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Is this really the end for some of the legendary models?It goes without saying that our industry has suffered some major setbacks recently. Everything from negative media attention on corporate excesses to rising inventories- OEM cutbacks- layoffs- whitetails and - most of all - aircraft asset devaluation. It will take some time for our industry to recover- but even then- there are serious doubts that we will return to the heyday of 2006-2007 - a time in which ...

AvBuyer   |   1st October 2009
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In Defense Of Older Aircraft
Is this really the end for some of the legendary models?

It goes without saying that our industry has suffered some major setbacks recently. Everything from negative media attention on corporate excesses to rising inventories- OEM cutbacks- layoffs- whitetails and - most of all - aircraft asset devaluation. It will take some time for our industry to recover- but even then- there are serious doubts that we will return to the heyday of 2006-2007 - a time in which excessive premiums being paid for aircraft were the norm.

There have been a lot of discussions recently about values of older aircraft during these times and how they are now approaching the end of their useful lives when the asset value is comparable to their salvage value. But does this foretell of the end for older aircraft such as the Learjet 20 and 35 series- the Sabreliners- the Falcon 10- Citation 500- Hawker 125-700 and Westwind series aircraft?

Even with an abundance of newer aircraft now selling at a much lower price- I predict that there will remain a market for the older aircraft. There are many arguments for simply scrapping these older aircraft- but I would like to consider some benefits and advantages to these aircraft remaining in active use.

With FAA oversight required on all aircraft and operations- it is quite safe to say that an aircraft will remain safe and airworthy with proper maintenance and operational oversight. Granted- these aircraft will consume more fuel- and cost more for parts and maintenance - but remember that a comparable aircraft as a replacement will still cost substantially more to acquire. Some could argue the delta between the costs will buy a lot of fuel and parts.

Another benefit to these aircraft is that there are a lot of upgrades and updates for many of them. With many aircraft (such as the Learjet 35) not having life limits imposed- they can fly as long as they remain airworthy.

In order to do so- most older aircraft have avionics upgrade options/programs available - including those catering for the more recent requirements for RVSM- TCAS- TAWS- GPS- CRT and EFIS displays. For the purpose of this article we have limited our scope to small jets that sell today for between $200k and $1.5 million.

In the following paragraphs- we will outline some general information about specific older model aircraft- along with what to look for and what to avoid in terms of upgrades. Remember: this is only a snapshot of what is available - the full range of options are far too numerous to discuss within these pages.

Of course- while the right buyer/owner can make an older jet work for them- extreme care is required in considering this path. Thorough inspections- verification of maintenance and flight logs- upgrades and update status and full compliance to OEM and FAA mandates should be sought before decisions are made on whether older jets are the way forward for any individual case.

Assuming diligence is exercised- the following aircraft that meet these stringent requirements should provide many hours of operations.

Years Manufactured: 1972-1985
Average Cost: $250k-$900k
Engines: Pratt & Whitney JT15D (3-500hrs TBO)
Being the first straight wing jet that Cessna built- the Citation 500 series aircraft are reliable and well proven within the industry. Parts and service are available direct from the factory- or from one of many specialized service centers.

Usually- these jets come equipped with older avionics- but there are updated avionics STCs available on suites such as Rockwell Collins’ Pro Line 21- Universal’s EFI-890R and Chelton Flight Systems’ Flight- Logic. Another advantage is that many 500 series jets are STC approved for single-pilot operation. If they are not- the STC will be available for implementation.

There are also many other modification options available on the market for this aircraft series- such as the wing spar- extended wing and RVSM. Many aircraft on the market don’t have the RVSM upgrade- but it can be purchased and installed for about $75k.

Essentially- if you are shopping for a Citation 500 series aircraft- common sense should direct you to look for an aircraft with good- clean records - preferably on CESCOM.

Years Manufactured: 1973-1983
Average Cost: $400k-$1.2m
Engines: Honeywell TFE-731 (4-200hrs TBO)
The Falcon 10 was not the first corporate jet from Dassault- but many will argue it was the best - a very sleek and aesthetically pleasing aircraft. With reliable TFE-731 engines- many of the Falcon 10s still flying have had their engines upgraded to the -2C configuration- providing additional power and lower fuel consumption. In fact- many have engine protection plans from either JSSI or MSP which will greatly reduce the operator’s exposure to costly engine breakdowns- inspections and overhaul- while covered by an hourly surcharge.

Most Falcon 10s already have RVSM approval- and thrust reversers are optional - so these aircraft are worth looking out for. The Universal EFI-890R avionics display system is available for this aircraft type too. Again- ensure the Falcon 10 you are looking at has complete maintenance records- preferably on CAMPS. Since Dassault is still building aircraft- this model can be factory serviced- and there are many third-party providers available and experienced on this aircraft too.

HAWKER 125 SERIES (S/N 1-600)
Years Manufactured: 1965-1976
Average Cost: $300k-$1.2 million
Engines: Rolls-Royce Viper 601 (4-000hrs TBO)
This aircraft was developed after the successful deHavilland 125- becoming the HS 125 after deHavilland was acquired by Hawker Siddeley in 1963. Look for aircraft that have the RVSM upgrade- and again offer good logs and records (preferably on CAMPS). Some of these aircraft have had the engines replaced with TFE-731 engines- which became standard on the HS 125-700 series aircraft.

The biggest problem for these aircraft concerns the engines - and this problem will only grow with time: they are getting more difficult to service and parts costs tend to be on the high side. On the flip side- a good clean aircraft with low engine times will provide a great aircraft with a very comfortable cabin (among the largest in its class)- and comparably good performance numbers.

Years Manufactured: 1977-1984
Average Cost: $600k-$1.5 million
Engines: Honeywell TFE-731 (4-200hrs TBO)
A further enhancement to the original HS 125 aircraft- but this time with Honeywell’s TFE-731 engines- many Hawker 125 Series 700 aircraft engines are also covered under JSSI and MSP programs- so again these aircraft will be worth looking at.

Most Hawker 125 Series 700 aircraft have RVSM along with an APU- and CAMPS for the maintenance records. Rockwell Collins’ Pro Line 21 and Sagem Avionics are STCd for installation on the 700 series.

Further- these aircraft can be serviced by the factory at any Hawker Beechcraft service center. Overall- this is a very good aircraft with the same large cabin as all the other models of the 125 series.

Years Manufactured: 1966-1979
Average Cost: $200k-$900k
Engines: GE CJ610 (5-000hrs TBO)
The first Learjet in production was the Learjet 23 series- but we will concentrate on the later model 24 series which was an improvement on the earlier design- and- I’d argue- is still a very good aircraft for use today.

Even though these aircraft are somewhat lower in cost they are still very reliable aircraft- and there are few aircraft in this class that can beat the performance of this model. These aircraft can still be serviced by any factory service center- along with many other specialized third-party providers. If you’re in the market to buy one- look for aircraft that already have the RVSM upgrade since many don’t- and these aircraft will burn more fuel when limited to FL290 performance!

Years Manufactured: 1968-1984
Average Cost: $200k-$1.2 million
Engines: GE CJ610 (5000 hrs TBO)
The Learjet 25 series was an update on the model 24- and many of these aircraft are still in use today- providing a good bang for the proverbial buck.

More- but not all of these aircraft have RVSM so look for those models that are equipped. In addition- the Sagem Avionic display package and Universal Avionics’ systems are available to upgrade this aircraft. Again look for good records- such as a CAMP history.

Years Manufactured: 1974-1995
Average Cost: $400k-$1.6 million
Engines: Honeywell TFE-731 (4-200hrs TBO)
For many operators this is the best Learjet- and proves very popular due to its performance with TFE-731 engines- a good size cabin- parts and services readily available- and even factory support. Most attractive of all- however- to those in the market to acquire a Learjet 35 is the price and almost unlimited availability of upgrades.

Lately Stevens Aviation is offering a program called Lear4Ever for this aircraft type. The bulk of the upgrade includes Universal Avionics’ glass-panel with synthetic vision along with Raisbeck ZR Lite performance modifications.

A major benefit to using the Learjet 35 is that the airframe has no life limit - just a mandatory 12-000 hour (or 12-year) wing-fuselage de-mate inspection. Basically this aircraft can fly forever- as long as it is maintained and remains airworthy according to the FAA and Learjet maintenance manual.

While the Lear4Ever program is new for the Learjet 35- look for a good used aircraft with RVSM- complete with good records to use.

Note: We have recently learnt that soon the Lear4Ever upgrade program will be available for the Learjet 25 model. Visit www.stevensaviation.com

Even though Sabreliner Corporation is not building aircraft anymore- it is still active in St. Louis supporting older aircraft with repairs and modifications. The Sabre series of aircraft have a reputation for being very robust and well-built.

Parts and service are just beginning to be a problem- and will only become more so in years to come - the last new aircraft was built in 1987. But acquisition prices are relatively low- and a good Sabreliner service center will go a long way to ensure continued support.

With its history in military aviation- the aircraft was designed from the beginning by North American to provide VIP transportation to the US military. The first was the T-39 which is still in use today by the US military for the training of naval flight officers.

For the civilian market North American named the aircraft the Sabreliner 40. In 1967 North American added 3 ft- 2 ins. to the cabin- along with additional windows - and it re-dubbed the aircraft the Sabreliner 60. The airframe of the model 60 is limited but there are provisions to have it extended to 30-000 hours. The model 60 was built from 1967 through 1978- and uses the P&WC JT12A engine with a 3-000 hour TBO. Prices today tend to range between $200k and $500k.

Between 1980 and 1981 the model 65 was developed with the more popular Honeywell TFE-731 engine. With only 76 of this model built they are considered the best Sabreliner and still command a reasonable price of $900k-$1.5 million. There are not too many upgrades available for these aircraft because their production numbers were relatively low by OEM standards.

Some have RVSM- so look for a very good low time airframe with RVSM to get some good use out of the aircraft. Another thing to look for should you be in the market to buy one of these is MSP coverage- while also ensuring records are clean and up to date with CAMPS.

Another older aircraft potentially worth considering is the Westwind aircraft- originally developed by Aero Commander in 1965. North American Rockwell purchased the company around 1967- but due to antitrust laws (North American was already building and selling the Sabreliner) it sold the Westwind design to Israel Aerospace in 1968 which went on to build the aircraft and call it the 1123 Westwind.

The Westwind utilizes the popular TFE- 731 engines and was built from 1976 to 1987. The average price today for a used 1123 Westwind ranges between $400k- $1.4 million- again depending on time- condition- RVSM capability- etc.

As we have uncovered- there are some good older aircraft that can provide some excellent value for a relatively low acquisition cost- but one must weigh that with the fact that operating costs will be much higher than for a comparable newer alternative.

Training is readily available from many sources- and insurance is generally not a big problem for these aircraft- but while considering an older aircraft- it is ESSENTIAL to look for a good- solid airframe with low times and with excellent maintenance records- updated avionics and compliance to RVSM and other operational requirements installed. If you can ensure this- the initial price paid versus the cost of buying a newer aircraft may well become a worthwhile factor to consider.

John Brodeur is an Aviation Consultant with experience in Completion Management- Interior Design- Maintenance- Sales and Acquisitions- along with being a Pilot and A&P for business aircraft. Mr. Brodeur can be contacted at Tel: +1 647-448-4748 (cell) or Email: john@avbro.com

NOTE: In the August issue of World Aircraft Sales Magazine- an image appeared on the lead page of our article ‘Aircraft Damage’. The image was a non-specific maintenance illustration- and does not imply that the aircraft featured was one that had suffered damage in the past.

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