So, your ship has come in and you’re basking in unheralded wealth. It’s a problem all of us have to deal with at some time (right? Hope so). You’ve bought a big crazy house and the sports car you always dreamt of, where do you go from there? – the only way is up and that means a private jet. Join the ranks of the super rich, you might want to fly your own classic airliner like John Travolta or just settle for painting your surname on it in massive golden letters like Donald Trump. However even if you’re inordinately rich it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to fork out the cool $500 million that Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al-Saud of Saudi Arabia paid for his own private Airbus A380. And that’s before you’ve even gone anywhere, an A380 guzzles approximately $17,500 of fuel per hour, which is enough to make even Bill Gates think about taking the bus. But then most potential biz jet owners are unlikely to be in the market for an aircraft containing five king size bedrooms to choose from, each with its own ensuite bathroom and sitting room. Prince Alwaleed’s jet also features a throne for him to sit on while he travels through the sky. It’s possible that you’ve long been in the market for an airborne throne room but alas, very few biz jets actually feature them. Though most do have very comfortable seats. If you can scale down your ambitions a little, the following tips may be of use when you enter the market place for a new or used private jet.
Let’s start with the boring stuff: cash. If you are even considering dipping your toe into biz jet world it would seem to suggest that you are fairly well off, or at least know someone who is. But you might not have enough to shell out the full amount in used notes right this minute. Luckily there are many lenders with dedicated aviation financing plans so you don’t have to sweat the small stuff. You can work this out yourself or you might consider employing a dedicated finance broker. Financing a jet is a pretty complicated business so it’s as well to have someone around who knows the pitfalls. They will also know which lender to approach to get the best funding deal for any particular aircraft.
A biz jet is going to be an expensive purchase but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to get the best deal you can. Just like a car, there are benefits to looking at the used market. You’ll typically get more aircraft for your money but you need to look more closely at your potential purchase. It’s all very well for a fighter pilot to ‘kick the tyres and light the fires’ but it’s as well to pay a bit more attention when you’re the one who has to fork out for a main spar replacement because someone overstressed the airframe. Whilst there are relatively few aviation equivalents of the ‘one careful lady owner from new’ used car (having said that, Oprah Winfrey owns a Bombardier Global Express XRS), it’s worth looking for a corporate aircraft that has been the pride and joy of its owner and kept scrupulously maintained its entire life. Brand new aircraft are obviously more expensive but they generally come with a five year warranty, although Embraer sell their Legacy 650E with an impressive ten year warranty, which might save you money in the long run. If you do go down the used route then making use of a reputable aviation broker makes sense, they generally charge between three and five percent of the overall cost of the aircraft and can help with ongoing operational issues further down the track.
Once you’ve settled on the particular type you want, it’s worth doing some serious homework on that aircraft to avoid any pitfalls. Professional help is available, and frankly, no matter how much research you’ve done you’ll need to employ the services of a professional inspector. It’s particularly important to know your chosen aircraft’s maintenance cycles. That five year old Embraer Phenom might look like a bargain for a couple of million dollars but that won’t look so rosy if you have to spend another $250,000 on scheduled maintenance. No matter what aircraft you want to buy, if it’s used, insist on a pre-purchase inspection by a certified authority. In the US this would occur at a certified 145 repair station and there are, of course, worldwide equivalents. Usefully the EU and US honour each others certification standards which simplifies things, though if you’re based in the UK what happens to aircraft certification if and when the UK leaves the EU is anyone’s guess. Expect it to be expensive.
Do you even need to buy your jet? Leasing a business aircraft is a popular and comparatively economic alternative to ownership. It’s a good way to see if biz jet ownership is the right strategy for you without the undeniably large outlay required to take the plunge and actually buy an aircraft. Leasing takes two forms known as dry-leasing and wet-leasing, if you dry-lease an aircraft, it would generally be for a long term period. You don’t get any fuel or crew and have responsibility for maintenance and insurance. Wet leasing includes all these things and is usually for short periods or one-off trips.
Ultimately, although it invokes all the glamour of the genuine jet-set, the business aircraft is like anything else, do your homework, shop around, seek professional advice and you’ll find you may be able to do something that once seemed impossible.
— Ed Ward, more info here.