- 23 Mar 2022
- Felipe Reisch
- AvBuyer Africa Articles
Are business jets or turboprops more popular in Africa? Do older aircraft remain the staple preference of buyers in the continent, or have buying appetites changed? Which are the most popular models? Felipe Reisch checks the data and asks the experts…
As the Textron Aviation representative for the Central and Southern African region, Absolute Aviation is constantly monitoring market activity within the business jet and turboprop sectors.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, both business and tourism travel took a huge knock which resulted in many smaller operators offloading some of their fleet (predominantly piston aircraft and Cessna Grand Caravan turboprops).
According to Neil Howard, CEO of Absolute Aviation, the easing of restrictions has resulted in the market picking up again. “The requirement for aircraft, such as the Cessna Grand Caravan has increased, which is reflected by six factory-new Cessna Caravan orders being delivered into our region over the last four months.”
Demand for the new King Air 260 and King Air 360 models, meanwhile, is at a record high, he adds, with order numbers into the region resulting in “deliveries of three new units” in the coming three months, “following one new King Air 360 [delivery] in the second quarter” of 2022.
Popular Aircraft in Africa
Data provided by JETNET shows that, as of the beginning of April 2022, the Cessna Caravan 208B is the most popular Business Turboprop model in Africa (207 units in operation), followed by the Caravan 208B EX (105 units).
In fact, just five models comprise 59% of the Business Turboprop fleet across Africa. In addition to the Caravan models, the King Air 200 and B200, and the Pilatus PC-12 NG form a sizable portion of Africa’s fleet, currently.
The business jet picture is rather more diluted, with the Hawker 800XP model currently being the most popular on the continent (17 units), and the leading ten models forming 26% of the overall African business jet fleet, per JETNET data.
Gavin Kiggen, Vice President in Africa at ExecuJet Aviation Group says Bombardier is a key player in terms of long-range jets, though he admits while there’s less by way of MRO support for Gulfstream models, there are quite a few operating in Africa, and especially in Nigeria.
Historically, Africa has tended to see the imports of older models. “Africa has always been seen as the dumping ground for older aircraft, but this has changed,” Kiggen argues.
“Although in some instances, and in some countries, this is still the case, we do see new aircraft coming in. As to the last few months and the aircraft sales boom, we’ve also seen many aircraft sold out of Africa.”
Howard agrees that the region is seeing an increased demand for newer, and factory-new aircraft. “Positively, with the strong market today, the pricing gap between new and pre-owned has grown smaller, and many clients are leaning towards new aircraft to get the benefit of lower operating costs of new aircraft, and the factory warranties which come with these,” he reveals.
“Demand in the newer business jet market is strong for the Cessna Citation M2, Citation CJ4, Citation XLS and Citation Sovereign models,” he notes, adding that in the ‘older’ pre-owned sector his company is seeing Bombardier Challenger 601 models continue to be the Large Cabin jet of choice.
Did Lockdown Reshape the Market?
While the pandemic has reset the entire private aviation industry worldwide in terms of movements and consumer perception, the aircraft acquisition market has also seen a positive shift.
Although first-time buyers are at an all-time high, many current aircraft owners have shifted the primary use of their aircraft, making them multi-role assets, due to the lack of available commercial flights during the lockdowns.
“Clients who typically only used their aircraft for business have started using the aircraft for private flights more frequently, and vice-versa,” Howard reveals.
“Now that the aircraft are fulfilling multiple roles for [many] owners, we have seen some move from Turboprops into Light Jets, and Light Jets into Mid-size Jets – this has become a common requirement. But we’re also seeing a tendency from owners to remain loyal to the manufacturer of their existing aircraft,” he adds.
So, for example, owners of a Cessna Citation M2 Light Jet would look to a Citation Sovereign Mid-Size Jet as their next aircraft, or operators of Pilatus PC-12 Turboprops might be sizing up a Pilatus PC-24 Light Jet for their next acquisition.
The Rise of Pilatus
With 455 business turboprops in operation across Africa at the time of writing, these aircraft types outnumber business jets by nearly four to one – and for good reason. With less by way of airport infrastructure, turboprop aircraft can be ideal for accessing remote, rugged areas in Africa that have little more than short, dirt airstrips to land on.
And while price is a main driver for demand in the market, helping to explain the popularity of the Cessna Caravan 208B/EX and older Beechcraft King Air B200/200 models in the region, Pascal Wyss, Director of Sales and Marketing at the Pilatus PC-12 Centre Southern Africa, highlights that the versatile Pilatus PC-12 is slowly gaining ground.
Throughout the continent, there is a grand total of 73 Pilatus PC-12s, with 47 of them in South Africa. And while the vast majority of these are older PC-12/PC-12 NG models, “Interest in both the PC-12 NGX and PC-24 remains strong on the continent,” Wyss says. “We have confirmed orders to deliver [these] aircraft over the next 18 months.”
Regardless of the type, age, or make/model, buying a private jet or turboprop is a big decision, and a series of variables come into play for buyers, including the acquisition price, performance (as it relates to the buyer’s particular mission needs), operating costs, availability of MRO support, and more.
Prospective buyers are advised to hire the services of an experienced, established broker to represent their best interests and ensure the aircraft they buy is the aircraft that benefits their flying activities the most.