Understanding Southern Africa’s Turboprop Market

What makes turboprops ideal for so many of Southern Africa’s aircraft buyers, and which models are especially popular in today’s market? Matt Harris asks Ascend Aviation’s Marlo Kruyswijk for insights…

Matt Harris  |  29th March 2023
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    Matt Harris
    Matt Harris

    Matt Harris is Commissioning Editor for AvBuyer. He is an experienced General and Business Aviation...

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    A Cessna Caravan turboprop in Africa

    Filling the gap between higher altitude, higher speed private jets and lower-flying piston aircraft, today’s turboprops are popular across a spectrum of different aircraft users in Southern Africa.

    Most of today’s current production turboprop models are single-engine aircraft (produced by Cessna, Daher, Epic, Piper and Pilatus), while Beechcraft dominates the twin-engine market with its King Air 260 and 360 models.

    Today, buyers of factory-new turboprops can expect to pay approximately $2.3m for a single-engine model at the lighter end of the market, up to almost $9m for a high-end twin-engine model. Nevertheless, numerous pre-owned aircraft are available for less with a wide range of prices driven by a variety of different factors, including the total time on the engines and airframe, year of manufacture, maintenance condition/history, upgrades and modifications that have been undertaken, and more.

    According to Marlo Kruyswijk (pictured left), Sales Executive at South Africa-based Ascend Aviation, there are pros and cons to be considered when deciding whether a turboprop is the right aircraft for your needs.

    An Aviation & Aerospace Awards 2023 winner, Ascend Aviation is one of Africa’s leading aircraft sales companies offering its clients bespoke service when purchasing an aircraft.

    “On the plus side, turboprop aircraft excel at using shorter and unimproved runways which is useful in Africa considering most airports have limited infrastructure,” Kruyswijk says. “Vastly more destinations become available when flying in a turboprop aircraft.”

    Another advantage is the lower maintenance costs, and the fact that turboprops are easier to repair than jets, he adds.

    Nevertheless, turboprops will not suit every aircraft buyer, and it’s important to consider the cons as well as the pros. For example, “turboprop aircraft generally have shorter range capabilities than jets,” Kruyswijk highlights, “and they fly at slower speeds, which can make longer flights less comfortable to travelers.”

    Therefore, it’s important for buyers to come to the market with a clear idea of their mission needs, and to know which aspects of the ideal aircraft are non-negotiable to their travel requirements, and which areas can be compromised.

    What are the Popular Turboprops in Southern Africa?

    Popular with High Net-Worth Individuals and charter operators alike across Southern Africa, assuming a turboprop is the right aircraft type for you, some models will prove to be more in-demand than others – and for good reason, according to Kruyswijk.

    “By far the most popular turboprop is the Cessna Grand Caravan, which dominates the Southern African market,” he says. “The Grand Caravan has a sturdy landing gear with strong structural design and build.”

    Known across the industry as a reliable, rugged workhorse, the Grand Caravan has a powerful engine and loading capabilities that are ideal for rough landing conditions across the region, he explains. A single-engine aircraft that has been produced in large numbers since the mid-1980s, the Caravan has been popular with FedEx for ferrying freight quickly and reliably in the past and has certainly earned its formidable reputation.

    It can be bought new for less than $3m, while numerous Caravans and Grand Caravans are available on the pre-owned market.

    Beyond the Cessna Grand Caravan, Kruyswijk says that “the [twin-engine] Beechcraft King Air B200 is a favorite among charter operators”. This, he says, owes to its speed and the added comfort it offers passengers on longer trips.

    Produced in high volume between 1995 and 2012, the B200 is no longer in production, but is available to buy pre-owned. Meanwhile, Beechcraft continued to develop its 200-series King Air and today produces the King Air 260.

    Meanwhile, for private owners seeking to travel longer distances, accessing unimproved runways, “the Pilatus PC-12 is a favorite, built with unmatched Swiss quality,” Kruyswijk notes.

    “The Pilatus PC-12 can cruise at similar speeds as a Beechcraft King Air, but with a single engine,” he elaborates. “It has remarkable short field take-off and landing capabilities, and it has a very large and useful cargo door to make loading very easy. Better still, it holds its value incredibly well.”

    Who Flies Turboprops in Southern Africa?

    Asked to break down the turboprop market in Southern Africa, Kruyswijk notes that “While turboprop aircraft can sometimes be purchased when making an investment, they are mostly used for Business and Tourism travel.”

    In fact, he reckons Business travel accounts for roughly 40% of turboprop use in Southern Africa, while Tourism accounts for another 25%. Personal use stands at approximately 15%, while the remaining 20% of usage is split across various other user types.

    What Lies Ahead for the Turboprop Market?

    Coming into 2023 off the back of a record couple of years of pre-owned aircraft sales activity in which the percentage of the world’s in-operation fleet available for sale dipped to unprecedented lows of around 3%, and retail values rose as aircraft sellers held all the cards at the transaction table, the signs are that the market is beginning to cool slightly as 2023 enters its second quarter.

    Nevertheless, these changes could be creating some uncertainty that aircraft buyers should be aware of. 

    “In an uncertain market, and with rising inflation, aircraft owners may be more hesitant to sell their assets,” Kruyswijk highlights. “They may be uncertain about the price they can achieve, or when the best time to sell might be.”

    For various valid reasons, aircraft production from the leading turboprop manufacturers has yet to ramp up significantly to meet demand, and with worldwide supply chain shortages most buyers of factory-new aircraft will have to wait longer than usual to receive their aircraft – all of which creates added uncertainty in the minds of sellers regarding the availability of a suitable replacement aircraft for the one they’re selling.

    With all things considered, Kruyswijk implies buyers should be patient in the current market. Understanding the market will help significantly, and the patience of buyers will eventually be rewarded, with excellent pre-owned turboprops available to those who know what they need, what makes a great aircraft, and are ready to act quickly, with the help of an experienced broker.

    More information from https://ascendaviation.co.za/

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