While the light end of the business jet market has languished over the past five years, the used market is showing encouraging signs of a potential turnaround for smaller aircraft, a Texas based broker finds.

Rene Banglesdorf, CEO of Georgetown, Texas-based aircraft broker Charlie Bravo Aviation, is experiencing a notable pickup in inquiries for light and medium-sized jets. Importantly, she says, these inquiries are coming from small and medium-sized companies looking for Cessna CJs and Bombardier Learjets, along with other light and medium-sized aircraft.

Small and medium-sized companies have been the base of the North American market, representing the overwhelming majority of business jet owners. Yet these are the buyers that have remained on the sidelines during the downturn. Now Banglesdorf says these are the buyers that are calling. “Our phones are ringing a lot,” she says.

Some of these inquiries are coming from companies that had put their fleet replacement plans on hold for a number of years and are ready to jump back into the market. Others, though, are new to business aviation and looking for their first aircraft. She believes pricing is playing a role – it’s possible to get a light aircraft at half or one-third the price before the economic downturn. A used CJ that once sold for $3 million-$4 million five years ago can now be found with an asking price that just nudges above $1 million.

Prices appear to finally be stabilizing, she says. Industry analyst Jetnet reports prices inched up in July for the third consecutive month this year. Buyers are also becoming more realistic about asking prices, Banglesdorf says. Gone are the prospectors who wanted to swoop in and take an aircraft off the hands of desperate sellers for very little. The buyers are now much more substantial, she says, adding fewer people are making “ridiculous offers.”

While pricing is an important factor, economic confidence is playing an even bigger part of what Banglesdorf believes may be the beginning of a turnaround for the light-jet market. Corporate profits have remained high, but companies had been holding tightly onto their resources, preventing that long-awaited kick-start for the market. But Banglesdorf believes more companies are appearing ready to spend, and expects the next quarter to be among her strongest in recent years, based on inquiries her firm has received over the summer.

The used market overall has been down through the first seven months of the year, according to Jetnet data. But light aircraft sales improved in July in North America, even while large and midsize were down. Inventory of aircraft available for sale also continues to go down, a good sign for potential new and used aircraft sales.

No matter which category of aircraft, the sales are all for new aircraft. There is no longer any market for old business jet models, she notes.

Along with the increased North America business, Charlie Bravo Aviation is expanding its international business, with plans to grow its presence in Asia. Banglesdorf says the inquiries from China have been strong for turboprops and trainers, which have more airspace access. But the light jet market there is still quiet.

Inquiries have also improved in Latin America and other regions where oil and gas exploration activities are growing, she says. While a number of those activities are for helicopters, those industries are also seeking fixed-wing, she says.