Aviation Articles

Finding the right aircraft: 4 questions that will drastically improve your outcome

October 24, 2017

choosing the right aircraft


If you’re in the market to purchase an aircraft, you are probably learning a lot about different aircraft specifications, equipment, avionics, and pricing.

As you gather information, you may discover that the type of aircraft you originally thought would be the best one to meet your needs is actually NOT the best one.

In fact, it’s very common for aircraft buyers to change their mind on their “ideal” aircraft several times during the course of their aircraft acquisition process. Conversations with different sales reps promoting their specific aircraft can either confuse or assist with the aircraft selection.

The goal of nearly every aircraft acquisition is to purchase the aircraft that offers the best value to the new owner (and/or their business).


Here are a few of our top questions to help you find the right aircraft:


Question #1: What kind of flying do you plan to do?

This question seems like an obvious one; but we’ve found that it’s often addressed with far too much brevity. It can be enticing to look for the plane with the lowest price or the most impressive equipment, avionics, and performance specifications. But you’re not going to find the one that will meet your needs over a longer term if you don’t have a thorough understanding of how you plan to use it.

Will you be flying solo or with a group most of the time? Are you really going to be filling those additional seats on a regular basis? Will you be taking short trips or flying longer distances? What sort of weather conditions will you be navigating?


Question #2: What is the total estimated cost of ownership?

When it comes to a budget range, many buyers focus on an initial purchase price. Instead, they should be looking at a budget for the total cost of ownership.

You have probably heard it said that there’s no such thing as an inexpensive aircraft. Everything from fuel burn to upcoming maintenance needs, financing and hangar costs, pilot needs, and potential charter or leaseback revenue should be factored into the equation. You may find that the aircraft with a bigger initial price tag will be much better for your budget long term when you do all the math.


Question #3: What is your flight training and experience level?

This is a very important question for any owner-flown aircraft purchase. Especially if you don’t have thousands of hours as pilot-in-command and a multitude of type ratings, you’ll need to ensure you’re ready to handle the aircraft confidently.

Some factory-new aircraft purchases will include a training program if needed. But in the pre-owned aircraft sector—other than Cirrus Aircraft’s new Cirrus Embark training program—transition training is rarely included with the purchase of pre-owned aircraft.

In addition to training availability and cost considerations, be aware that some transitions are smoother than others. Don’t hesitate to contact someone who can knowledgeably discuss your potential transition.


Question #4: What is the right price for the right plane?

This question is often the most difficult question to answer. Some markets have only a handful of similar aircraft for sale at any given time, making it very challenging to determine a fair price without more information. Sellers often list their aircraft online without posting an ask price, so you have to dig even further for numbers. And some markets have wider spreads than others between typical bid prices and ask prices.

If you’re justifying your price based on a “book value” you should be aware that book values are typically 6-9 months behind the market and are often tens of thousands off of actual market values.

Also, here’s a “buyer beware”: what looks like a good deal on the surface may end up costing you more than you realize after you get it under contract. Damage history, missing logbook entries, corrosion, and below average condition (cosmetic or mechanical) can make a significant impact on the value of an aircraft. Regrettably, many sellers display only a handful of photos and very little supportive information in their online listings, leaving buyers to find out for themselves why the plane is priced so low.

Read more: Getting a good deal when buying an aircraft.


You might be surprised at how much value the right aircraft sales expert can add to you your overall transaction. Especially when you factor in their market value information and negotiation expertise, you may discover it’s well worth it to hire someone to help you achieve a more successful aircraft acquisition.


Try our free Aircraft Market Review Tool! 


Questions or comments? Want to discuss your next aircraft?

We’d love to hear from you! Contact us today by calling 402-475-6000 or emailing aircraft@flyperformance.com.


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