The used market has crawled out if its trough from 2009, when a high of about 17% of the available business jet fleet was up for sale, but it has come at a cost as aircraft values continue to plummet, industry experts say.
The used market hit an all-time high in 2012 with the number of transactions reaching 2,240. This bested the 2007 peak of 2,181 aircraft transactions, JetNet reports. And the number of aircraft for sale has declined over the past three years, reaching 13.4% by the end of 2012.
In the first quarter of 2013, those metrics continued to improve, with used jet transactions up across all segments, according to Amstat. Nearly 500 used aircraft were sold in the first quarter, 0.3% more than a year earlier. The number of business jets for sale, meanwhile, has declined to 12.8% of the existing fleet, close to the 20-year average.
Mark Caruso, executive sales director at Avpro, believes there are reasons for optimism in the market. Large corporations are re-engaging in the marketplace. Corporations that typically would have replaced aircraft in the 2009-2010 time frame are now starting to come back to the market for replacements.
Also, rather than new models driving the market, new technologies are, Caruso says, adding the retrofit market has made used aircraft equally attractive.
But Caruso cautions there is a “cost of success. It all came at the expense of pricing.” J.P.Morgan notes the average asking price in April was down 7% and off 40% from the 2008 peak. “Pricing is clearly the driver out there,” Caruso says.
This has spilled over to the new market, wherehas opted to slow production rather than sell at rock-bottom pricing that some prospective buyers are demanding. For used aircraft, pricing fell again in the first quarter for both light jets (7.8%) and medium jets (5.4%).
But as in the new market, larger aircraft models are faring better. In the first quarter, pricing for heavy jets increased 7.3%. According to Amstat, 11.3% of the fleet of heavy jets are up for sale, compared with 13.7% of light jets. Counting only in-production models, the available fleet of heavy jets falls to 10.1%, notes J.P.Morgan.
The market remains focused only on newer models. “They are buying big aircraft and they are buying young aircraft,” Caruso says. “Very few will buy older aircraft at any price.”