Hopeful Signs

Business Jet Traveler » August 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009 - 5:00am

Granted, President Obama's use of a private, albeit publicly owned, jet for a New York date night in May might have done more to fulfill a campaign promise to his wife than it did to support our industry. Still, it was a show of support. The fact that members of the press were onboard the two like-type aircraft that followed the president's might even lead to reduced media bashing of private jet ownership. Hey, if the president of a nation with a nearly $1 trillion deficit is using a Gulfstream, there must be a good reason. It's doubtful every journalist will connect the dots, however.

In any case, the number of aircraft for sale stayed fairly stable in the last quarter. The figure may even have peaked, but we'll have to see whether the usual summer slowdown occurs or whether highly attractive pricing causes sales to buck the typical trend. Worldwide, the number of used jets for sale is at an all-time high, but that's partly because of the burgeoning number of corporate aircraft.

Consider that of the nearly 3,100 jets for sale now, almost half were built before 1990. More than 150 others are future positions-2009s or later that haven't been delivered yet. Another 36 are Eclipse very light jets. Helping to keep the total number of jets for sale around the same level for the past few months are sales transactions as well as aircraft being withdrawn from the market; about 500 airplanes are in one of these two categories. As prices crashed, some owners removed their jets from the market, while others acquiesced to declining values and sold.

That trend seems to be continuing. After months of little activity, we note some models with fewer units available, again because of sales and withdrawals. Take, for instance, the Learjet 45 and 45XR. Inventory has dropped from 55 late in the first quarter to 44 three months later. True, that latter figure is about twice the number that were for sale two years ago; still, the three-month decline is substantial.

Clearly, buyers perceive value and are reentering a market from which they have long been absent. The freefall in prices has stopped and inventory has stabilized. These are but two signs of what may be the beginning of a recovery in the used jet market.

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“You want to make sure with a race in which you'll be flying home with other drivers that you don't crash into them. It's happened before, and it can make for a little bit of a tense situation.”