Comparing BizJets: The Apples-to-Apples Approach

When you draw up a shortlist of aircraft models that could potentially serve your mission need, how do you really drill down to establish the differences and identify the best one for you? René Armas Maes shares some insights…

René Armas Maes  |  18th August 2021
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    René Armas Maes
    René Armas Maes

    René Armas Maes, Vice President, Commercial, Jet Link International LLC, is an international...

    A large private jet taxis onto the runway for takeoff

    To execute a comparative analysis of suitable aircraft for a private or on-demand Business Aviation operation, it’s first necessary to decide on the main criteria. But how? The following paragraphs provide guidance…

    Some examples might include brand-new vs. pre-owned aircraft; non-stop range capability when carrying a full payload, without performance limitations; cabin comfort for passengers; and the lowest acquisition and operating costs within the field of comparison.

    It is key to understand that a number of other aircraft could meet or exceed your initial criteria, but that most of these could be in another cabin segment and be significantly more costly to operate. For the purposes of this article, we will discuss a potential purchase of a brand-new Mid-Size Jet.

    The first step is to identify the subject aircraft for the comparison, along with other alternative suitable aircraft. In total, no more than seven jets should be on your initial list. The analysis should primarily focus on:

    • Route Performance
    • Technical Specifications
    • Passenger Comfort
    • Direct Operating Costs (including ownership costs).

    Route Performance

    To effectively analyze aircraft route performance, ask aircraft Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), or the aircraft broker to perform sector-specific route analyses based on a series of assumptions. The following assumptions, or a variation of them, need to be considered:

    1. The route performance based on maximum payload;
    2. The route performance, based on power setting (i.e. at long range cruise speed while flying at optimal flight level);
    3. The route performance factoring both summer and winter winds (typically, en route winds are estimated at 85% annual probability);
    4. The route performance factoring international fuel reserves as per FARs (Federal Aviation Regulations);
    5. The route performance factoring ‘time and fuel’ estimate: Here, block time and fuel are used to include allowances for taxiing (approx. 10 mins), takeoff, climb, cruise and descent;
    6. The route performance factoring temperature conditions (for example ISA+10°C);
    7. The route performance factoring routing and distance (i.e., X to Y nautical miles range, or the range bracket expected to be required for the majority of your planned missions).

    When factoring distance, it’s important that the Equivalent Still Air Distance (ESAD) calculation is considered. This is the actual distance, plus a correction for the effect of wind over the route. For example, a headwind would cause the ESAD to be greater than the actual distance, whereas a tailwind would cause it to be less.

    The use of these assumptions will ensure consistency across all of the results provided by the manufacturers.

    Whether you are buying new or considering a pre-owned aircraft, a consultant will be able to help you develop these key assumptions to create an apples-to-apples comparison and evaluation.

    Without such data, it will be almost impossible to compare multiple business jet or turboprop options. In the absence of a standard set of assumptions, OEMs will naturally seek to show their own product in the best light.

    When undertaking consultancy work for a clients in this area, I will usually consider hiring an independent flight planning firm to develop a limited-scope performance analysis and to calculate a selected sub-set of results for the subject aircraft in order to double-check the numbers.

    I tend to find that many aircraft buyers might not attempt to independently verify the manufacturers’ route performance data through a third-party, but this is essential to avoiding any surprises after you have purchased the aircraft.

    Table A shows a typical OEM sector-specific route analysis capturing a number of pre-set assumptions.

    Technical Specifications

    In addition to the Route Performance analysis, it will be vital to perform a Technical Specification comparison of the subject aircraft (and the alternative aircraft), based on specifications provided by OEMs and other published sources, such as Conklin & de Decker.

    At a minimum, this evaluation should include:

    • Basic aircraft configurations;
    • Passenger capacity;
    • Cabin cross-section;
    • Luggage capacity;
    • Payload;
    • Operating weights;
    • Fuel capacity;
    • Range;
    • Speed (including high, normal and long range);
    • Runway performance;
    • Aircraft availability;
    • Deposit schedule, etc.

    How to Proceed with the Results

    After the initial examination, proceed and identify the subject aircraft; ideally a shortlist of no more than three aircraft that have similar characteristics. Assess, too, in which metric(s) they differ – for example, they could be very similar in terms of block time and cruise speed, but may differ significantly in terms of fuel burn performance.

    Pay close attention to payload performance, and the route-specific sectors. Focus on the aircraft that can complete the majority of missions without any limitations, as per the assumptions made.

    Identify which of the subject aircraft generally meets all the specified conservative (or perhaps even the very worst case scenario criteria, since there could be a subset of more stringent assumptions).

    And finally, create a scorecard that will allow you to examine all of the various factors in the aircraft comparison exercise with the intention of identifying the correct one. For example, which is the best performing aircraft with the lowest cost (both from an operating cost and an acquisition cost perspective)? Which aircraft offers the highest maximum payload at maximum fuel? Undoubtedly other questions will be answered based on your mission need.

    Final Thoughts

    If you are to make the highest return on investment decision, be sure to analyze the hourly aircraft direct operating costs, including cockpit and cabin crew, fuel, maintenance, ownership, insurance, landing, parking, navigation, ground handling, crew layover, and catering costs.

    And, if buying new, don’t forget to include in your analysis OEM warranties, service, support, training and any other sales incentive you may be able to negotiate, as these may improve one OEM’s aircraft offer above the others.

    Next Time…

    In the next article, we’ll discuss which assumptions should be made to compare aircraft in a Direct Operating Cost analysis, and what to look at when comparing different levels of OEM warranty, service, hourly maintenance programs, coverage levels and technical support.

    Read Comparing BizJets: The Apples-to-Apples Approach (Part 2).

    Find a comprehensive archive of Jet, Turboprop and Helicopter Comparison articles on AvBuyer!

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    Read More About: Operating Costs | Jet Comparisons

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    René Armas Maes

    René Armas Maes

    Editor, Buyer Strategy & Finance

    René Armas Maes, Vice President, Commercial, Jet Link International LLC, is an international aviation consultant and experienced C-Level professional. He has built a successful track record for developing and delivering Business Aviation strategies for Fortune 500 companies, Venture Capital firms, and HNWIs.

    René is a regular columnist for Bloomberg (financial), America Economia (business) and a speaker at aviation conferences worldwide.



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