Africa’s Top-Selling Private Aircraft so Far in 2024

From jets to turboprops and helicopters, Felipe Reisch spoke to industry leaders in Africa about which models are generating the most interest so far in 2024, and what’s impacting the marketplace across the continent…

Felipe Reisch  |  07th May 2024
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    Felipe Reisch
    Felipe Reisch

    Felipe Reisch works as a public relations consultant for private aviation companies worldwide, leading...

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    Turboprops are king in Africa with Cessna's Caravan particularly hot


    The African private aircraft market is defined by the diversity of operations that require General Aviation aircraft, and the vast area of the continent, the variety of the landscape, and the lack of efficient infrastructure to connect or access many areas of the region.

    From serving as executive transportation, to utilization in the oil and gas industry, to search, rescue, and reconnaissance missions, different models are sought by different types of owners and operators.

    Likewise, the political and social stability of regions also plays a role, with conflict zones demanding a specific type of aircraft to countermeasure potential turmoil.

    Turboprop Aircraft Remain King in Africa

    Turboprop aircraft continue to be the most popular in the initial stages of 2024, with no model proving more popular than the Cessna Grand Caravan right now.

    “You will find them in almost every African country, operating for charter companies, cargo carriers, humanitarian operations, and everyone in between,” Matthew van Zyl, Head of Sales at Next Aviation highlights.

    “The Beechcraft King Air 200, similarly, has a queue of buyers throughout Africa,” though he adds there is a lack of quality examples available for sale at reasonable prices, currently.

    Sizwe Buthelezi, Director of Sales and Marketing for Absolute Aviation, agrees, adding that there has seen a real surge in demand for the Cessna 208 Caravan, or as some call it, the ‘Baby Van’.

    “Its popularity has seen a real increase in private owners who would have previously looked at buying aircraft such as the Cessna 206, but have now taken the step up to turboprop aircraft.”

    In certain cases, prospective clients are unwilling to wait on extended factory back orders, so they’re turning to pre-owned for more immediate options, according to Pascal Wyss, Director of Sales, and Marketing at the Pilatus PC-12 Centre Southern Africa.

    The Pilatus PC-12 Centre Southern Africa is scheduled to deliver four new PC-12 NGXs within the next 12 months, as well as one Pilatus PC-24 jet, while there have been a few pre-owned PC-12 transactions on the continent in recent months, too.

    Diverse Demand for Private Jets in Africa

    In the private jet market, David Howarth, Aircraft Sales Executive at Aviation X says that Entry-Level Jets remain a popular choice, with other favoured models including the Hawker 125 series, Embraer’s Phenom and Legacy models, as well as Dassault’s Falcon 50, 900, 7X and 2000.

    “Bombardier’s Challenger and Global series are also in demand, demonstrating the market’s diverse needs from smaller, cost-efficient jets to larger, long-range aircraft.”

    In fact, Absolute Aviation has seen a rise in charter requests for Light to Mid-Size Jets from Southern Africa into Central Africa, with consistent demand specifically for 8- to 9-seat aircraft.

    “These jets are well-suited for routes like – but not limited to – Johannesburg to Kinshasa [Democratic Republic of the Congo], and as business relationships across Africa continue to develop, with companies increasingly trading outside their borders, the need for such jets will steadily rise,” Buthelezi states.

    What Role do Helicopters Play in Africa?

    Helicopters play many roles in the African region including law enforcement, counter-drug, border control, air ambulance, search and rescue, tourism, reconnaissance, military and more.

    Conflicts around the world impact the marketplace on an ongoing basis, according to Stephen Suttles, Senior Director of Sales for MD Helicopters in the Middle East. “We see a steady interest in our aircraft [from Africa] but when conflicts arise, the acquisitions become more specific and urgent.”

    Aside from conflict-driven demand, however, other long-established ‘workhorses’ in the African market include the Bell 206 JetRanger and the Bell 407, both of which have been running a variety of missions for years.

    “The short, light single-engine helicopter is now in South Africa, Kenya, Angola, Ethiopia, and Uganda, alongside its 206 counterparts,” shares Lynette Loosen, Regional Sales Manager for Bell in Africa.

    And the critical need for platforms in emergency medical services, flood relief, anti-poaching efforts, security and surveillance, and other essential services drives the demand for models like the Bell 505, 407 and 412.

    The Bell 429, a twin-engine helicopter and successor of the Bell 427, has also been making its way in the African market, with two privately owned and operated in South Africa, another for corporate transportation in Kenya and one, most recently, in Cameroon, undertaking offshore oil and gas work.

    Outlook for Private Aircraft Demand in Africa

    As is abundantly clear, aircraft are a very important tool to African businesses, connecting bases and people – something that is very time-consuming (if not close to impossible using regular means of travel). Poor road and transport infrastructure throughout Africa, along with limited destinations serviced by the airlines, helps Business Aviation’s position in the continent.

    Van Zyl does not foresee a large reduction in demand in the short term, since the gulf between supply and demand is so large that the balance between the two will take some time to equalise.

    “The need for turboprops and helicopters in the African context will not diminish,” he summarizes. “What remains to be seen is how quickly the low supply of both aircraft and parts will return to normal levels.”

    In the jet realm, sales are expected to increase across all jet categories, with a particular emphasis on types in the Super Mid-Size and Long Range Jet categories, Howarth predicts.

    “However, factors such as potential economic fluctuations and increasing competition from expanding commercial airline routes could influence market growth.”

    Wyss anticipates turboprops to remain king on the continent for some time to come due to their versatility and typically lower acquisition and operating costs.

    “Potential buyers with business requirements over a more regional and continental footprint will turn to jet aircraft to service their travel requirements over longer sectors,” he concludes.

    More information from:

    Absolute Aviation: https://absoluteaviation.co.za

    Aviation X: https://aviationx.co.za

    Bell Helicopter: www.bellflight.com

    MD Helicopters: www.mdhelicopters.com

    Next Aviation: https://nextaviation.co.za

    Pilatus Centre Southern Africa: www.pilatuscentre.co.za


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