Market Insights: Jay Duckson, Central Business Jets

Kicking off a new series interviewing some of the world’s leading aircraft dealers and brokers, Matt Harris spoke to Jay Duckson about his, and Central Business Jets’ thoughts on the pre-owned aircraft sales market…

Matt Harris  |  11th January 2021
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    Matt Harris
    Matt Harris

    Matt Harris is Commissioning Editor for AvBuyer. He is an experienced General and Business Aviation...

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    Gulfstream Large Jet on a deserted airport ramp

    Since being founded in 1986, Central Business Jets, Inc. has built a solid reputation for expert client representation in the aircraft sales business, providing acquisition and consulting services.

    A sure sign of the esteem with which it is held can be seen through a customer renewal rate approaching 100%, while its new customer base increases over 10% year-on-year, largely through recommendations from existing clients.

    Regularly surpassing $200m in annual sales, Central Business Jets is experienced in the sale of aircraft from every major manufacturer, and has completed transactions across six continents.

    Jay Duckson is the Founder and President of Central Business Jets.

    Mr. Duckson has personally assisted corporate flight departments in the buying and selling of over 1,000 aircraft worldwide over the years, and is well-placed to provide some insights on the marketplace at a time many are keen to put 2020 behind them and look for clearer skies ahead.

    AvBuyer caught up with him to ask for his market insights on pre-owned aircraft sales.

    AvBuyer: How was business for Central Business Jets in 2020?

    Duckson: We were quite pleased with 2020, overall. Generally, we were busy in the first quarter (Q1). That’s somewhat normal for us, as several of our clients are not overly concerned with making Q4 purchases. Then, of course, came the chaos of Q2 – at which time we were ‘jokingly’ calling ourselves to make sure we still had a phone service.

    But once it was determined that we could all leave our basements again, we were pleasantly surprised at how buyers were peeking their heads around the corner, admitting that they were going to start traveling again within the safe-havens of their own airplanes.

    AvBuyer: We heard that pre-owned business jet sales coped surprisingly well in 2020. In fact, analyst Brian Foley said pre-owned sales had been ‘carrying the torch’ for Business Aviation throughout the pandemic. Why do you think that is?

    Duckson: As I touched on, it appears the safe havens of their own travel environment — something that can be controlled, as you never know who you could be sitting next to on the airlines – is an attraction for business jet buyers.

    Airlines and larger airport terminals cannot be controlled like a Fixed-Base Operation can. And what would the legal ramification be if an employee caught Covid-19 on a Business trip?

    If you add this to the ever-changing airline schedules, with some cities no longer being served, and needless overnight stays in hotels as a result; plus a lower stigma that’s attached to aircraft ownership currently, all of these factors play their part in helping pre-owned business jet sales.

    AvBuyer:Average ask-prices seem to have risen very slightly for Mid-Size Jets and Light Jets (per Asset Insight data) during 2020. Why do you think this has happened, and is it something the market can sustain into 2021?

    Duckson: Covid-19 restrictions have really had an effect on where people can travel to and from. As one of the leaders in larger category aircraft sales, Central Business Jets’ clients are waiting, poised. While some have already purchased their Large Jet, some will purchase an aircraft with international range once the epidemic is behind us.

    In the meantime, the shorter out-and-back, same day trips are as close to normal as possible right now, and it’s for these trips that the Light Jets and Mid-Size Jets are in demand. The hope is that the market for Light and Mid-Size Jets remain price-steady, and that prices for Large Jets start to increase. 

    The potential block to this happening is a fear that public perception of aircraft ownership becomes negative, and that higher taxes in 2021 may stall demand.

    AvBuyer: Right now, for the reasons you’ve already given, it looks like the active markets within preowned sales are the Mid-Size or Light Jets. Is there anything else that might be helping private jets sell currently?

    Duckson: We hope that the increased availability of good quality pilots – caused by airline layoffs – brings more purchasers to the market as this helps remove one of the largest buying hurdles (as to who will fly the jet). Also, it’s well-known that once an owner utilizes an aircraft for at least 150 flight hours per year, aircraft ownership becomes cheaper than partial ownership programs (Jet Cards, Fractional, etc.).

    Typically this group of business aircraft user begins the whole-aircraft ownership journey in the Light to Mid-Size categories, which is another possible reason we have seen supplies within these markets dwindle (in some cases by 50%). And this causes prices in those markets to stabilize, and in some cases rise.

    AvBuyer: Though it’s hard to predict with certainty, what are your expectations for the market in the next 12 months?

    Duckson: Setting aside economic conditions and public perception over jet ownership, what does the bigger picture say? There are prospective buyers that are waiting in the wings, watching for how the current pandemic plays out. Others are chartering or perhaps have a quarter share (via a Fractional Ownership program) as a short-term solution for their transportation needs.

    How many more of these will look to whole aircraft ownership as a longer-term solution? If I was to hazard a guess, we could see a slight price dip in Q1, 2021; for prices to increase in Q2; flatten out in Q3; and decrease again in Q4, in line with market demand.

    AvBuyer: Finally, what advice would you offer buyers looking to enter the market in the next few months? How can they achieve success in today’s market?

    Duckson: The essential key to any purchase or sale is a very high quality product. Success comes from paying a fair price for quality, as others may pay a little less for junk. Remember, not every aircraft is the same – and while many are marketed in ways that make them compare favorably, that is not always the reality. 

    It is, therefore, important to remember that the cheapest part of aircraft ownership is paying a fee to an experienced professional who can help you find quality on the market.

    Nobody ever got mad because they bought a good airplane. Plenty have got mad because they failed to do so! A little extra investment will make all of the difference to today’s pre-owned aircraft buyers. 

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