Top Value Piston Aircraft to Buy in Africa Today

Piston aircraft entice a much more price-sensitive buyer demographic than those exploring turboprops and jets. Local experts share with Felipe Reisch what constitutes value in the African piston aircraft market today.

Felipe Reisch  |  04th June 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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    What is Africa's most popular piston aircraft


    Piston aircraft can play a key role in Business Aviation, especially in less developed economies that suffer from inconsistencies in their transportation network.

    Versatile, cheaper to operate, and easier to accommodate on any airport apron, in Africa specifically piston aircraft enable easy access to remote airfields while serving the tourism and business industries, and even providing surveillance capabilities in wildlife areas.

    Who buys piston aircraft in Africa? Agnes Phillips, General Manager of Aircraft Sales for National Airways Corporation (NAC), shares that buyers are frequently new entrants into the market, often owner pilots with a vastly different mission profile to that of a turbine or jet buyer.

    “Such buyers are usually driven by budget, their flying experience or flight hours,” Phillips says.

    While turboprop and jet buyers usually need more range and speed, Stephen Jones, Group President & COO for Krimson Aviation, showcases that piston aircraft buyers typically seek cost-effective solutions for short-range trips, like recreational flying, short-distance transportation, flight training, or light cargo operations.

    “They are cheaper to buy and run, use less fuel, and can operate from shorter, sometimes unpaved runways, making them ideal for reaching remote areas.”

    When choosing between a piston aircraft, turboprop, or jet in Africa, it comes down to what the buyer needs and their specific mission – a notion that is applicable to the Business Aviation industry globally.

    Piston Aircraft: What Constitutes Value-for-Money in Africa?

    Essentially, the definition of a ‘value-for-money package’ varies depending on the owner’s specific needs and requirements for their aircraft. However, some general factors contribute to their overall value to buyers.

    For instance, consideration of the engine’s 12-year overhaul rule – with more authorities enforcing manufacturer recommendations – has become a crucial factor, Justin van Tonder, Director of Aircraft Sales for Absolute Aviation highlights.

    “The rule of thumb is that 80% of an aircraft’s value lies in its engines, as their condition and year of manufacture significantly impact resale value and maintenance costs.”

    Moreover, reliability and durability are essential, given Africa’s unique geography. The aircraft must be able to handle harsh climates and remote locations, with limited maintenance support availability. A robust aircraft that can withstand these conditions is invaluable.

    Resale value and market reputation matter too, adds Jones, as aircraft from reputable brands with strong resale values provide assurance of a good investment.

    “Finally, customization and flexibility are appreciated qualities in the region. The ability to tailor an aircraft to specific needs, through interior configurations, paint schemes, or additional equipment adds significant value,” Jones notes.

    Which Models Offer the Most Value?

    Several piston aircraft models stand out for providing exceptional value to the African market due to their reliability, adaptability, low operating costs, comprehensive support, safety features, resale value, and customization options.

    For van Tonder, some popular aircraft in the single-engine piston market are the Cessna 206, 210, 182, Beechcraft Bonanza series, and Cirrus SR22. In the multi-engine piston market, the Cessna 400 series, Beechcraft Baron 58P, and Piper Navajo and Chieftain models remain popular.

    “These choices are driven by the cost of upgrading to larger turbine fleets compared to the continued effectiveness and affordability of running avgas-powered piston engines,” van Tonder explains.

    Along the same lines, Jones specifies that the most notable model [in his opinion] is the Cessna 172. “This aircraft offers a blend of performance, comfort, and safety features. It is particularly valued for its speed, range, and modern avionics systems, making it suitable for long-distance travel and executive transport.”

    Pistons also play a crucial role in training schools, with the Piper 100 leading the way today in that regard, according to Phillips. “The more discerning buyers, utilizing their machines for their families or businesses, enjoy the Piper M-series aircraft, the Piper Matrix, and the Piper Mirage (now the M350).”

    The Diamond Aircraft models are also a popular option for African buyers, according to Jones. “The DA40 is favored for flight training and recreational flying, while the twin-engine DA42 offers enhanced performance and range, suitable for business travel and surveillance missions.”

    Main Piston Aircraft Users in Africa

    Across Africa, the primary users of piston aircraft are a mix of private owners and commercial flight operations, with commercial operators primarily serving the growing tourist industry in various African regions.

    Phillips puts things into perspective, noting that very few users in Africa are able to afford a new aircraft, especially the flight schools that operate on extremely tight budgets.

    “Unpaved runways are commonplace in rural Africa, with many farmers and owners of game lodges utilizing aircraft to move themselves or their guests around in less accessible areas [while] supplies are flown in too.”

    Yet their versatility doesn’t go unnoticed among the other potential buyer types. “Piston aircraft are particularly suitable where avgas is readily available, passenger requirements per flight are typically five or less, and piston maintenance facilities are easily accessible,” suggests van Tonder.

    Private owners – be they individuals, corporations, or private organizations – use piston aircraft for business travel and leisure flights.

    And in addition to the flight training schools the agricultural sector is another major user, as hinted at previously. Agricultural owner/operators put piston aircraft to work for crop dusting, aerial spraying, and keeping an eye on vast stretches of farmland.

    Charter companies are also big users, Jones reveals. “They operate piston aircraft for all sorts of adventures, like tourist flights and aerial safaris, as well as practical transportation to remote destinations where road access or commercial flights just aren't available.”

    Moreover, conservation groups and government agencies use piston aircraft to conduct wildlife surveys, patrol against poachers, and transport teams and equipment to remote conservation areas.

    Very much like turboprops, piston aircraft are Africa’s air workhorses, enabling users to reach almost any destination safely, and with low operating costs.

    While several factors influence an owner’s decision to purchase a piston aircraft, before evaluating options it is useful to consider what the mission requirements are, or what will be the main use.

    Piston aircraft buyers tend to be owner-operators who fly with 3-4 passengers on shorter routes, generally accumulating less than 150 hours annually, summarizes van Tonder. But what is undoubtable is that the types of usage varies widely in Africa.

    “They might need the aircraft to save time, such as attending business meetings in different towns around their base, or for leisure activities like a quick breakfast trip or a weekend getaway with the family,” Van Tonder concludes.

    Regardless, if you fit the owner-operator profile outlined, there’s probably a piston aircraft more-than capable of doing the job for you.

    Read similar articles about African aviation on AvBuyer

    More information from:
    Absolute Aviation: https://absoluteaviation.co.za
    Krimson Aviation: https://krimson.aero
    National Airways Corporation: www.nac.co.za


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