In 2020, private aviation and private aircraft sales were among the hundreds of industries that suffered the effects of the pandemic. Now, both are coming back strong.

When commercial air travel dropped off throughout 2020, people began to view jet charter not as a luxury, but as a safer, healthier alternative for air travel. RAI Jets began to see new clients who had always been on the fence about private aviation give jet charter a try.

Today, as we round the turn into Q2 and the vaccinated population continues to grow, jet charter is expected to return to 85-95% of its 2019 numbers on average, depending on which study you reference. At RAI Jets, our charter sales are up 20% from 2019 and 40% year to date over 2020.

The increasing popularity and interest in jet charter has also encouraged those who are able to look into purchasing their own private jets.

The Complexities of Aircraft Acquisition

Buying an aircraft bears very little in common with buying a car or a boat. There is no dealership to walk into, and the road to ownership is long, with twists and turns. You can’t buy an airplane in a few hours like you can a car.

When shopping for a car or boat, age is an important factor for pricing and knowing what to expect. Flight time in the air is a much more important metric for making a purchasing decision for aircraft. People look for newer models, warranties, and the latest safety features when buying boats and cars and obtaining the history of a vehicle for sale is relatively easy. For aircraft, it is much more complicated.

Few buyers have the expertise to evaluate the true value of an aircraft that is set before them. Aircraft must be inspected and history thoroughly reviewed to determine if the aircraft is “flight ready” and in compliance with all FAA regulations. Also, as you can imagine, taking a car for a test drive is much easier than “trying out” an aircraft, especially if the buyer is not a pilot!

In short, prospective buyers are prone to a number of mistakes as they make their way to aircraft ownership. At RAI Jets, we have guided potential owners through the process of aircraft acquisition for decades. The owners and executive leadership at RAI Jets have acquired aircraft for our own operation as well as personal use, so customers reap the benefits of our years of experience to find the perfect aircraft for their needs. Most importantly, we help shield people from the five greatest mistakes that aircraft purchasers make when they buy a plane.

MISTAKE #1: Failing to Buy a “Right-Sized” Plane

Whether you are buying a new or used plane, there are many considerations that need to be made beyond price, speed, or appearance of the aircraft. Aircraft are a sizeable investment so it makes sense to buy a plane that is “right-sized” for your needs. Why buy a large plane and assume all fueling, insurance, and other operating costs when a smaller plane would suit you just as well? It’s very easy to fall for a good-looking, fast aircraft only to find out the operating costs are far above budget. So, the first step in your process in becoming an aircraft owner should be some deep consideration about the aircraft itself, and what you are looking for. To begin, consider:

  • Size
  • Age
  • Number of passengers
  • Frequency of use
  • Range
  • Engine requirements
  • Pilot requirements
  • Insurance
  • Hangar location

Only when you have thought through all of your needs and requirements will you be able to conduct an intelligent search for the right-sized plane.

MISTAKE #2: Having Unrealistic Expectations for the Aircraft

When you find an aircraft that seems “perfect,” be careful that you understand the capabilities of the aircraft so you do not end up disappointed with its performance. For example, you may want an aircraft that can frequently fly from Point A to Point B without refueling. According to the information on the spec sheet, the plane should be able to do it reliably, every time. However, varying conditions like wind speed, weather conditions, etc. can all affect an aircraft’s range, and suddenly, you find yourself using (and paying for) more fuel per trip than expected. Be very careful to take into account all possible contingencies when determining whether a plane is right for you.

MISTAKE #3: Failing to Forecast Out Maintenance

Some people who are handy with a wrench have no problem buying used cars that require more maintenance in the long run; they can handle the extra maintenance on their own, in their garage. Not so for the owner of an older aircraft!

Older planes may look like a good deal, but they also require more maintenance by specially trained and licensed mechanics in an aircraft hangar. Also, for very old planes, replacement parts may no longer be available, or be special order only and take days, weeks, or months to receive. RAI Jets worked with an owner who was enamored with a one-of-a-kind avionics monitoring screen on their plane. However, when it broke, the owner faced a 30-day wait and a five-figure bill to get it replaced from the manufacturer. As a buyer, it’s best to know what to expect from your plane’s maintenance schedule and the availability of specialty replacement parts before you sign on the dotted line.

MISTAKE #4: Failing to Account for Human Resources

Every aircraft needs a pilot, and if you are not planning to fly the plane yourself, then you need to hire a pilot (and co-pilot). This is called “cockpit resource management” and is something that should be added into the long-term cost of buying the plane. Pilots can be hired at a hefty annual salary or contracted to fly on demand. However, consider how to maximize the teamwork between the two pilots you will have in your cockpit, by hiring ones that have worked together before or know each other. At RAI Jets, we are proud to have a pool of pilots that know, respect and trust each other and are dispatched together for our flights. As our team members, they are similarly trained and represent our operation well. The same can be said for other members of our flight crew, like our attendants. The right human resources can make the difference between a good flight experience and a great one!

MISTAKE #5: Buying a Plane Without Professional Help.

There is a reason why aviation specialists are hired to help others with aircraft acquisition—buying an aircraft is a difficult process! An aircraft acquisition specialist like RAI Jets can help you:

  • Determine your aviation needs
  • Obtain and provide a full market analysis of available aircraft
  • Review and explain aircraft specs, FAA approvals, etc.
  • Evaluate and calculate full operating costs of potential purchase
  • Negotiate offers and prices with seller
  • Pre-purchase inspection consultation and review
  • Arrange for flight demonstration including pilots
  • Close the deal

There is no substitute for hiring a consultant to help with an aircraft purchase. When it comes to the aviation market, experience matters.

Our “RAI-Quisition Service” provides an aviation specialist at your side, to guide you through the process of purchasing an aircraft. After the sale, we can continue to service your aircraft at our  Part 145 Repair Station, the RAI Services Center, and/or aircraft management services  to continue to help you operate efficiently. We can even help generate revenue for you when your aircraft is not in use by flying your qualifying aircraft on our Part 135 Air Carrier Certificate.

Buying an aircraft isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. We are here to help you with the process, step by step.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to learn more!