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Keeping Older Business Jets Flying

If you say ‘antique airplane’ I will conjure up an image of a WACO- a Ford TriMotor or any number of aircraft - but not a Learjet 24. I think a lot of you would have come up with similar images too. Keeping older business aircraft flying is changing. Yes- a Learjet 24- Falcon 20- Gulfstream II- Hawker 1A/3A and others may be active aircraft- but they are also 30+ years old.

In our aircraft cost databases- we assume that all the business aircraft are maintained more or less in the same way with new parts replacing old- worn out parts. As many operators of long-out-of-production aircraft are finding out- this is not the most cost effective way to keep their aircraft flying.

First off- availability of new parts for older aircraft is becoming harder to find. There are fewer of these aircraft flying fewer hours. Some manufacturers are no longer in business- or they have been acquired and have merged into different entities. They do not keep production lines open year-round or may only build spares as needed.

Overhauling of serviceable components is also getting harder to accomplish. Sure- you can overhaul a generator multiple times- but what about the holes for the mounting bolts? Over time- you can only use ‘oversize’ bolts so often before the component case is no longer serviceable.

Conklin & de Decker uses a guaranteed engine program cost in its basic cost database. But is that still a viable option for an older- first generation engine? Not just a Viper 522- but other early jet engines are becoming prohibitively costly to overhaul. The current value of a 20-30 year old business jet is likely close in cost to the cost of its airworthy components. (For example- Vref shows the average value of a 1973 Sabreliner 40A at $190-000. Yet to overhaul the Sabreliner's JT12A engines would run to over $400-000).

Second or third engine overhauls on these older aircraft are not cost effective alternatives when there are airworthy aircraft with several years' worth of time remaining on the engines. It can be more cost effective to park the old jet with run-out engines and use it for spares- buying another of the same aircraft with some time left on the engines than to overhaul the run-out engines.

Keeping these older business jets flying is becoming more of an exercise of scrounging and cannibalizing versus one of buying/overhauling. Maintaining older aircraft like these requires time- and decreases the aircraft availability.

You may need to have two or three aircraft to keep one in flyable condition! It can be done- but it is better suited to a hobbyist or weekend flier that can live with low-utilization and decreased availability.

David Wyndham is an owner of Conklin & de Decker. The mission of Conklin & de Decker is to furnish the general aviation industry with objective and impartial information in the form of professionally developed and supported products and services- enabling its clients to make more informed decisions when dealing with the purchase and operation of aircraft. With over 1-800 clients in 90 countries around the world- Conklin & de Decker combines aviation experience with proven business practices.

More information from www.conklindd.com; Tel: +1 508 255 5975

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