Business Aviation Market Overview – February 2021

Who will be the winners of 2020 once pre-owned aircraft sales are stacked up against 2019? Brian Foley, Editor, Market Indicators reviews some of the preliminary data…

Brian Foley  |  03rd February 2021
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Brian Foley
Brian Foley

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

Gulfstream Private jet on airport ramp rear view

While the final 2020 pre-owned aircraft sales numbers are still awaited, a couple of resources would suggest that it will have been a pretty good year for those in the Business Aviation industry.

Perusing the International Aircraft Dealers Association’s (IADA’s) November 2020 Dealer Activity Report, according to brokers in the trenches, pre-owned deals that fell apart in November 2020 were around 70% fewer than deals whose wheels fell off in April 2020. Further, the number of deals under contract doubled between April and November, a positive indicator, for sure.

It also seems that price decreases have taken a breather, with upwards of 50 brokers reporting lowering prices in May 2020, compared to just seven in November.

In addition, they reported a healthy log of acquisition agreements, exclusive sales arrangements, and, most importantly, 131 deals under contract. IADA surveys its constituents monthly on how the pre-owned market is going. Based on results, it is anticipated that 2020 will prove to have been a solid year.

While the AMSTAT numbers are still coming in, 2020 had already surpassed 2019 with nearly 2,100 worldwide pre-owned business jet transactions. For turboprops, it’s anticipated that sales will have been below 2019 figures, but not by a huge margin.

In contrast, for those tracking turbine helicopters, 2020 will have been a disappointment given the oil and gas sector upheaval, with energy prices tanking. Growth in Sales Spreads Across Most Regions It’s interesting to note where the 2020 jet sales momentum occurred from a regional perspective. While it will still take several weeks for the transaction paperwork to enter the system, there has been enough logged to begin to show a trend.

As might be expected, North America prevailed in 2020 by registering more pre-owned business aircraft sales than in 2019. This is important given that the region is the largest market in the world, with transactions clocking in at almost 10 times the next largest market.

The Australia and South America regions have already registered increases over 2019. Eastern Europe is a standout as having more than twice the number of transactions last year (albeit from a very small base). And, although it is still too soon to call in Western Europe, sales should be roughly on par with 2019’s.

Asia, however, took a header with sales decreasing, as did the Middle East/Africa regions. 

Sales by Jet Category

Those who are in the pre-owned aircraft brokerage business or have kept up with the industry’s press won’t be surprised that Light and Mid-Size Jet sales outpaced Large Jet sales. Much of this can be subjectively attributed to the falloff in international flights, for which Large Jets are best suited, due to foreign border lockdowns and travel restrictions.

What some may find surprising is that Large Jet sales did not decrease year-over-year, but were simply drowned out by the activity spike in Light and Mid-Size Jets.

Objectively, and again with the inherent registry lag, AMSTAT has thus far verified that Light and Mid-Size Jet sales outpaced 2019 by 14% and 9% respectively; percentages which are sure to climb by the time the final registrations are filed in the coming months.

As noted ‘heavy’ (Large Jet) pre-owned sales did not decrease in 2020. As more registrations trickle in, these sales will continue to outpace 2019, but by a smaller margin than either Light, or Mid-size Jets. 

In all, IADA and AMSTAT data plainly suggest that despite a worldwide pandemic, 2020 will outgun 2019, which by itself was a pretty good year. All eyes are now on 2021, which from the looks of things should continue the march forward.


Business Aviation Global Flight Activity

Following a surge in business jet demand over the Christmas holiday period, the Year-on-Year (YoY) trend in global flight activity came in around 11% below December 2019, the best comparative performance since the pandemic broke out. WingX Advance reports…

At its peak of just over 12,000 flights on December 23rd, the rolling 7-day average daily activity surpassed the previous post-March high point. By contrast, scheduled airline traffic was down by 48% this December.

Since the pandemic, scheduled passenger movements are down by 63%, whereas Business Aviation – jets and turboprops – flew 29% less than in 2019 over the same period.

United States Activity

Two-thirds of worldwide Business Aviation activity in December originated in the US. Flights in the US during December were down by 10% YoY, an improvement on the 16% YoY decline in November.

  • Charter activity continued to be robust, with sectors down by only 7% YoY, while branded charter flight hours were up by 2% YoY.
  • Aircraft Management operations were also robust, off 6% and inflated by third-party charters.
  • Private operations lagged at 17% below normal, largely due to still-idle corporate flight departments.

Florida shone as the busiest State, with 12% more flights than in December 2019. Flights into Arizona were also up, by 10% YoY. In contrast, California is the laggard. There, continued lockdown measures suppressed recovery at 80% of normal. Texas, meanwhile, got a lot closer to recovery in December, and departures were down by only 6% YoY.

The driver for the Christmas holiday surge from the US was clearly demand for getaway locations. Flights from the US to Mexico were up by 17%, and other Caribbean destinations saw a major rebound in US tourism.

European Activity

In Europe there were 40,000 Business Aviation sectors operated in December – 6,000 fewer flights (or 13% less) than in December 2019. As with the US, this marked a rebound on 20% declines in November, regaining the recovery path seen in October.

  • Again, the resilient sector is Charter, with branded operators flying 7% below normal, but up 1% in hours.
  • Private operations, mainly aircraft owners, were also resilient, flying more than 90% of normal.
  • Cargo-specific Business Aviation aircraft were 18% busier than last year.

The growth didn’t come from the leading markets, however. Departures from France and Germany fell almost 20%, while Italy was down 25%, and the UK down 30%. The market was buoyed by Spain, Russia and Turkey. Flights within Turkey were up 25%, and there was also strong growth in connections from Turkey to Russia, UK, Albania, and Greece.

“The first half of December was stagnant, but the holiday period demonstrated the enduring demand for Business Aviation to reach leisure getaway destinations,” notes Richard Koe, Managing Director, WingX.

“This is obvious in the Caribbean for the US market. In Europe, the lockdowns have suppressed this pent-up demand to a large extent, with the ski season postponed at best. In Russia and Turkey, stronger flight activity suggests that Business Aviation is filling in gaps left by the erosion of scheduled services.”


IADA: Pre-Owned Aircraft Transactions Spike

Following the abrupt pandemic-induced plunge in pre-owned aircraft sales in March 2020, members of the International Aircraft Dealers Association (IADA) experienced a rising wave of transactions, highlighted by a Q4 surge of 554 closed deals…

IADA began tracking sales metrics in April on a monthly basis as a result of the volatile used aircraft sales transactions caused by the impact on the economy from the COVID-19 contagion.

“In total, IADA dealers accounted for 1,011 transactions in the April- December time period, not counting pre-owned aircraft sales handled by our OEM members,” notes IADA Executive Director Wayne Starling.

“Our dealers registered 285 sales in December alone, by far the most active month of the year and double any other COVID-19 impacted month.”

Looking towards 2021, IADA dealers ended the year putting another 74 aircraft ‘under contract’ in December.

Strikingly, dealers reported that only 36 of the 554 transactions closing in Q4 2020 involved lowered prices. Marking a return to stabilized prices, this contrasts with 45 deals that involved aircraft with lowered prices on sales of 174 aircraft in Q2 2020 – the time when the industry began its recovery from the unprecedented plunge in activity during March.

“While it is way too early to say the industry has rebounded completely – as the pandemic is still raging – the activity in the pre-owned aircraft marketplace is certainly trending upwards across all of our dealers,” Starling concluded.


2020 Review for Pre-Owned Gulfstream Aircraft

Hagerty Jet Group provides an overview of the used Gulfstream marketplace in 2020, highlighting some notable markets…

While US election years are traditionally challenging for pre-owned business jet markets and 2020 started off a bit slow, transactions had already tapered-off by H2 2019. Inventory had started to rise by Q1 2020, and, by the time the US went into lockdown in March, inventory levels were peaking in many markets. Supply was at a 36- month high.

Many deals that were already in progress either fell apart or managed to close with major price concessions. Like the rest of the world, the entire industry paused for most of April and May.

A few motivated sellers paved the way for a resumption by slashing prices, and eventually the bravest of buyers were attracted in a first wave of transactions. Once we saw enough transactions in Q3 2020 to establish new pricing, the remaining sellers started to accept the new market conditions, and many dropped their price expectations.

The most aggressive buyers took advantage to get the best deals. In late summer and early fall, activity had picked up significantly, with buyers scrambling to snap up the best airplanes for sale that were priced accordingly.

Gulfstream G550 Market Benchmark

Often the benchmark for the Gulfstream pre-owned models, with nearly 600 airplanes in the fleet, Gulfstream G550 supply peaked at 48 aircraft for sale in Q2 2020 (8% of the fleet), but 10 transactions in Q3 proved that demand was back. Supply dropped modestly to 42 as more aircraft were added to the market, however.

We saw an explosion of activity in Q4, and 21 G550 transactions closed before the end of the year with another eight deals pending at the start of 2021. Supply stood at net 20 airplanes for sale – a 60% drop in supply in January 2021. Prices have flattened, and have the potential to increase.

Gulfstream G650 Market Record

The Gulfstream G650 market saw the highest amount of pre-owned transactions in the history of this model in Q4 2020 following a record supply of 24 aircraft for sale in Q3. There were 13 G650 transactions in Q4 with one deal still pending.

Supply was cut in half to 12 aircraft for sale. Less than 3% of the fleet remains for sale and most of the remaining sellers in this segment are based internationally.

Gulfstream GIV-SP Market Astounds

The Gulfstream GIV-SP market saw a staggering 20 transactions in Q4 following 12 transactions in Q3. Transactions were at an all-time high in Q4, and, with only 5% of the fleet available for sale, buyers will struggle to find quality aircraft in this segment while pricing has stabilized.

Projection: Hagerty Jet Group expects demand to generally remain strong in 2021, but buyers are likely to be frustrated by the lack of inventory, which may cause a bottleneck over the next few months, the company warns.


In-Service Aircraft Values & Maintenance Condition

Asset Insight’s December 31, 2020 market analysis covering 134 fixed-wing models, and 1,912 aircraft listed ‘for sale’, revealed strong sales activity to close out the year…

Available inventory decreased 9.4% during December, equating to a 19% reduction from June’s peak inventory figure, and a 12.4% decrease to the listed fleet for CY2020. The Large Jet models tracked by Asset Insight ended the year with the same number of inventory assets, while Mid-Size Jets, Light Jets, and Turboprops all registered full-year inventory fleet reductions of 20.9%, 13.9%, and 9.6%, respectively.

Aircraft Values

The tracked fleet’s average Ask Price decreased 4.7% for December, equating to a 2.4% drop for the quarter, and 3.9% for the full year. While Large Jets posted a 0.8% monthly increase, all other groups were negatively impacted, with Mid-Size Jets decreasing 8.4%, Light Jets 1.5%, and Turboprops 0.7%.

Inventory Fleet Maintenance Condition

Buyer interest leaned toward models with more upcoming maintenance events, although individual maintenance event cost for the remaining inventory is expected to be slightly lower. 

Specifically, our tracked inventory recorded the following:

  • Quality Rating: Following two consecutive monthly improvements, asset Quality receded 0.4% to 5.348, thereby maintaining inventory within the ‘Excellent’ range for all of 2020, on Asset Insight’s scale of -2.5 to 10.
  • Maintenance Exposure: While the number of upcoming maintenance events increased slightly, the tracked feet’s Maintenance Exposure, an aircraft accumulated/embedded maintenance expense, improved (fell) 0.6% to $1.445m, signaling that upcoming maintenance events for the available fleet will be slightly less expensive.

Maintenance Exposure to Ask Price (ETP) Ratio

The ETP Ratio is a useful indicator of an aircraft’s marketability, and is computed by dividing the asset's Maintenance Exposure (the financial liability accrued with respect to future scheduled maintenance events) by its Ask Price. ‘Days on Market’ (DoM) analysis has shown that when the ETP Ratio is greater than 40%, a listed aircraft’s time on the market increases, usually by more than 30%.

During Q4 2020, assets whose ETP Ratio was 40% or higher were listed for sale 64% longer (on average) than aircraft whose Ratio was below 40% (277 versus 454 Days on Market). December’s market overview revealed that nearly 48% of the tracked models, and over 53% of the tracked fleet, posted an ETP Ratio greater than 40%.

December’s fleet ETP Ratio rose (worsened) to 72.8% from November’s 70.1%, a figure that was slightly worse than the 12- month average for a third consecutive month (but virtually equal to the 72.0% the fleet posted in January 2020).

  • Turboprops not only registered the best ETP Ratio (again) in December, but also posted the group’s third consecutive 12-month low/best figure. At 39.5%, the Turboprops became the first group to break the 40% figure that statistics have revealed increases an aircraft’s Days on the Market (DoM).
  • Large Jets’ ETP worsened in December, but 61.0% was only marginally higher (worse) than the 12-month low the group posted in November.
  • Mid-Size Jets also worsened slightly to 71.8%, but the figure remained better than the group’s 12-month average.
  • Buyer focus on higher-quality Light Jets left the listed fleet with a new record high figure (106.8%), further increasing the challenges for many who are still seeking to sell their aircraft.

Market Summary

December’s sales figures have now lowered the fleet’s inventory to 9.2%, shifting the advantage toward sellers. Turboprops led the way at 6.9%, followed by Large Jets at 8.0%. Surprisingly, Light Jets came in third at 9.6% of the active fleet, while Mid-Size Jets posted a figure of 10.7%, suggesting buyers may hold the better hand for many models.

Overall demand improved to 2.27 from last quarter’s 2.21, on Asset Insight’s scale of 0.00 (low) to 5.00 (high), based on the listed fleet’s DoM and percentage of the active fleet listed for sale.

Large Jets: As predicted, Large Jets closed 2020 with solid sales, and at transaction values that did not disappoint sellers. Buyers’ preference for higher Quality assets led to a 1.53% drop in the remaining inventory’s Quality Rating.

However, at 5.684, Large Jets ended the year in the ‘Outstanding’ range. The sale of higher quality assets negatively impacted Maintenance Exposure, which rose 1.2% to a figure worse than the 12-month average. Meanwhile, Asset Insight’s tracked inventory decreased by 64 units, ending 2020 at the same YoY availability figure.

While the remaining inventory’s average price increased 0.8% for December, and 1.8% for Q4, ask prices fell 11.9% during CY2020. With Demand increasing from 2.70 to 2.91 during the quarter, Asset Insight anticipates continued strong sales activity during Q1 2021.

Mid-Size Jets: Although Mid-Size Jet availability decreased with 63 lower quality units transacting during December (ending the year with 138 fewer listed aircraft), Asset Insight’s computed demand figure decreased from 2.39 to 2.29. That’s because the remaining fleet has been listed longer than December’s traded units.

As proof, the Quality Rating improved 0.32% to post a 12- month best (high) figure within the ‘Excellent’ range. And, while Maintenance Exposure rose/worsened 0.5%, the figure is only marginally higher than the group’s 12-month low/best value.

As Asset Insight reported previously, the challenge for sellers continues to center on ask prices, which fell 8.4% in December to a 12-month low; 10.4% during Q4; and 6.4% for the year. Between the higher Maintenance Exposure and lower average ask price, the group’s ETP Ratio rose to 71.8% which, while better than average, still poses a high hurdle for many sellers.

Light Jets: This group posted a record high 106.8% ETP Ratio to close out 2020, and the 39 higher quality units transacting represented only 7.1% of December’s available inventory (compared to 14.8% for Large Jets and 12.1% for Mid-Size Jets).

Light Jet’s asset quality worsened by virtue of the revised Inventory mix (although, at 5.146, it did remain within ‘Very Good’ territory), while Maintenance Exposure hit a 12-month high/worst figure.

As predicted, Ask Price decreased another 1.5% during December, creating a 5.4% quarterly drop. But the figure still represented a 3.0% increase for the year that might be more aspirational than achievable for sellers.

Turboprops: While lower than average, Demand remained relatively steady at 2.05, as did Ask Price (decreasing 0.7% for December, and 1.5% during CY2020 – while increasing 0.6% for the quarter). The Quality Rating rose 0.8% to a 12-month high (best) of 5.251, boosting the group into the ‘Excellent’ range.

At the same time, Maintenance Exposure dropped (improved) 1.9% to a 12-month low. The combined effect led to something we haven’t seen in a long time – an ETP Ratio of 39.5%, equating to a 12-month low (best) figure below the 40% ‘excessive’ demarcation point.

Only 8.1% of the available inventory traded last month, with buyers opting for lower-quality assets. Accordingly, the stage is set for buyers seeking higher quality aircraft. Sellers should be able to transact at reasonable prices as we move into 2021.


Read more BizAv Market Insights

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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 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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