Gauging today's complex market

Business Jet Traveler » April 2011
Friday, April 1, 2011 - 5:00am

Whether it's a buyers' or sellers' market really depends on what model aircraft you're talking about. Across-the-board price cuts for preowned jets continue to lure back buyers, but their tastes have been particular, pushing some model types to their lowest inventory levels in a couple of years while others remain highly available.

Certainly, we're seeing a gradual thinning of the ranks among some model types, as evidenced by peak-to-present inventory statistics for the last 24 months. Consider the GIV-SP (number of available aircraft down from 39 to 19), the Lear 60 (down from 80 to 49) and the Falcon 50EX (down from 21 to 13).

Given these examples, you might expect pricing to edge higher, but that hasn't occurred, which suggests that inventory may decline further. You might also expect buyer enthusiasm to penetrate all aircraft models comparable to those mentioned above and maybe it will, but for now that isn't the case. Witness the Falcon 900B: about 30 remain available-almost the number that were for sale when inventory peaked in 2009. Consider, also, the venerable Hawker 800XP. Despite its viability, inventory has continued to climb year after year and is now at an all-time high of 74, or just below 20 percent of the 800XPs built.

Overall inventory of preowned jets has been declining for 18 months, however, and this trend seems likely to continue. The typically active period from December to January showed a strong move lower, and brokers, dealers, bankers and escrow companies all reported a high level of activity during the period.

The fleet of available preowned aircraft is far from picked over and excellent examples of many model types remain on the market at very low prices, which should continue to spur sales. Traditionally, activity is particularly brisk during the second quarter of the year and with so many deals ripe for the picking it would not be surprising to see even more action than usual.

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“When you get into the larger aircraft it becomes like a hotel, with dozens of staff supporting the plane based in a galley area down below. You have very comprehensive cooking facilities, and on larger aircraft we have looked at theatres, with spiral staircases and a Steinway grand piano. The limitations for what you can put inside a plane are pretty much the limits of physics, and even money cannot always overcome that. Even so, people are still always trying to push [the limits]. ”

-Howard Guy of Design Q, a UK-based consultancy