aircraft operation costs

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    What Does it Cost to Operate a Large Cabin Jet? see more

    NAFA member, David Wyndham, Vice President with Conklin & de Decker, discusses the costs associated with operating a large cabin jet.  

    Any answer to questions asking what it costs to operate an aircraft must always start with, “it depends”. The following article discusses some of the dependent variables.

    For the purpose of our discussion, Conklin & de Decker defines Large Cabin Jets as those that typically seat 10+ passengers, have a flat cabin floor, include a galley for preparing a hot meal, and a lavatory. Cabin height should allow for most people to stand up without much of a stoop (i.e., approximately 70 inches). And range should allow for at least 3,000nm non-stop.

    Aircraft typical of this category are the Gulfstream GIV and G450 series; the Dassault Falcon 900 series; the Bombardier Challenger 600 (through 650) series; and Embraer’s new Praetor 600.

    How Much Does it Cost to Buy a Large Cabin Jet?

    Acquisition costs for new models in the Large Cabin Jet category run between $32m to $45m. Pre-owned prices vary as many of these models will have been in production for many years. However, a typical 20- year-old Large Cabin Jet can be purchased for between $4m and $6m.

    Keep in mind that placing a pre-owned aircraft into service will probably require additional funds, and a buyer may elect to spend a further $1m to $2m on upgrades, paint and interior refurbishment.

    Major maintenance checks may be due soon and must be budgeted for at the time of purchase. If the engines are close to overhaul and are not enrolled on a guaranteed hourly maintenance plan, then buyers should budget another $1m+ per engine for the overhaul. It’s essential that the pre-owned Large Cabin Jet buyer plans on these major expenses.

    What’s the Operating Cost of a Large Cabin Jet?

    Operating costs depends on the size and age of the aircraft. Below are some illustrative averages for a Large Cabin Jet, taken from the Conklin & de Decker Report. These have been rounded-off:

    • Average variable cost per hour: $4,000
    • Fuel*: $2,000
    • Maintenance: $1,200
    • Parts, Labor, Major Maintenance Reserves
    • Engine Reserves: $800

    (* Fuel cost depend on fuel price (per gallon) and fuel burn.)

    What are the Data Costs of a Large Cabin Jet?

    Another variable cost to budget for is Wi-Fi or airborne internet. The ultimate costs will vary, based on the type of connection, speed and amount of data used, and where you fly. If flying in the US, you could use an air-to-ground (ATG) system connected to cellular towers.

    Large Cabin Jets are typically used to fly globally, however, and if flying over water or in remote regions, maintaining internet connectivity will require a satellite-based system.

    There are different installation and rate plan options designed to fit the needs of both the passengers and pilots. New installations for a satellite system can run anywhere from $650k to $800k.

    Monthly rates based on data used and download speeds can start at $25,000 per month. An approximate data estimate is $2,000 to download a movie in HD or $4,000 to stream a live sporting event.

    What are the Fixed Costs of Large Cabin Jet Ownership?

    Fixed costs of Large Cabin jet ownership typically run between $1m and $1.2m per year and include the following:

    1. Salaries
    2. Training
    3. Hangar
    4. Insurance
    5. Refurbishment

    Here’s how the costs for these elements looks:

    1) Salaries: The pay for two pilots ranges from $170,000 to $200,000 per pilot, depending on job duties and level of experience. Depending on your operating location and travel schedule, it may be wise to employ an aircraft maintenance engineer/technician on a salary of $80,000+ per year.

    And if the schedule is complex, involving frequent changes and multiple individuals who can authorize use of the aircraft, a flight scheduler is recommended as well as an administrative person. Their salaries can be in the region of $60,000 per year.

    2) Training: Pilots need training at least annually and that can cost between $75,000 to $80,000 for two crew members.

    3) Hangar: For hangar rental, plan on an annual fee between $50,000 and $60,000 for a typical metropolitan area. Premium locations, like New York City, Hong Kong and Geneva, will be significantly higher.

    4) Insurance: This can range between $30,000 to $60,000 depending on the aircraft value and liability limits. If the aircraft spends a lot of time outside of developed countries, those costs may increase substantially.

    5) Refurbishment: Paint and interior should also be considered. A new interior and paint job may last from seven to nine years with excellent care. Depending on the level of completion, materials and extra features, you should budget approximately $1.2m to $2m for this work.

    Additional costs that can be incurred include acquiring aircraft technical publications for the flight crew and additional maintenance, office and travel expenses.

    What’s the Overall Cost of Owning a Large Cabin Jet?

    In summary, it’s reasonable to plan an operating budget of approximately $2.8m per year for 400 annual hours operations in a Large Cabin business jet, excluding the costs of capital, taxes and depreciation.


    This article was originally published by AvBuyer on January 13, 2020.



  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    Tips for Comparing Aircraft Operating Costs see more

    NAFA member, David Wyndham, Vice President at Conklin & de Decker, details the process of a Life Cycle Cost analysis and underlines its importance to any aircraft buyer.

    A consulting client I worked with was evaluating Large Cabin business jets. Initially the client was more concerned with minimizing the operating expenses and less concerned with the capital costs. As long as the acquisition price fitted within their $25m budget, they would be satisfied.

    Yet those evaluating business jet ownership should be concerned with more than just the acquisition costs. They should also factor operating costs (variable and fixed), amortization, interest, depreciation, taxes and the cost of capital. Items like depreciation, interest and taxes – for example - can add as much as 60% to the Aviation Department’s costs depending on the value of the aircraft.

    Furthermore, you should also consider when the costs occur.

    General Methodology for Life Cycle Costing

    When analyzing the potential acquisition of a whole aircraft or a share of one, Life Cycle Costing ensures that all appropriate costs should be considered.

    The Life Cycle Costing includes acquisition, operating costs, depreciation and the cost of capital. Amortization, interest, depreciation, and taxes also play a part in what it costs to own and operate an aircraft and can be included in the Life Cycle Costing as appropriate.

    The first step is to know what aircraft to evaluate. This is achieved with an understanding of the key missions and the technical analysis of all potential aircraft. You need to be sure you are not buying more (or less) aircraft than you need.

    There should be no room for assumption in the process. The costs should cover a specific period and take into account the aircraft’s expected value at the end of the term of ownership.

    Comparisons of two or more aircraft should cover the same period of time and utilization, ensuring an apples-to-apples comparison is provided.

    On the subject of utilization, you are advised to use miles if the aircraft is flying point-to-point and convert each aircraft to hours based on their speed. To have an accurate comparison, you will need to measure performance using the same criteria. Different aircraft fly at different speeds. Using a mile-based measurement accounts for the speed differences between aircraft.

    I also recommend that you have a baseline. If an existing aircraft is to be replaced, that aircraft becomes the baseline. If you charter or own a fractional share in an aircraft, then continuation of that charter or fractional share would be the baseline.

    The baseline essentially forms a basis for the comparison, establishing whether the new option under consideration costs less than the current baseline or more. If the cost will be more, what is the value of the increased cost?

    Net Present Value Analysis

    A complete Life Cycle Cost accounts for the time-value of money in a Net Present Value (NPV) analysis. Using NPV enables the differing cash flows from two or more options to be compared and analyzed from a fair and complete perspective.

    An NPV analysis takes into account the time value of money, as well as income and expense cash flows, type of depreciation, tax consequences and residual value of the various options under consideration.

    When an expense (or revenue) occurs can be as important as the amount of that item. This is useful in the comparison of Cash Buy vs Lease vs Finance options for the same aircraft.

    Business aircraft do not directly generate revenue except for the sale of the aircraft. Thus, the NPV results are typically negative.

    When comparing negative NPVs, the "least negative NPV" is the more favorable. In other words, if Option A has an NPV of $5m and the NPV of Option B is $6m, Option A has a better NPV.

    You may want to run several scenarios. For example, what if you owned the aircraft for five years? How about ten? What if utilization was increased? What is the break-even point to move from fractional ownership to whole ownership? There may be many possible best alternatives when you adjust the important criteria.

    In Summary

    Regarding the client mentioned above, we evaluated new and used business aircraft and found several options that were at the top of the acquisition budget had lower total life cycle costs than aircraft with lower acquisition prices.

    A Life Cycle Cost analysis is an important decision-making tool, but it is not the answer all by itself. I like to use the term "Best Value" in combining both the capabilities and the costs of the various options analyzed.

    Run the numbers and use them in your decision - but remember: Never let a spreadsheet make the decision for you.

    This article was originally published Conklin & de Decker in AvBuyer on June 25, 2018.