It is a truth universally acknowledged that private aircraft are expensive. Even those exploring part-time ownership options enter their search knowing that it will require a significant upfront investment. But for frequent fliers with the means to afford it, private aviation is the obvious choice.
Before taking the first steps toward private aircraft ownership, potential buyers should take the time to carefully evaluate all of the financing options available to them.
Something to Consider
Before deciding which financing option to pursue, buyers should consider whether they want to contact lenders directly — a process that typically involves researching lenders, requesting and reviewing lender proposals and assembling a loan due diligence package — or to work with a third-party aviation consultant or aircraft finance broker. Although most high-net-worth individuals have a finance team capable of handling these responsibilities, individuals on the mid-to-lower end of the market might find it useful to partner with an aviation consultant or aircraft finance broker because they have the necessary industry relationships to simplify the financing process and to connect with the most appropriate lender candidates depending upon the buyer’s needs and requirements.
Finding a Lender
When seeking financing for a private aircraft purchase, buyers have two main options: traditional banks and non-banking aircraft financing lenders. In most cases, high-net-worth individuals will elect to first work with their existing bank — that way, the buyer can take advantage of their existing business relationship with the bank, which already has a comprehensive understanding of their financial situation.
If a buyer’s bank is unable to finance the purchase, the next option would be to contact one of the major financial institutions that has an established aircraft finance group. These financial institutions manage a large aircraft portfolio and would be willing to work with a buyer to finance the aircraft even if the buyer does not have an existing relationship with the institution.
The benefit to this option is that the bank already has an established aircraft financing team capable of working with the buyer to obtain the necessary information to evaluate the loan.
The downside to this option is that the buyer will need to prepare and provide the bank with a full package of information on the aircraft, as well as a full set of financial documents and disclosures for the lender to provide a formal proposal.
The third option is to finance the aircraft purchase through a non-banking aviation lender. There are decidedly fewer non-banking aviation lenders in the market than there are banking lenders. Currently, there are a few major non-bank lenders in the market that actively provide aircraft financing. These lenders will usually raise their capital in equity markets to support portfolio growth. When choosing a non-banking aviation lender, be sure to contact a private aviation consultant or aircraft finance broker to confirm the lender’s position in the market and whether they’re a viable option to consider.
Bear in mind that all aircraft lenders have portfolio parameters and requirements that they must follow and, in some cases, are limited by the age and types of aircraft they can finance. First and foremost, all lenders evaluate potential borrowers based on the “5 Cs” of credit:
• Character: What is their reputation as a borrower? Is their credit history stable?
• Capital: What is the borrower’s net worth? What type of capital assets do they own?
• Capacity: Does the borrower have sufficient cash flow to repay the loan? What is their debt-to-income ratio?
• Collateral: What assets can the borrower pledge to secure the loan?
• Conditions: How does the borrower intend to use the aircraft? What is the current state of the economy? Is there pending legislation that would affect this loan?
Note that all lenders use the same criteria to evaluate individual borrowers who are looking to purchase private aircraft for personal reasons as they do corporate borrowers — at the end of the day, credit is credit and collateral is collateral. In either case, the selected lender will have specific loan covenants that the buyer must be aware of. In some cases, the lender might require periodic reviews of the aircraft market value or third-party inspections to ensure that the aircraft is being properly utilized and maintained.
Whether they work with their existing bank, an aircraft financing bank or a non-bank lender, buyers who are able to secure financing to purchase a private aircraft are opening the door to a world of luxury, comfort and convenience. And for those who are still interested in private aviation but want to avoid the extra legwork with financing, there are plenty of viable alternatives to outright ownership to explore.