time due to a simple part that’s difficult to locate, or perhaps worse, a common part that’s difficult to locate at a reasonable price.
Define your terms
When an owner-pilot has a need for a part for their airplane, navigating the landscape of parts suppliers and parts classifications can be confusing.
First of all, a yellow tag is somehow better than a green tag when it comes to airplane parts. Also, the term “new old stock” isn’t an oxymoron, it’s an accepted way to describe a manufacturer’s surplus.
What’s more, sellers sometimes use different terms to refer to the same thing, which can make reading a description of an airplane part feel more like an SAT test question to the uninitiated.
In order to help you understand what’s what, our editors have compiled a list of working definitions for the various categories of aircraft parts, which you can find on page 22.
Several companies around the United States have made it their business to evaluate, purchase, inventory, store and distribute surplus and used Piper aircraft parts. Piper Flyer set out to talk to various companies to get some insight about GA airplane parts in today’s market.
Piper Flyer reached out to several companies to provide information for this story; not all were able to respond by our deadline. The three that did, however, are diverse enough to give readers and members a serviceable—if I may—representation of the parts market.
All joking aside, these three companies do have one thing in common: they dismantle an astonishing variety of aircraft that result in a huge number of saleable parts.
“We sell everything you could find on an aircraft, and part just about any make and model,” explained J.R. Dodson, owner of Dodson International Parts, Inc. “This means any part on the aircraft: avionics, engines, props, interiors.”
Dodson International, located in Rantoul, Kan., has over five million in-stock aircraft parts, and in the company’s 32 years of operation it has torn down more than 3,000 aircraft—an average of one plane every four days, for over three decades. New Surplus (NS), Overhauled (OHC) and As Removed (AR) parts are available from Dodson International.
Preferred Airparts has made New Surplus parts its specialty, with over 14 million new parts in stock at its Kidron, Ohio location. “We stock new surplus OEM parts for many aircraft, engines, props and accessories,” explained Dale Miller, marketing manager for Preferred.
The company was founded in 1982 and also stocks used parts, including many yellow-tagged and overhauled parts with 8130s.
Wentworth Aircraft in Crystal, Minn. is the largest volume buyer of aviation insurance company salvage airplanes in the world, reports company co-founder and CEO Steve Wentworth. “The majority of our parts are used,” Wentworth explained, “and we buy 150 to 175 aircraft every year.”
Wentworth Aircraft has purchased over 4,600 airplanes and is entering its 30th year in the aircraft salvage business. At this rate, by the time you read this story, an average of another dozen aircraft will have been delivered to the warehouse.
Speaking of warehouses, all three of these companies utilize them—so please, cast away your visions of mouldering parts in a field in the middle of nowhere (it’s more like a field of roofs in the middle of nowhere).
“All of our parts are stored under roof at Preferred Airparts—everything including fuselages,” explained Miller. “Parts are cleaned and stored in a climate-controlled warehouse as needed.”
Dodson stores its parts in warehouses as well, and the avionics inventory is kept in an anti-corrosive, anti-static, climate-controlled environment. They utilize plugs and desiccant when appropriate.
Parts are kept in hangars at Wentworth Aircraft, too, so there’s zero exposure to Minnesota weather. “Even our stock of over 450 wings are all inside,” Wentworth explained. Smaller parts—instruments and switches, avionics and landing gear—are kept in climate-controlled buildings.
In whole, or in part?
Dodson, Preferred and Wentworth get their aircraft parts in a variety of ways, but each relies on some major sources.
For example, Dodson buys from aviation companies worldwide. “These companies have parts available for a myriad of reasons, including new surplus, closeouts, liquidation and incident-related. Non-incident aircraft sometimes fly in to be parted,” said Dodson.
Preferred Airparts mainly gets parts from people who have overstock, companies going out of business and insurance companies, according to Dale Miller.
Wentworth Aircraft almost exclusively buys whole airplanes from insurance companies. “Most of the airplanes we part out are in current calendar annual, or just out of annual, so the undamaged components are airworthy and have recently been
flying,” Wentworth explained.
The Mark I eyeball
A thorough visual inspection and the inspector’s experience are key for evaluating used parts, and Dodson, Preferred and Wentworth all perform these checks in-house before a used part is placed in inventory.
“The two best inspection tools are the eyes of an experienced inspector,” Steve Wentworth told me. This method works well for items like a gear leg, but the company also has a magneto test stand and other specialized equipment.
Dodson employs A&P mechanics, IAs, commercial pilots and other FAA licensed personnel to advise and support its customers. Preferred Airparts’ staff includes 10 A&Ps by my count of the directory included on the company website.
All three companies work with outside repair stations for any used parts that may be tagged, like avionics and accessories.
Storing so many millions of parts requires a good organization system. “All parts are properly identified by part number, trace and condition before they are put on the shelf,” Dodson explained. “Before a part is shipped, it is checked by the parts picker, salesmen and shipping for part number, serial number and condition.”
Preferred Airparts also exercises meticulous inventory control, and because the company sells out of its own stock, customers deal direct rather than going through a parts broker. More than 90 percent of the time, a part in-stock at Preferred can be shipped the same day.
Wentworth Aircraft’s inventory system groups parts by similar types, while identifying each part by the aircraft it was removed from. “With so many parts to choose from, this allows our parts pullers to seek out the very best of several available parts,” Wentworth explained.
But what about my plane?
Let’s assume you’re in the market for something for your Piper. If you were asking my advice, I’d tell you that all of these companies are definitely worth a try.
If you’re looking for a new surplus part for your Piper, Preferred Airparts stocks more than 20,000 part numbers, according to its website. Several acquisitions have expanded the scope of parts to include Piper Mirage/Malibu.
For the Cherokee line, Wentworth can be a great place to check for used parts. “We are a leader in Piper Cherokee parts, from 140 through Arrow and Archer, to the Six and Lance,” Wentworth said. “We have most anything for these airplanes, including parts the factory can’t or won’t sell you. We also regularly part out Senecas, both single and Twin Comanches, and the occasional Tri-Pacer as well.”
Dodson, too, has a large inventory of Piper parts. “We part everything from Tomahawk to Cheyenne, and have parts from 1953 aircraft on up,” Dodson told me. “Piper aircraft as new as 2014 have been parted.” A check of the online inventory of Piper aircraft yielded results for parts from 285 discrete planes at Dodson International.
What if it’s wrong?
Yes, you can send it back. “Sometimes a part doesn’t fit, or is not what the customer expected. We offer a 30-day, money-back guarantee for those circumstances,” Wentworth said.
Parts from Dodson are guaranteed for 30 days, and Preferred will replace any defective or mismarked part with an acceptable part if notified within 30 days of sale. (For further detail on return policies, circumstances and any exceptions, check with company representatives. —Ed.)
For Preferred Airparts, rejecting new surplus parts isn’t a common occurrence.
But when you’re dealing mainly with used parts, it’s a must to ensure the integrity of your inventory. “Any rejected parts are mutilated and scrapped,” Dodson explained.
Wentworth added, “We recycle bad or damaged parts at the rate of two or three trailer loads a week—so you may be drinking your soda out of a can made of a damaged Cherokee wing!”
Online inventory, RFQs… or just contact PFA!
If you are looking for a specific part, contact these companies directly to inquire about availability and receive a quote.
You can also contact us at the Piper Flyer Association to make use of the parts locating service. This convenient benefit is included with your membership, will definitely save you time and may even save you a little money, too.
Dodson International Parts, Inc.
Preferred Airparts, LLC
Wentworth Aircraft, Inc.