“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 wild ride ahead
Wall Streeters and other experts have been making a variety of persuasive but conflicting predictions about where the economy is headed. Will a recovery be shaped like a V? Or a U? Or perhaps a W? One expert even suggested an L-shaped condition, in which a nosedive would be followed by an indefinite period where we skid sideways along the bottom. And highly respected Pimco co-CEO Mohamed El-Erain-obviously thinking outside the alphabet-soup box-said the recovery would resemble a square-root symbol. He argues that we've reached a "new normal" for global economic growth.
Whether or not he's right about the world economy, I think the term "new normal" applies to today's used aircraft market. It was buyers' and sellers' non-acceptance of pricing that caused values to sink until about a year ago, courtesy of a combination of some foreclosed jets and desperation sales that began to carve out the market bottom, or the lowest point of El-Erain's square-root analogy.
Consider that roughly a year ago about 40 Gulfstream GIV-SPs were for sale and today half that many are on the market (see chart). The reason for this is the new normal, which includes an accepted pricing structure nearly 50 percent lower than it was 24 months ago. Consider, too, the Hawker 850XP market: 20 are currently on the sales block-only five of which are U.S. registered. That's another example of the new normal.
So what will the recovery look like in the preowned aircraft market? I think it will be less reminiscent of alphabet letters and square-root symbols than of the Cyclone rollercoaster at Coney Island. The good news appears to be that everyone's stomach has already churned after the dramatic drop. Keep your seat belts fastened for the rest of the wild ride.