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Buying Helicopter Parts on the Aftermarket

Owning, operating, or maintaining a legacy helicopter can be an expensive venture. With high list prices and long lead times from OEMs on replacement parts, many wonder if they are getting the best deal for maintaining their aircraft. The aftermarket can be a great place to look for replacement parts and accessories.

The best place to begin your search is on one of the many aviation parts listing services (ILS, PartsBase, Partslogistics, or On these websites, you can search the part number you are looking for and see vendors that have the item in stock. With just a few clicks, you can send vendors a request for quote. There are 2 basic types of listing services, paid and free use. While the paid services have a cost associated with getting access to their database, the inventory listed here is often verified by the listing service. This means that a company listing a part most likely has that part available to ship. The free services sometimes suffer from “Ghost Listings.” Some companies will post a list of parts that they will source out for a customer once they get the request. This can cause several companies to make the same request you did to locate the part. This may make vendors less likely to negotiate a better price for you due to the increase activity. Free listing services are acceptable to use as long as you don’t automatically send that RFQ to all vendors. It’s best to pick the ones you recognize as a stocking distributor.

Once you start receiving quotes, it is tempting to sort by price, and place your order with the lowest vendor. You need to consider a few things before proceeding. What documents does the part come with and will they be acceptable to my organization? What is their lead time on shipping the part out? What is their return policy?

Pricing in the aftermarket is determined by several factors. It is often based on a percentage discount off the last manufactures listed price. From there, supply and demand, sales history, and condition of the part being quoted can all effect vendor pricing. Most companies that specialize in the sale of aftermarket inventory, want to sell you the part at a fair price. Items that are quoted outside of market value are often done so because the vendor does not have data on the current market value. Sometimes, if you share your findings with your vendor you may be able to negotiate a better price.

Documentation provided with parts on the aftermarket can vary greatly! Be sure to know what your company requires versus what the vendor can provide. Extensive details provided on the quote can often be a sign if that vendor truly has the part in their inventory. Details should include the type of tag or certification, including dates, that will come with the part. Some suppliers in the industry will also send photos of the part and copies of the tags along with the quote to help you make an informed decision. Keep in mind, if the vendor does not mention a tag your company requires, they probably cannot supply it.

The quote should also include the lead time for the vendor to ship the part. If it is anything other than stock, you might not be getting the best deal on your part. Look for suppliers that have the part in their own warehouse and can ship the same day.

While most vendors try to give you a clear picture of the part they have to offer, sometime the item you receive will not work for your company. It is important to understand the return polity of your vendor, before you send in that purchase order. Most companies selling parts on the aftermarket are understanding of these situations and will allow items to be returned. Just make sure you are aware of any fees associated with the return and look for companies that allow returns for a full refund of the part price.

Purchasing spare parts on the aftermarket can be a huge savings for your company. As the buyer, it is important to know what your company needs, and what your vendor can supply. Look to purchase from vendors that have a reputation of being fair and trustworthy.

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