Pre-Owned Aircraft Market Opportunities in 2024

Opportunities are available to buyers and sellers of pre-owned business aircraft in today’s market, according to Thoroughbred Aviation’s Spencer Mitchell. Matt Harris caught up with him recently to find out how to maximize them...

Matt Harris  |  03rd June 2024
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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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    Thoroughbred Aviation sees market opportunities for buyers and sellers

    With a proud Kentucky heritage, Thoroughbred Aviation was founded in 2016 by Business Aviation veteran Nathan Winkle. Since then, the company has been building a solid track record for excellence in facilitating transactions of new and pre-owned business aircraft.

    “Our specialist markets primarily encompass Mid-Size to Large Jets, where we seek to leverage our expertise to match the right aircraft with the right buyer and ensure a seamless and satisfactory transaction experience,” says Spencer Mitchell (pictured below, right, with Nathan), who joined Thoroughbred as Partner & President in 2020.

    According to Mitchell, the early part of 2024 has shown promising growth compared to the same period in 2023. “We've seen steady progress and increased activity in the market,” he notes. “The demand for business aircraft remains robust as we move deeper into the year.”

    While the market faces challenges on various fronts – including economic and geopolitical – and 2024 is a US Presidential election year, Mitchell sees no reason to believe the strong start to the year will weaken, particularly for those committed to delivering strong service and value to aircraft buyers. These, he says, will be best placed to capitalize on opportunities arising in the market.

    “While there are always uncertainties in any market, especially given the global landscape, the overall indicators suggest continued growth and stability in the business aircraft sector,” he shares. “We expect to build upon the momentum of the first few months and achieve even better results by year-end.”

    Capitalizing on Pre-Owned Aircraft Market Opportunities 

    A slowing in the pace of aircraft sales throughout 2023 helped restore some balance in the marketplace from the feverish days of 2022 where less than 4% of the world’s Business Aviation fleet was available for sale.

    Although the market is still a way off reaching buyer/seller market equilibrium, inventory has edged up to between 6-7% of the fleet, while asking prices have stabilized somewhat. Nevertheless, buyers shopping for newer aircraft will find the market to be fiercely competitive still, thanks to lengthy order backlogs that currently exist with the aircraft OEMs right now.

    But opportunities certainly exist for savvy buyers and sellers in 2024 who know how to play their cards, Mitchell reveals. 

    Today’s buyers, for example, are approaching the market in a much more measured way than they were twelve to eighteen months ago, and opportunities lie in identifying value-driven investments. Adding the expertise of an experienced broker will help buyers navigate the complexities of the market with confidence, he argues.

    “Certain business jet categories stand out in terms of value for pre-owned aircraft,” Mitchell highlights. “For instance, Mid-Size Jets offer a compelling combination of performance, range, and operating costs, making them highly sought after in the pre-owned market.

    “For buyers navigating today's market, it's crucial to prioritize pedigree, though,” Mitchell highlights. “Factors such as aircraft condition, maintenance history and operational capabilities are essential.

    “In any case, buyers should ensure the aircraft they’re looking at comes with a well-documented maintenance history, and upgraded avionics and cosmetics since these are the jets that will tend to retain their value better over time.”

    Buyers can help themselves here by paying for a thorough pre-purchase inspection and taking the time to undertake comprehensive due diligence, helping to mitigate risks and ensure a sound investment.

    Working in partnership with an aircraft broker who is experienced in evaluating aircraft value is essential, he adds, since they will be adept at identifying the aircraft available both on and off-market that represent sound investments in the current market.

    An experienced and reputable broker “understands the importance of guiding clients through this process and providing them with the information and expertise they need to make informed decisions,” Mitchell adds.

    Similarly, opportunities exist for aircraft sellers in today’s market. “The pre-owned market is showing its resilience, despite the economic challenges [climbing interest rates on financing deals being a good example], and demand for pre-owned jets remains strong,” says Mitchell.

    “So, sellers also have a favorable environment in which to achieve competitive pricing and terms,” he explains. “But it's essential for sellers to make sure they position their aircraft effectively.”

    Today’s buyers are far more prepared to pass on an aircraft than they were during the height of the post-Covid market, meaning sellers need to be more proactive in obtaining a favorable deal.

    “Sellers should clearly signpost their aircraft’s unique selling points, and ensure transparency throughout the sales process,” Mitchell adds.

    Business Aviation Developments: Cause for Excitement and Diligence

    Looking ahead, Mitchell says buyers and sellers of business aircraft should be both excited and diligent about the innovation and technological advancements that promise to drive today’s Business Aviation industry forward.

    “From more fuel-efficient engines to cutting-edge avionics systems, there's a constant push for improvement and efficiency,” he says. “However, this rapid pace of innovation also brings concerns, particularly regarding regulatory compliance and adapting to new technologies seamlessly.

    “Our team prioritizes staying ahead of these developments to ensure that aircraft buyers and sellers receive the most up-to-date and relevant advice and guidance throughout their aircraft transactions,” he concludes.

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