With U.S. investment markets touching record-high territory, we’d expect to see increased demand and activity in the aircraft market. That’s been the history – the market goes up, aircraft activity and sales up; market down, sales and activity down. So, is history repeating itself today? The answer is a qualified yes.
Notably, we continue to see a decline in the percentage of the turboprop fleet available for sale, with Twin Commanders no exception. Today, fewer purchase options for quality Twin Commanders exist. This is a fact. However, while there is less to choose from, upward price pressure eludes the market. This, of course, appears to be an advantage to today’s buyers.
Though it is impossible to predict the future, the move to a seller’s market appears to be upon us as sellers in most aircraft segments find less competition. According to leading market data provider Jetnet, the percentage of the turboprop fleet on the market is “well below the 10% mark,” which represents a 1.5% reduction year over year for the most recent data. Twin Commanders support this trend, with a decline of more than 20% year over year in available aircraft. Fewer than than 20 aircraft currently are advertised, the tightest supply since the pre-2008 period.
The rule of supply and demand still drives the market, and with a relatively stable world economy and a short supply of high-quality aircraft, I certainly won’t be surprised by higher prices commanded for those no-excuse, high-pedigree Twin Commander aircraft.
Another consideration for both buyers and sellers that should not be overlooked is what I call the “project factor.” As market value provider Vref points out, while many ramps witness lower traffic and have aircraft of all types in need of maintenance and updates, it’s clear the ready-to-go, top-market airplane sells if priced right. With so much iron available under $2 million, there are plenty of attractive options for buyers looking for good transportation.
The “project factor” holds back the value of many otherwise good airplanes as buyers are unwilling or without the patience to complete an upgrade program. Does a seller recognize that their trusted aircraft is really in need of a panel makeover to meet today’s buyer’s demands? Often the answer is “no” because of shorter cycle times in terms of upgrades, particularly avionics. What was considered “state of the art” just a few years ago is old news in a market that has been flying glass panels in Cessna 172s now for 10 years.
Pilots want to enjoy the latest equipment. When upgrading to the efficiency and performance of the timeless Commander, buyers gravitate to the features found in a modern panel. As a pilot, I can certainly appreciate that.
Bruce Byerly is vice president at Naples Jet Center and a long-time Twin Commander sales professional.