Delivery lead time on new models (possibly two or more years) often forces a buyer to consider a pre-owned aircraft, either as a stop-gap or simply to gain experience of ownership while considering in depth his or her true requirements and hence best option for future purchase. Other owners do not wish to take the risks associated with introducing a new or unproven type and don’t wish to be among the first owning a new model. For others, budget dictates that they buy ‘the best aircraft for the dollar’, probably focusing attention on high quality pre-owned machines.
At any one time, typically some 10 to 12% of the world’s business jets are on the market, some representing exceptional value and some not.
Many types and models are no longer in production and may appear to the layman to be of a somewhat old design or manufacture. Generally, however, and in compliance with stringent legal requirements, aircraft are maintained to an ‘as new’ condition, with all major components, including engines, regularly overhauled within governed lives and re-certified to new tolerances. Aircraft are initially designed by their respective manufacturers and certified by the leading national aviation authorities with a design life equivalent to a given number of flight hours and, separately, a given number of flight cycles, only being retired upon achieving one or other of these limits. They are regularly inspected in accordance with schedules approved by both the manufacturer and the regulatory body responsible, at both agreed flight hour multiples and calendar intervals.
In considering a purchase, both new and pre-owned options need to be fully considered.
The International Factor
Many business jet types are of North American design and were originally certified to United States FAR criteria. Certain types and some early examples of popular types may require extensive and often expensive modification to meet European EASA or other non-US national airworthiness requirements.
Depending on the individual aircraft type, model and build standard, typical modifications can include, for example, the required strengthening of certain primary structures, re-enforced wing leading edges, windscreen replacements and electrical system changes to meet EASA standards.
The age, serial number, build standard, design approvals, and subsequent modification status of an individual aircraft may be factors in determining the downtime, work and cost required to first import the aircraft on to a European or other register. The introduction or re-introduction of certain noisier aircraft types is now prohibited.
Preliminary Desktop Research
Desktop research will identify new and pre-owned candidate aircraft across the world; industry databases recording every aircraft built, serial numbers, registrations and recorded owners and/or operators.
Certain aircraft will be eliminated from further consideration due to known adverse history, such as prior damage, known past corrosion problems, poor operating environment or perhaps known ownership or title disputes.
Experts such as AIR FLEET can move through the market without causing ‘ripples’, in particular without alerting dealers to an active buyer potentially prepared to pay too high a price. The better aircraft and better values can be identified quickly, allowing the buyer to efficiently home in and negotiate on the best deals.
In the case of new aircraft acquisition, it should be noted that a number of aircraft are traded by buyers, certainly some of whom are speculators, prior to final delivery from the manufacturer, releasing brand new aircraft with the benefits of immediate delivery and to an extent historic pricing. In some cases, final avionics and interior furnishings selection can still be made. The manufacturers have no interest in identifying or offering these aircraft to new customers as they have already been sold and their interest is in selling additional units. The expert knows of these aircraft and can often allow a buyer to undercut the manufacturer on both delivery date and pricing.