Are you wondering how to enhance the value of your business aircraft? Jeremy Cox provides insight on the best upgrades you could focus on. What do they do, and why/how do they uphold the value of the aircraft they’re installed on?
Over the past 20 years, mandated upgrades have predominantly involved changes to the avionics package on used business jets. Certainly, there have been several modifications required on airframes and engines by the issuance of an Airworthiness Directive, but these are rare.
What do I mean by the term ‘mandated upgrade’? This is any upgrade required by law to operate a specific class of aircraft (weight and number of seats), and can vary based on region of the world. You will likely recognize the following examples:
- Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR)
- Terrain Awareness Warning System (TAWS)
- FM Immunity
- 8.33 KHz Spacing
- Flight Data Recorder (FDR)
- 406 MHz Emergency Locator Transmitter
- Reduced Vertical Separation Minima (RVSM)
- Enhanced Flight Identification
- Antenna Diversity
- Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) 7 and 7.1
- Controller Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC)
- Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B)
If you owned an aircraft that the above mandates applied to, you in effect had to apply the upgrades – even if you didn’t fly it internationally. That’s because not doing so made your aircraft less desirable for resale, and ultimately your aircraft’s value was reduced by at least the cost of the upgrade. In reality – however – the loss in value was often more because of the lack of utility and readiness.
What are the Top Five Business Aircraft Upgrades?
As a fleet matures over time, upgrades are developed and made available to increase the utility and/or efficiency of your aircraft. Some non-mandated upgrades are debatable as to the true benefits they offer, while others become ‘iconic’ for the make and model of your aircraft.
These quickly become expected add-ons that buyers, leasing and finance companies rely on being installed for them to proceed with a future sales transaction. With that in mind, the following are what I consider to be the ‘top five’ upgrades that are expected to be incorporated on today’s business aircraft.
- Avionics System Upgrades
- High-Speed Internet & Wi-Fi
- Enhanced Vision Systems
- LED Lighting
Savings in the cost of fuel can be made by installing winglets. However, the savings are recuperated over a fairly long period of time. The more immediate benefit is the visual impact. Few upgrades are as obvious as the installation of winglets. Over time, aircraft that have not been upgraded have started to stand out more than those that have them.
Winglets tend to be the first thing buyers see, both in an advertisement exterior image and then upon their initial viewing of the aircraft.
If you operate an aircraft that doesn’t have winglets, but the majority of the fleet does, you will lose more than the cost of the upgrade through a reduced sale price that is agreed for your aircraft.
Avionics System Upgrades
The EFIS/integrated avionics system upgrade has not quite reached the stage where the marketplace expects it to have been carried out, but I believe the day is rapidly approaching. Generally speaking, the following retrofits are likely to be an expectation among buyers of pre-owned jets and turboprops in the future:
- Garmin G1000/G3000 for FAR Part 23 aircraft (i.e. Twin Commander, King Air and Citation series jets, and more);
- Garmin G5000 for FAR Part 25 aircraft like the Beechjet, Hawker 400XP, Citation 560, 750, and others;
- Primus Epic, Elite, EASy and Planeview on their respective platforms on Gulfstreams, Falcons and Citations; and
- Proline Fusion for a multitude of different aircraft (Vision on the Globals) will eventually drive the used market buyers to expect this upgrade to have been incorporated before they buy.
If the avionics system is not installed on your aircraft before you sell, then you’ll again lose more than the cost of the upgrade, in the reduced sale price agreed for your aircraft.
“How can you call it a business aircraft if it doesn’t have the internet and Wi-Fi?” This stands as one of the truest statements made this decade. The day has come where all prospective business jet and turboprop buyers expect an aircraft to be equipped with internet/Wi-Fi.
Fortunately, data rates have gone up while data use has gone down. Especially for dual systems that incorporate both ground and satellite download/uplink transmissions.
While I may begin to sound like a broken record, it is a fact that you will lose more than the cost of the upgrade, in the reduced sale price agreed for your aircraft, if it doesn’t offer Wi-Fi/high-speed connectivity.
Enhanced Vision Systems
Synthetic vision is definitely an enhancement to situational awareness, but the fact remains that it doesn’t depict a true picture of what is ahead of you in the ‘real world’. Enhanced Flight Vision Systems (EFVS), which utilize hybrid infrared cameras, do provide a real-world view to the flight crew.
That means if there’s a runway incursion taking place ahead while you are landing in poor visibility, you will see it on your screen in real time, as opposed to a virtual-software generated image and no incursion traffic.
Surprisingly, EFVS is relatively inexpensive – even if it is integrated to display on a cockpit Primary Flight Display or Multi-Function Display. It becomes an expensive upgrade if it will feed an image to a Head-Up Display (HUD). If you already have a HUD, that’s fine, but the upgrade cost will go up dramatically if you don’t.
The bottom line is to ask what safety is worth to you – especially if you ever operate in and out of mountainous regions at night or IFR?
The last of our ‘top five’ value-added upgrades are Light Emitting Diode (LED) lamps.
Most traditional long-range aircraft have dual installation/operating ‘position’ lights (duplicated units) in case of filament failure of the incandescent lamps. Since STC/PMA approved LED lamps have become available, position light failures are practically unheard of now.
Landing and taxi lights are also available, but they are ‘out-shone’ by High Intensity Discharge (HID) – which is another ‘must have’ upgrade. The power of illumination by technology is truly amazing as you can see here:
- Incandescent Lamp typical light output 15,000 to 20,000 Candela
- LED output typically ranges between 65,000 to 150,000 Candela
- HID Lamp light output is above 1,000,000 Candela
Meanwhile, the lighting you have installed in your cabin will add much to cabin comfort for its occupants, setting mood and providing minimal stress to passengers during a flight. Moreover, it can set the right ambiance when a prospective buyer is being shown around the aircraft.
Over the preceding paragraphs we’ve highlighted five popular value-enhancing upgrades for your business aircraft. They’re popular because they apply to a wide variety of aircraft types. Because of this, the cost of an upgrade is likely to vary widely, too, depending on the aircraft it’s being installed on. Nevertheless, the added value will invariably be worth it.
We conclude with a table offering a very rough guide to the value-added range, along with the range of aircraft each upgrade applies to.
More information from www.jetvaluesjeremy.com
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Business Jet Upgrades