Brisk sales activity in clean, late-model Commander aircraft is the leading market trend aproaching the close of 2014.
Commander buyers have brought out their checkbooks over the past quarter, especially for clean, later-model aircraft. With the stability that has returned to the market, as noted over the last few reports, and good supply in most markets, the identifiable trend in the Commander Jetprop market has clearly been that prospective buyers finally are exiting the holding pattern and picking out the nicest of the available airplanes.
While several first-time Commander buyers have specified a Garmin G950-equipped model 900 or 1000, existing owners of 690A/B aircraft have also moved to upgrade their trusted earlier-model planes to the standards inherent in the capable Gulfstream-era Jetprop models.
Overall, the number of available aircraft over the past three-to-four months is the same: 58 total shown for sale, according to market data firm Jetnet. However, with at least eight near-term closings expected, the increased current activity will bring the number down as low as we’ve seen in 12 months.
In reviewing the data back to 1989 and considering today’s activity, there are fewer Commanders for sale today than at any time over the past 25 years. Of course, one might point out some natural reduction in the fleet due to retirements over the period, but even factoring that in we are as close to a low in supply as I have witnessed.
The breakdown of available models includes four 1000s (695A & B); three 900s (690D); four 840s (690C); zero 980s (695); 25 690As; 14 690Bs; and three straight 690s. Of those that are for sale, 14 are on the foreign registry.
Speaking of international activity, the latest National Turboprop Fleet Report from Twin Commander Insurance expert Dale Barnard of NationAir insurance indicates 287 active U.S.-registered Commander turbines and 428 international airplanes, with the international registry gaining three aircraft over the quarter. One reason: Commanders serving in the role of lead attack aircraft are increasingly becoming the standard for Canadian Forest Service contractors as well as domesitic operators.
The exception to international fleet growth is Europe, where an increasingly difficult regulatory environment and lack of efficient support conspire to push all legacy aircraft models back to the U.S. and other international destinations.
Compared to the rest of the turbine aircraft world, Commander pricing trends show no real change, according to various aircraft value guides, including Vref. It is noteworthy that the familiar “down arrows” indicating a lower-pricing trend are nowhere to be found in any competetive legacy turboprop market. With several later-model turbine aircraft including jets showing substantial price increases, it seems we have turned the corner in the light turbine aircraft market.
Bruce Byerly is vice president at Naples Jet Center and a long-time Twin Commander sales professional and pilot.