Buying a Plane? Even ‘Experts’ Need Experts

The business of buying and selling airplanes is too complex for anybody to be a ‘jack of all trades’, as Brian Foley’s hope to buy his own plane highlights. Experts know when to call in other experts to ensure the highest standard of service...

Brian Foley  |  10th August 2023
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    Brian Foley
    Brian Foley

    Brian Foley formed Brian Foley Associates (BRiFO) in 2006 to assist aerospace firms and investors with...

    Buying a private jet - you need a team of experts


    When it comes to buying an airplane, don’t go it alone. There are too many areas of expertise for anyone to plot a sure path through the transaction themselves…

    Aviation Experience: Flying lessons at age 16, licensed at 17, IFR rating, 400 total hours, aerospace engineering degree, sales stints at Boeing and Dassault Falcon Jet, aviation investment banking.

    Qualifications to Buy an Aircraft: Nil.

    This pretty much describes me. After decades of on and off renting small General Aviation airplanes (aka ‘bug-bashers’), followed by a long flying hiatus to start a business, I’ve again been bitten by the flying bug.

    But this time is different. I’m no longer content simply to rent any nearby airplane for the sake of convenience, find out that the airplane is already booked, or worse, be reminded of that universal sweat and avgas smell of old, beaten-up trainers. Instead, I finally hope to check a long-time item off my bucket list and buy my own plane.

    Being an ‘industry guy’, one may assume I’d have the inside track on finding and buying the perfect airplane at a great price that meets all of my needs. Instead, I’m experiencing firsthand the very same knowledge gaps that surely many first-time buyers of larger business aircraft must have experienced as they stampeded into private flying during the pandemic without a clue.

    While my industry and personal flying experience may get me as far as narrowing the range of airplane models to buy, I readily acknowledge that there are those who know a lot more about other aspects of aircraft transactions than I do around the areas of maintenance, title, finance, insurance, contracts and more.

    In fact, the only ‘inside track’ I have is the self- realization of this situation and knowing some contacts who could possibly guide me - unlike the naïve non- aviation newcomers to private flying.

    Knowing the Limits of Your Expertise

    This self-awareness extends into my own business of helping smaller aviation businesses, usually family- or founder-owned, find buyers for their companies. In my engagement letter it purposely and clearly states “Outside service expenses related to the acquisition process such as legal, tax and accountants are the responsibility of the Company.”

    I don’t profess to be a CPA, lawyer or tax expert and encourage my clients to engage only the best in their field.

    Returning to my own airplane buying travails , I prefer not to have post-sale concerns of whether the aircraft title from the Nigerian prince is legitimate, whether the $60,000 wing spar AD has been complied with, if there’s a mechanics lien attached to the airplane, whether the airplane was ever rolled up in a ball and rebuilt, if the contract is written in my best interest or if an expensive engine overhaul is coming due.

    While I’ve been in the aviation industry most of my career, I just don’t consider myself that kind of industry expert who can do any of those things well.

    Just as important for me as a small GA aircraft buyer to realize my limitations and call in the calvary when needed, we’ve already been practicing this within our own community of professionals in the world of multi-million dollar big-iron transactions.

    Within the pre-owned business aircraft transaction community, there is an established referral network to act in the best interest of buyers. As an example, aircraft brokers have their own favorite specialists with whom they’ve had relationships for years, referring their clients to them whenever there’s a need for advice with their legal, tax, finance, insurance, pre-buy matters, and more.

    Knowing When to Call the Cavalry

    We’re only as good as our reputation in this niche industry and realizing one’s limitations and when to call in more help for the client is the sign of a true professional.

    To create and maintain this type of high reputation, referrals are made to other professionals who already exhibit the highest standards of knowledge, responsiveness, trustworthiness and integrity. The best “industry experts” know when to call in the real experts.

    More information from www.brifo.com

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    Brian Foley

    Brian Foley

    Editor, Market Intelligence

    Brian Foley formed Brian Foley Associates (BRiFO) in 2006 to assist aerospace firms and investors with strategic research. In addition to his work as Market Intelligence Editor, AvBuyer, he is a regular contributor for Forbes.com and his views are published in the media worldwide.

    Currently, Brian serves the Transportation Research Board as a member of the Business Aviation, helicopter, commercial airline and UAV system subcommittees, and he previously served on the Wall Street financial firm Board.

    Before starting his consultancy business, Brian was marketing director at Dassault Falcon Jet for 20 years, and started his career at Boeing. He is an instrument-rated private pilot.


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