“When you get into the larger aircraft it becomes like a hotel, with dozens of staff supporting the plane based in a galley area down below. You have very comprehensive cooking facilities, and on larger aircraft we have looked at theatres, with spiral staircases and a Steinway grand piano. The limitations for what you can put inside a plane are pretty much the limits of physics, and even money cannot always overcome that. Even so, people are still always trying to push [the limits]. ”
A Tale of Two Continents
It’s too early to predict overall sales for 2013, but one key indicator—the number of aircraft for sale—continues to tick lower, suggesting that a recovery is still ongoing. In fact, the number of available jets and turboprops is now at its lowest point in roughly five years.
It’s worth noting, however, that the North American and European markets today seem headed in opposite directions.
The Gulfstream G550 offers a case in point. Worldwide, it appears to be in tight supply with only 19 for sale—or fewer than 5 percent of the nearly 400 in operation. However, 70 percent of the available G550s are based in Europe, and they represent 15 percent of the G550s on that continent. By comparison, only 2 percent of North American-based G550s are for sale. (Full disclosure: one of these is listed with my company.) A similar disparity is evident with such models as the Dassault Falcon 7X and the Bombardier Global XRS. And when you look at all aircraft manufactured since 2002, you find that just 7 percent are for sale in the U.S., compared with 13.6 percent in Europe. The spread has narrowed a bit recently, but a clear imbalance remains. And it is not just the large-cabin segment that has experienced an inequality of distribution; it’s late-model small and midsize aircraft as well.
Why the difference? There could be a host of reasons but price is always a chief suspect. With the G550, also, it’s interesting to note that most recent sales have involved aircraft with an aft galley, which U.S. buyers seem to prefer. And all but one were enrolled in an engine-maintenance plan such as Rolls-Royce’s Corporate Care Program, or JSSI.
In the months ahead, the law of supply and demand could result in lower jet prices in Europe, which would likely boost sales there and bring inventory levels more in line with those in the U.S. I’m already seeing signs of that trend, with price drops listed for four European-based G550s in a recent weekly update from Aircraft Post.com.
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