The used business aircraft market has perpetually ebbed and flowed over the decades. Today, with the uncertainty that comes with the global COVID-19 pandemic, a Presidential election year in the US, and ongoing negotiations over what Brexit will look like in Europe, it’s natural to anticipate leaner times for the pre-owned marketplace. But what's the reality...?
Reflecting on the year up to around March 1, René Banglesdorf, co-founder and CEO, Charlie Bravo Aviation notes, “We were seeing the market balancing out from a seller’s market to more of a stable divide.
“With major disruptions in the world economy, oil prices conflicting, and a pandemic all at the same time, though, it’s entirely unsurprising that there’s market uncertainty and delays occurring now,” she adds.
One thing Banglesdorf can predict with relative confidence is that the pre-owned aircraft sales scene will not be a seller’s market for the rest of 2020. “Sellers should be ‘aggressive’ with their pricing at this current time of market uncertainty if they want to sell their aircraft anytime soon.”
BizAv in a COVID-19 Cloud
Ms. Banglesdorf initially got into the industry via freelance work for an aircraft brokerage that her husband, Curt, was also working for. Using her background in business journalism, in 2008 she and Curt started their own company, just before the start of the Great Recession.
The new company survived the tempestuous market that followed, and since its start-up Charlie Bravo Aviation has conducted business with clients in 43 different countries, across six continents. During that time, Banglesdorf has seen a lot happen within the used aircraft sales market.
So does she see any reason for optimism in today’s market, and if so, for whom?
“There is room for sellers to be optimistic if they hold a Part 135-ready aircraft, as long as it can remain on the Part 135 certificate after it’s been sold to its new owner,” she shares.
“Once people start traveling again, I expect many will prefer charter to first class seats on the airlines.”
Another attraction of Business Aviation during this COVID-19 crisis is that social distancing is easier in a Fixed-Base Operation (since it’s less populated) than in a crowded airline terminal. And with fewer seats aboard and prior knowledge of the passengers you travel with, potential exposure to the virus is lower on a private airplane.
Heavy Jet Demand Remains
The inventory for sale at Charlie Bravo Aviation includes Turboprops, Light Jets, Mid-size Jets and a couple of Large (Heavy) Jets. “There has been an increase in Heavy Jet activity in the last year,” Banglesdorf notes.
“However, there has been a growing stagnation in the Turboprop market. It’s unusual for us, at Charlie Bravo Aviation, to see turboprops move as slowly as we’ve seen them do in the last couple of months.”
But what could potentially be contributing to the Heavy Jet market activity to date, and ongoing? “With the scheduled airlines having taken a hit in activity at the outset of this pandemic, Heavy Jets offer better range and larger capacity,” Banglesdorf argues.
“These can safely substitute for flight routes taken regularly by businesspeople with social distancing measures effectively in place, while they continue to maintain a working structure. Heavy, longer range, faster, higher capacity aircraft are selling better than even the jets a step down from them,” Banglesdorf adds.
“Nevertheless, as the world returns to a normal way of life again post-COVID-19, I can see that changing in the next year with a pick-up in the volume of airplanes sold that provide a lower cost of entry [to Business Aviation],” she concludes.
“But, of course, with political, economic and public sentiment changing every day, this too is subject to change…”
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