Guide: How to Buy a Private Jet

Buying your own aircraft is the ultimate extravagance but having the freedom to fly whenever you want is hard to put a price tag on. Here are some key considerations before you take those first steps down the runway

It might seem like the one luxury that you could live without, but at a certain point in your career - when you're spending more time in airport lounges than your living room for instance - and a certain level of success, owning your own aircraft may not seem like such a far-fetched idea.

Experts advise starting with chartering a private jet, and if it’s available in your part of the world, entering into a fractional ownership arrangement that allows you the use of an aircraft for a certain number of hours a year.

"That way you can try out different aircraft and see what's involved before deciding if you want to buy your own jet," says Jose Eduardo Costas, VP for Marketing & Sales in Asia Pacific, for Embraer Executive Jets.

Industry players say it’s a buyers’ market right now, with plenty of inventory left following the financial crisis of 2009.

Do You Really Need to Own One

  • At what point does ownership, which would set you back around $4-5 million for an entry-level jet, make economic sense? While there is no magical number, experts say that as a rule of thumb, if you spend over 300 hours a year in the air, that's when you might want to start shopping around for your own set of wings. Anything less and a charter or fractional ownership would probably make more sense.
  • One of the key advantages of owning your own aircraft is that you can customise it to suit your needs and tastes. If work is priority in the air, you can set up a conference grouping on board. But if flying is the only time you can get any real sleep, then installing a bed with your favourite mattress is a no-brainer.
  • You may not always get the same plane when you charter, and of course it may not be as readily available.

How to Buy One

  • If you're set on owning a private jet, there are two main routes to making the purchase. If you've done your homework and know which make you want, you can approach the manufacturer directly.
  • However, most jet newbies are likely to engage a professional consultant or broker to help them through what can be a lengthy and complex process.
  • Qualified aircraft brokers claim to not only find and negotiate the best deal on an aircraft, they also save you time and money in the process of completing the transaction.  
  • A word of advice from the experts: “Brokers are well educated in the process of buying and selling aircraft, which will save you time and money in the process,” says Greg Duckson, President of U.S.-based broker General Aviation Services.

Which Type to Get

  • There are three basic types of jets available: Light, medium and heavy. 
  • Light jets usually have a 1,000 nautical mile range and can seat up to six people. Medium jets have a 1,500-2,000 nautical mile range and can seat 8-10 passengers. Heavy jets usually have a 2,500-3,500 nautical mile range and can seat 12-16 passengers.
  • Choose one based on how far you need to fly and how many people you usually travel with.  Obviously, if overseas travel is will be required, the aircraft will require the longer range aircraft. 
  • It is also advisable to get a plane that seats more people than you intend to take with you, says Embraer’s Costas to allow for comfort during longer haul flights.
  • Guide How To Buy A Private Jet 3The full range of Embraer jets, from smallest to largest. Depending on your needs, most manufacturers will have something in their stable.
  • Guide How To Buy A Private Jet 4A set-up like this one is perfectly possible, from the makers themselves or from interior specialists. One can even bring one's own specialists in but they will have to work within set safety specifications in terms of materials.
  • Guide How To Buy A Private Jet 8Jackie Chan's Embraer Legacy 650 at the Singapore airshow earlier this year. This executive jet is at the very top of the Legacy range for Embraer, making it a top-end mid-range aircraft.
  • Guide How To Buy A Private Jet 7Having counches and distinct areas in your jet is a true luxury of course. As long as one works within the restrictions of the fuselage for space and the safety regulations, even unusual configurations like this one are possible
  • Guide How To Buy A Private Jet 10One of the smallest of the short range executive jets, the Phenom 100 is an example of a jet that should be popular for people doing business within large countries such as Russia, China, India, Indonesia and the USA.
  • Guide How To Buy A Private Jet 5Wi-Fi set-ups are easily accomplished by private jet makers so being fully connected while aboard your plane will not be a problem.

How to Get Financing

  • There are many companies and banks that specialise in aircraft financing. Like most loans, the company or individual will have to qualify for a loan as well as provide some form of a guarantee.
  • Lenders typically have a certain niche that they finance. Some will offer higher loan amounts, some will only finance newer aircraft, and in certain countries where the aircraft may be located, it could be harder to obtain financing.
  • Basically, find a good broker and that person or company will be able to assist you in finding the right financing solution.

How to Much to Expect to Pay

  • The cost of the aircraft will vary depending, among other things, how large the plane is, how old it is, and its maintenance history.
  • Prices have dropped significantly in the past four years as a result of the global economic slowdown -  private jets are the first things to go in bad times - and many aircraft can be had for $3 million to $10 million.
  • If you don’t mind a second-hand model, older used jets can be purchased for under a million dollars, says Duckson.  

Other Costs to Look Out For

  • This somewhat long list will give you an idea of the true cost of jet ownership.
  • Annual insurance premium.
  • Hangar Space
  • Maintenance
  • Salaries and benefits for crew
  • Landing Fees, handling fees and even navigation fees
  • Catering
  • Fuel 

How to Manage the Investment

  • Professional management companies handle all aspects of owning an aircraft for the owner. They will maintain the aircraft to the manufacturer’s requirements as well as handle hiring pilots.
  • Some can even offer the aircraft for charter to help offset some of the maintenance costs while the owner is not flying it. 
  • One downside to chartering your aircraft out is that it will put wear and tear on the aircraft and with every hour it flies it moves it closer to its next maintenance schedule. 

Customization Options

  • Everything from colors and carpeting to lighting and cabinetry is open to customisation. Interior design aside, planes can also be fitted out with entertainment systems and Wi-Fi access.
  • Manufacturers can offer you their in-house consultants to help customise your aircraft, but very often buyers bring their own designers into the process as well.

Further Reading

  • Knowledge is power so arm yourself with following resources.

Guide How To Buy A Private Jet 11

Executive Jets - Geza Szurovy

Guide How To Buy A Private Jet 13

The Legend of Gulfstream - Jeffrey L. Rodengen

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