Checklist: Steps To Purchase A Business Aircraft

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Based on the current charter marketplace, now is the best time to be a business aircraft owner. Competition amongst charter brokers to source aircraft is stiff, and many are taking a loss on transactions to keep their best customers happy.

Their loss is your gain as an aircraft owner. In a traditional market, charter was used to offset the costs of ownership; however in today’s climate, if one plays the game well and has savvy management, revenue can exceed aircraft costs.

The problem is, now is also the most difficult time in history to purchase an aircraft due to a shortage, making it more important to act fast on an opportunity and understand what you’re getting yourself into.

Even if you have extensive experience in aviation, owning an aircraft is a different beast, with many headaches if one is unprepared. There is a long line of first-time aircraft owners out there shopping, so here are the steps you can expect to stay ahead of them:

Employ an experienced aircraft broker: This is truly a make-or-break step. Would you buy a house without a real estate agent, unless you’re an agent yourself? Searching on third-party sites for aircraft listings is setting yourself up for failure. Afterall, the community of International Aircraft Dealers Association (IADA) brokers typically know about aircraft availability before they even come to market, says Matt Doyle, managing partner of aircraft broker FX Solutions. Just because an aircraft is available, doesn’t mean it is right choice for you, and an experienced aircraft broker will know how to guide a buyer through the very complex process of buying the right aircraft.

A good broker will tell you if you are even compatible with aircraft ownership, as many people think they are until they learn about the additional intricacies and costs. People may have the means to buy an airplane, but few have the means to keep one. For those who are compatible, having someone to hold your hand through each step is valuable.

Undergo a thorough consultation with the broker: This step can take several days. Every buyer has different needs, budgets and a variety of other variables that need to be addressed to make a successful purchase. This is the phase where all a buyer’s information is compiled to determine what aircraft, if any, is a good match. A basic rule of thumb is to buy an aircraft that meets a client’s needs 80% of the time, with the other 20% being supplemented, says Doyle.

Market analysis: This is the point where the broker starts to work his or her magic. It may also be a bit more hands-off from the side of the buyer. A good broker should not overwhelm you with a large menu of options to choose from (which more than likely isn’t possible in today’s marketplace anyway), rather, they should narrow the list to one to three aircraft that are a compatible match for your needs and requirements.

Deciding on an aircraft and gathering the pieces of the puzzle: With aircraft going under letters of intent in less than five days of hitting the market, a decision needs to be made quickly. Once a buyer commits to a particular aircraft, now is when the fine details come into play. Securing financing, insurance, tax structure and legal structure are all things that are typically organized concurrently, and a specialist in each area is necessary to make sure everything is sound. This is also the point where a buyer must determine how the aircraft will be operated. Does it make more sense to operate everything in-house and employ your own flight crew? Or should this be outsourced to a management company? More than likely, if your aircraft will be used heavily for charter, then a management company is the way to go. Each area requires individual attention, and once again, an experienced broker should help guide you through this phase.

Comprehensive Review: The last major hurdle has arrived. Maintenance records, aircraft history and the discovery of any findings that require repairs must be signed off on. From here agreements must be established to attend any discrepancies.

Close: Congratulations! The process is now complete, and you can now call yourself an aircraft owner.

If there is one thing to take away from this checklist, hopefully it is the realization that an aircraft broker is basically mandatory. Without them, the remaining steps simply cannot be completed efficiently or to the standard that this situation deserves. After all, the whole point of owning a private aircraft is to increase both quality and efficiency in one’s life, so exercise these same principles when purchasing one.