Sell now only if you must

By not defending the attributes of corporate aviation, the not-so-big three Detroit automakers dealt a blow to executive travel and corporate flight departments. They did further damage during their subsequent road trip to Capitol Hill, which came across as an admission of guilt. [See 'Defending your Jet']

The extent of the negative effect of the automakers' flights on the preowned aircraft market is hard to measure, as the trips occurred amid a backdrop of an ever-growing fleet of used jets. Certainly, the publicity generated by the Detroit CEOs' private jet travel caused many flight departments to revisit the visibility aspects of owning and operating aircraft and to at least consider placing theirs on the market.

The last time this occurred was post-9/11, but then the motive was to be politically correct more than anything else. Companies were able to say, "Yes, our aircraft is for sale," in an effort to appease stockholders or employees. Yet it was questionable how many of those aircraft could be bought. After some time had passed, companies removed many of these airplanes from the market and promoted their use for both personal and company security reasons.

As for the situation today and your own aircraft, my advice is to sell now only if you must. The used jet supply stands at unprecedented levels, aircraft prices have cratered, credit markets have tightened and the dollar has strengthened. All of these developments argue for sitting tight unless you absolutely need to sell.

A final thought: Just think how different the situation might have been today if Chrysler hadn't sold Gulfstream in the mid-1980s for an amount that would now buy you roughly 16 G550s! I can imagine the automakers arriving for that second meeting in the capital:"Washington National tower, permission to buzz the Capitol building." "Negative, Mr. Iacocca, the pattern is full..."

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