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Qualified pilot? Find out more about buying your own private jet

You’ve qualified as a pilot or maybe you’ve been flying for years. Either way, you’re ready to take the first step to buy a private jet. But what are the best private jets for sale and how much does a private jet cost? We give you the facts that can help you make the right decision.

Private jet pilot or commercial airline pilot?

Pilot epaulette on sleeve
Pilot epaulette on sleeve

Air travel is expected to double in the next 20 years while the number of U.S. pilots has decreased by 30% since 1987 according to the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). Around two thirds of airline pilots in the 1980s were ex-military but that number has dropped to less than one-third with the Navy predicting a 10% pilot shortage in 2020, and the Air Force expecting to be short of 1,000 pilots by 2022 according to a Military Times report. This opens up plenty of business opportunities for qualified pilots in the U.S., but who’s likely to be better off in the future: the private jet pilot or commercial airline pilot?

Both face promising futures, although each class of pilot has different career prospects.

The critical shortage of commercial airline pilots is seeing airlines increasing pilot salaries and even offering large sign-on bonuses as well as reimbursement of pilot tuition. Many of the major airlines offer full health benefits, paid vacation time and incremental bonuses based on length of service. As an airline pilot you’ll have the opportunity to specialize in certain types of aircraft (often complex, wide-body airliners) and, unlike a private jet charter pilot who must be flexible to flight schedule changes, flight rosters are usually published a month in advance.

Private jet pilots are equally in demand, with more than 67% of private jet charter operators actively recruiting staff, according to a JETNET iQ survey. This is being driven mainly by three factors:

  1. Pilot shortage: Major airlines are recruiting pilots from regional airlines, resulting in some smaller airlines having to cancel flights because they don’t have pilots to fly them.
  2. Slot constrained airports: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) says that more than 190 airports across the globe are slot constrained. The number of airports that do not have the capacity to meet demand at all hours of the day is expected to increase noticeably in the next decade. In fact, aviation experts are saying that a crisis is looming if the industry does not find ways to improve customer service and boost air connectivity.
  3. Customer service demands: Passengers are speaking out against lengthy waits and long queues at airports, and being squashed into shrinking airline seats. They want travel that is quick, flexible, offers onboard connectivity, and a pleasant customer experience. Private jet charter offers all this and more, and it is also getting more affordable and attainable thanks to a number of innovative products on the market like the jet card, and empty leg specials.
Two pilots in aircraft cockpit
Two pilots in aircraft cockpit

Populations continue to grow and more people’s livelihood depends on air transportation. The strain on regional airlines to meet high passenger volumes as well as airport slot constraints, present a major opportunity for private jet charter with smaller private jets and helicopters able to reach a lot more airfields and use runways with short landing and take-off capabilities.

Part of the revolution in air travel customer experience is concerned with lifestyle. According to the global travel market research company, PhocusWright, 38% of travel bookings are made a day or two before a trip. No other transportation is as flexible and convenient as a private jet charter flight. Wellness Tourism (when people travel to take part in activities that promote health and wellbeing – anything from rock climbing to visiting an organic farm), is expected to develop into a $639 billion market with no sign of slowing down, according to Skrift’s annual travel industry trends forecast 2019. This translates into private jet charter flights to carry people to remote destinations or areas that are under-serviced by commercial airlines.

The way we do business is another major growth opportunity for private aviation, and it’s not only Fortune 500 companies that are flying on luxury private jets. Staying ahead of the pack is equally important to small and medium enterprises. Only private aviation allows businesses to cut down on travel time, stay on top of travel schedules, reach multiple and remote destinations in the shortest time, increase productivity and connectivity while in the air, transport key personnel to where they’re needed most, and deliver sensitive documents or consignments safely and efficiently.

Research by the Avinode Group supports these growing trends. Growth between August 2017 and August 2018 showed that all leading North American destinations recorded a rise in private jet charter traffic. Every airport in the top 10 most-requested North American destinations demonstrated a year-on-year growth in demand, with McCarran up by 75%, Teterboro almost 100%, and Van Nuys rising by a staggering 103%.

Never before have there been more opportunities to buy a private jet and profitably deliver private jet charter services to a growing market of private air travelers.

How to buy a private jet: your top 4 questions answered

When’s the right time to buy a private jet?

Now’s the time to buy. Prices on used private jets are still in recovery and have not yet returned to the levels they were at before the 2008 economic downturn. An upswing in private jet purchases suggests that they’re being snapped up before prices rise any further.

According to Bloomberg, by the middle of 2018 the average price of a pre-owned aircraft had gone up 1.5% to $9.7 million, thanks in part to favorable business growth in the U.S. and lower corporate taxes.

How much does a private jet cost?

If you’re looking for a new airplane, the Eclipse 400 is one of the cheapest jets on the market and a good starting point for a private jet charter airplane. It accommodates three passengers and a pilot, has a range of 1,256 nautical miles and sells for around $1.2 million. Midway between cheap and expensive is the bestselling Citation XLS at $14 million.

Pre-owned private jets for sale are offered at a significantly lower cost. You can pick up a nine-seater 1982 Cessna Citation II (Cessna’s bestselling private jet during its 16 years of manufacture) for as little as $250,000. A 1982 long-range Learjet 35A that seats eight passengers could set you back by just $350,000.

Where can I buy a private jet?

An excellent place to find reasonably-priced private jets for sale, is a private jet charter company like Air Charter Service that understands the requirements of a private jet charter operation.

What should I look out for when buying a private jet?

  • Find out which maintenance cycle an airplane is in. Larger maintenance expenses are based on a calendar cycle as well as usage. This is why two aircraft that are the same model can sometimes vary substantially in price. You don’t want to spend $2 million on your jet only to find out two months after purchase that it’s due for $350,000 worth of maintenance.
  • Don’t buy without first arranging a pre-buy inspection at a certified 145 repair station. The only way to know for sure if a plane is in good flying condition and worth the asking price, is to thoroughly inspect it. This should include a careful study of all flight logs and paperwork, as well as the engine programs and/or logs.
  • Climb into the cockpit and get a feel for a plane before buying. A test drive will cost you a tank of gas but it’s worth it. Since you’ve spent a number of hours inside airplanes as a pilot, you’ll know what you like about a cabin and what you don’t. If you’re buying new, most manufacturers will provide demos around the airport area to qualified buyers.
  • If you’re unsure about the best private jets to buy or any aspect of the purchase process, opt for the services of an aviation broker or consultant. They charge a fee, but if you’ve chosen a reputable broker, they’ll expertly manage the purchase of your private jet and be able to give you advice about the ongoing operation of the airplane.

If you’d like to find out more about your options for private jet ownership, speak to our team about how convenience, speed, flexibility, and superior customer experience can make private jet charter work for you as a pilot.



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