MARKET REPORT – New Upgrade Options Will Raise the Bar

In reviewing the market data for the past six months, turbine Commanders continue to track right along with market averages in terms of the numbers.

Currently there are 56 Commanders (all models) for sale, which represents 7.8 percent of the fleet or exactly the percentage of worldwide business turboprops for sale, according to the latest data from aircraft research firm Jetnet. Twenty-three aircraft sold over the six-month period, which equates to an average hold time of one year –– again, similar numbers to the fleetwide average of 398 days on the market for turboprops.

Across the turboprop market, research firms’ data show that year-over-year asking prices are nearly unchanged compared with the prior six months.  Meanwhile, jet activity is reported strong with attractive prices, while piston-twin pricing and activity in most markets is challenging.

With prices continuing to remain stable and activity good in the turboprop segment, it will take just a bit of an increase to push prices up a notch. But the numbers do not tell the whole story, as activity on upgraded and turnkey aircraft is strong. With the recent approval of the Garmin G950 STC for Commanders, and completed aircraft already flying, an exciting upgrade option is available to owners who want the latest equipment and to buyers who currently fly glass panels and want their next aircraft to have the capability and reliability of a fully integrated flightdeck.

Attractive airframe prices mean good aircraft are available for the upgrade.  Just a few years ago, an acceptably modernized panel meant a Garmin 530 and maybe XM weather and a digital clock. Today’s pilots want more, and the latest panel transformations are truly significant. They bring the best of the proven airframe together with the latest technology.

Among the very small field of new-production twin-turboprops, the current options are still produced with an aging generation of glass, while the retrofit market has taken off with Garmin. So while it’s not a new concept, the big Garmin panel upgrade is certainly a proven one and is widely accepted in the marketplace.

Fleetwide, the compliance with Service Bulletin 241 on the 690A and 690B models is nearing completion. With this update done, 690s remain good values.

Notably, fleet operators, particularly forest service contractors, continue to snap up existing aircraft as business conditions demand upgrades to proven equipment rather than paying the high prices for new airframes. The migration to Commanders has been consistent over the past few years, but more recently has ramped up considerably as Canadian and U.S. operators choose the turbine-powered Commander as the standard for a high-visibility, maneuverable, and efficient workhorse.

Bruce Byerly is vice president at Naples Jet Center and a long-time Twin Commander sales professional and pilot.