REFURBING OLD JETS: BIG MONEY, BRISK DEMAND
Walking around the convention floor and static aircraft display at this year’s NBAA-BACE event in Florida this past October, I couldn’t help but realize how much demand exists for refurbishing old jets and turboprops. No, a spanking new Gulfstream or Bombardier isn’t in the budget for most companies. But aging turboprops and light jets do make sense for those who are done with airline travel, and that’s making for a lively resale and refurb market. Some jets and turboprops are in greater demand than others simply because they’re capable machines. On the turboprop market this includes the Pilatus PC-12, Cessna Conquest and even older Piper Cheyennes.
In the turbofan market, older Citations and Beechjets are changing hands at a brisk pace, which makes refurb programs worth the effort and eye-widening costs that tag along with the STC process. Garmin has invested big in the STC process for retrofitting the G5000 integrated flight deck in the Cessna Citation XLS. That’s a photo of a completed XLS below that’s called the Citation Eagle, done by a company called Citation Partners, who partners with Yingling Aviation on the project. The concept was started by Russ Meyers, Gary Hay and Russ Meyer III—all retired high-level Cessna Aircraft execs who know everything there is to know about the Citation line. And they know why owners love these aircraft, even ones that date back to the early 1990s that still sport original interiors, paint and CRT flight displays. “I was tasked with finding a turbine replacement for our Piper Navajo and decided that while the XLS would be a huge step up in cost and complexity, it’s hands down the best airplane for our mission because of its cabin size, range and performance,” a chief pilot for one Boston-based tech firm told me at the Garmin booth. Finding one these days is easier said than done because these airplanes—refurbed or not—are in huge demand on the used market. Buyers will pay a premium for the airplane and the refurb process because an Eagle makeover alone is around $1.5 million.
Speaking of price premiums, Bombardier is creating a buzz in the upper end of the bizjet market with a new certified pre-owned program for used Challengers, Globals and Lears. At a press conference at the show, the company described its structured program, which starts with a meticulous selection and inspection process of pre-owned Bombardier jets, followed by the installation of factory upgrades and improvements, plus an airframe corrosion treatment on eligible aircraft that are aged 15 years or newer. According to Bombardier, over the past 12 months its certified pre-owned program has received significant customer interest, with more than a dozen projects completed or in progress. Moreover, with a backlog that extends over a year, the demand for Challenger and Global certified pre-owned aircraft is particularly strong. In its latest used aircraft market report, the company said a total of eight Global 5000 aircraft were sold so far in 2022—which is a 60 percent increase from 2021 numbers. Aircraft in the program sell quickly, spending 50 percent less time on the market. Asking prices are up, too—increasing nearly 30 percent in Q2 of 2022 compared to Q1.
Ready for a step-up? We’ll look at the turbine refurb market (including entry-level turboprops) in an upcoming issue of Aviation Consumer. —Larry Anglisano