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Exposed: Is this Australia’s dodgiest used plane dealer?

written by Jake Nelson | April 1, 2024

Used plane dealer Donnell “Honest Don” McDouglas with an aircraft he claimed was a “Boeing 737 Mini”.

Australian Aviation has uncovered dishonest sales tactics at a Sydney used-plane dealership in an exclusive hidden-camera investigation.

Honest Don’s Quality Used Planes, owned by dealer Donnell “Honest Don” McDouglas, has been in business in the Sydney suburb of Swindleham since the late 2000s and has a pattern of selling shoddy planes through blatantly deceptive and misleading behaviour, Australian Aviation can reveal.

One customer, who wished to remain anonymous, told Australian Aviation that McDouglas had deliberately misled them about the aircraft they were buying.

“We were just getting started and looking for our first plane, and he sold us what he said was a ‘Boeing 738’, which is ‘like a 737 but one better’,” the buyer said.

“Of course, you work for Australian Aviation so you can probably correctly identify any plane on sight, but we had no idea. It turned out he’d sold us a cheap knockoff called the ‘Boring 738’, which is apparently notorious for safety issues and disconcerting carpet odours.”


According to the buyer, McDouglas had used numerous underhanded methods to deliberately obfuscate the plane’s mechanical defects.

“He’d tampered with the plane’s odometer to make it look like it had flown way less than it actually had. I hadn’t even been aware that planes had odometers,” the buyer said.

“We hired a mechanic who found critical panels had been attached with super glue and duct tape, the flight systems were running on pirated Soviet-era software, there was a family of voles nesting in one of the pitot tubes, and one of the engines had its fan installed backwards.

“It was almost as bad as if the plane really had been made by Boeing.”

As part of an investigation, an Australian Aviation journalist went undercover, posing as a buyer from a small startup airline looking for a first plane.

The reporter’s hidden-camera footage captured McDouglas repeatedly attempting to deceive them about the planes he showed, including what was clearly an Ilyushin Il-62 presented as a “demonstrator-model Airbus A360”, a 747-400 with CRJ200 engines bolted on “for fuel efficiency”, a CRJ200 with 747-400 engines bolted on “to make it go faster”, and a plane of unknown make identified on the fuselage as a “Saaab 430”.

“This one is a real beauty. Practically no kilometres at all on the clock, it was owned by a little old regional carrier that used to fly it down to Canberra and back every Sunday,” McDouglas told the reporter as he displayed the “Saaab”.

“To be honest, mate, we’ve sold this one already, but for the right price we can let it go to you instead, because I know you’re not gonna accept anything less than the best.”

When contacted later, McDouglas refused to comment, instead accusing Australian Aviation in an expletive-laden email of “spreading fake news” and “clickbait”, and threatening legal action.

Avril Fou, of international regulator the Global Official Taskforce for Candor and Honesty in Aviation (GOTCHA), said dishonest used-plane dealerships are “shockingly widespread”.

“This goes beyond simply a new coat of paint, or spraying down old planes with new-plane smell,” she told Australian Aviation.

“There can be serious safety concerns when buying a plane from brokers like this, and GOTCHA is urging operators not to take anything at face value, especially if it seems too good to be true.

“This particularly applies for online-only dealerships advertising Easter sales – you definitely shouldn’t believe any old thing you read on the Internet at this time of year.”

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