Avoid Misconceptions About Aircraft Costing see more
NAFA member, David Wyndham with Conklin & de Decker, discusses the costs to owning an aircraft after the initial purchase.
What are some common misconceptions about aircraft costs? David Wyndham details some that he comes across on a regular basis, providing advice on how to avoid them…
Most misconceptions about aircraft cost result from connecting something that we’re familiar with (such as the cost of running an automobile or building a house) and using those as an analogy for the unfamiliar cost of owning and operating an aircraft.
The biggest misconception is focusing too heavily on the acquisition cost, to the detriment of operating costs and asset value over time. Let’s illustrate with an example…
I have a client who has a maximum acquisition budget of $20m. This is a real limit and not one to exceed. There is, however, a possible misconception that can arise if we were to look at Aircraft A (with a selling price of $20m) and Aircraft B ($17m) and conclude that Aircraft B is the less costly option.
The only way to know which aircraft costs “less” would be to evaluate the total costs to acquire, operate and dispose of the aircraft. Two of the major costs that must be factored are the operating costs (including maintenance) and the estimated residual value after a set timeframe.
Hourly Variable Costs
Looking at our current scenario (represented in Table A), Aircraft A has a lower fuel consumption than Aircraft B while the engine maintenance costs are similar. Aircraft B has lower airframe maintenance costs, meanwhile.
Yet even in factoring variable costs, there’s more to consider. For example, Aircraft A flies 8% faster than Aircraft B. The faster aircraft will use fewer hours to fly the same trips form point of origin to destination. Therefore, if Aircraft A flies 400 hours annually, Aircraft B will require 432 hours to cover the same missions.
Annual Variable Costs
Table B sets out the annual variable cost for each aircraft, factoring the required annual hours. As depicted, Aircraft A costs almost 10% less in variable cost per year than Aircraft B.
With both aircraft having about $650k per year in fixed costs, the annual operating budget favors Aircraft A slightly. While not enough to make up the $3m price difference, it does account for about $1m over 10 years. But before we can draw any conclusions, there is more…
Life Cycle Costing
Let’s assume Aircraft A is a popular model and is currently selling better than Aircraft B. Current market values for Aircraft A are being maintained better than for Aircraft B – therefore, after 10 years the estimated value (in dollars and percent) is higher for Aircraft A. Table C represents our ten-year Life Cycle Cost for each aircraft.
Aircraft A costs about the same to own and operate as Aircraft B. Our analysis has shown that making the purchase decision based on acquisition price alone doesn’t tell the entire story.
In the above example, we needed to evaluate parameters beyond the costs alone to determine which aircraft would provide the better value. And once you’ve achieved a solid cost analysis, there are additional factors to consider. Does Aircraft A have better support and a longer range than Aircraft B, for example?
Never let a spreadsheet make a purchase decision for you. And, never just look at a single cost item when evaluating the aircraft that best fits your budget. Aircraft are not commodities sharing essentially the same characteristics, which is why I stress to my clients to look for a best value when making the aircraft buying decision.
Costs are a very important part, but even the total costs do not tell the entire story. For the record, my client has yet to make the final decision on which aircraft to purchase…
This article was originally published on AvBuyer.com on July 16, 2018.
Whole Aircraft Ownership: Is It Right For You? see more
NAFA member, David Wyndham with Conklin & de Decker, highlights the benefits of sole ownership of a business aircraft.
If control over your company’s transportation is paramount, sole ownership of a business aircraft is particularly attractive. With high enough utilization, it is also very cost effective.
As a generalization, when your flying needs come close to (or exceed 200 annual hours), whole aircraft ownership can be more cost effective than fractional, charter or membership programs. Whole aircraft ownership offers the following benefits.
Freedom: With whole aircraft ownership a company has the freedom to select the best aircraft to satisfy its needs. Within safety and operating regulations, that aircraft can be operated as the owner requires.
Customization: When a company acquires its own aircraft, the outfitting of the aircraft can be done to suit its operational and travel requirements.
Options for colors, seating, carpeting materials (and more) are able to be matched to your needs and preferences. The larger the cabin size, the more flexibility there is in how the interior can be configured.
Service Levels: The aviation department personnel are the owning company’s employees. Not only is that company able to shape their training and manage their competence, it can affect how they interface personally with passengers.
The ability to hire the employees that fit the organization can be invaluable, and this service level generates a rapport that is effortless and comforting.
Control: In the US, Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) allow the most flexibility and opportunity for control to not-for-hire operations flown on behalf of the aircraft owner. A company-owned aircraft that is used in support of the business of the company falls under these rules.
While all aircraft must be operated safely, the sole owner of a business aircraft has greater influence over operations than either a charter customer or a fractional owner. Factors influencing safety and security are within the operator’s control.
A whole-aircraft owner has the highest levels of privacy. You can discuss sensitive business, or leave important corporate documents and personal items on board the aircraft.
Responsibility: With this high degree of control comes an equally high level of responsibility. While the FARs state that the pilot in command is the ultimate person responsible for the safe operation of the aircraft, the owner is responsible for the hiring and training of that pilot. The owner has liability for the actions of its employees, and this extends to the aircraft operation.
The owner can manage this risk via high-quality training and insurance. The crew should be trained to the highest appropriate levels of competence. Maintenance engineers (if applicable) also require regular training.
An individual or company owning or leasing their own hangar is also responsible for ground safety. The owner shares the risk by properly insuring the aircraft and crew.
Managing and directing the detailed operation of aviation activities requires individuals versed in management and Business Aviation - a skillset commonly accomplished either by having an in-house aviation manager/director, or by contracting the management of the aviation operation to a management company.
The Role of Management Companies
A management company can offer a turn-key approach of contracting the function and oversight of the aviation operation. These companies specialize in flight operations.
For a first-time owner of a business aircraft, we usually recommend contracted management for starting the aviation operation. In additional to providing flight crews and functional oversight, the management company can provide economic benefits as well:
- Fuel can be purchased in bulk on behalf of multiple aircraft owners;
- Discounts can extend to maintenance (the management company with multiple aircraft should be able to negotiate discounts for spare parts);
- The management company can purchase insurance for its group of owners at rates that can be lower than for a single aircraft.
While management companies tailor their services to meet an owner’s unique requirements, they typically offer the following oversight:
- Hangaring the aircraft
- Managing the aircraft records
- Hiring and training the flight crews
- Managing the maintenance of the aircraft
- Handling the billing and verification of all variable operating expenses (including fuel, maintenance, etc.)
- Ensuring that all regulatory requirements are met by the aircraft and crew
- Refueling the aircraft
- Cleaning and cosmetic upkeep of the managed aircraft.
Offsetting the Costs of Whole Ownership
If you, as the owner, desire to further reduce your total costs, a management company can charter the aircraft when you’re not using it, provided the firm has authorization under FAA Part 135 (or its equivalent in non US countries).
This relationship is complicated as there are regulatory restrictions governing operational control of any aircraft used for commercial service. The general terms are as follows:
- The aircraft owner pays all the operating costs (fuel, maintenance and other aircraft operating expenses).
- The crew may be billed as salaries or as an hourly fee.
- The aircraft owner gets a set percentage of the charter revenue.
The charter revenue the owner receives should be more than enough to cover the operating costs, but will not be enough to cover all of the fixed expenses, debt service and depreciation. The charter revenue is shared between the charter operator and aircraft owner. Rarely, however, does a chartering arrangement with a management company produce a profit for the aircraft owner.
The relationship with the management company is as much a personal relationship as a business relationship. Communication and shared goals are important. If you want control, fly enough hours and accept the responsibility, whole aircraft ownership can be very rewarding.
This article was originally published in AvBuyer on May 14, 2018.
NAFA member, Neil Book, President and CEO of JSSI, talks to Anthony Harrington, with BAM. see more
NAFA member, Neil Book, President and CEO of Jet Support Services, Inc. (JSSI), talks to Anthony Harrington with Business Aviation Magazine.
Q: Your big announcement at EBACE was the acquisition of Conklin & de Decker. Can you comment on the logic that guided the deal?
NB: There is a very real need in this market for easier access to data and more transparency for aircraft operators and owners. Conklin & de Decker’s mission, as they define it themselves, is to arm operators and owners with information. Their product set is all about helping the general aviation industry to make more informed decisions around the purchase, operation and sale of aircraft, by providing objective and impartial information. They’ve been doing this for 35 years, so they bring a layer of credible data and a level of customer service that is very consistent with our own culture.
The starting point for the deal was the launch of our advisory services platform last year, and the early success that we have had with it. This acquisition will be the first of many as we grow the strength and depth of our services business. There is no doubt that Conklin & de Decker is a tremendous bolt-on acquisition for us.
It is worth emphasizing that JSSI’s growth, prior to this, has been entirely organic. This is our first strategic acquisition and we are actively looking for more.
Q: How do you see the advisory service side? Does it simply strengthen the JSSI brand and add to the service set you provide or do you see it growing into a significant revenue earner in its own right?
NB: I think it will absolutely generate significant revenue and earnings, or we wouldn't pursue it. I also believe that it only strengthens the JSSI brand if we deliver a high quality product. We strive to be the best at what we do and if we do not provide the highest quality product, it could have a negative brand impact.
On the Conklin side, we have a strong technology team, led by our newly named CIO, Jake Gerstein. I’m confident we’ll be able to relaunch Conklin’s platform with even better data, features, and a more global focus.
Q: Both the engine and airframe OEMs are going down a similar route, deploying sensor data beamed directly to operations centres for maintenance purposes. Is this competition for your platform?
NB: I don’t see OEM real-time data being competition. I’m confident we can help operators better disseminate and understand that information. We cover every single make and model of aircraft and have been doing so for the last 30 years. We are sitting on a massive amount of maintenance data. This, coupled with operating data from the 2,000 aircraft we support and Conklin’s database, will allow us to deliver a product that helps operators. Ultimately, the market will decide.
Q: There is an issue in the market at the moment with the very mixed skill sets of appraisers and valuers, some of whom are very good and others who produce very questionable figures. How do you see this playing with your platform?
NB: I can’t speak for the entire market, but we take a lot of pride in the integrity of our appraisals. We just hired our eighth ASA-certified appraiser, Rich Thompson, and believe that our technical expertise really sets us apart. This service to date has been very geographically fragmented. Many banks have to partner with a number of different appraisers around the world, and, as you say, this can have very mixed results. The beauty of working with JSSI is that we have our people in key locations around the globe and this leads to a level of consistent and high quality work that our customers appreciate.
Q: How is the business doing, generally?
NB: Business is performing great and we’re having a lot of fun. We are seeing growth in every region around the world. Flight hours are up generally across the globe, so having 2018 turn into a strong flight-hours year is a very good barometer of the health of the industry.
Q: July and August have seen a considerable spike in both rhetoric and actions around protectionism and punitive tariff increases, raising the probability of trade wars weakening global
GDP. Do you see this as a significant threat?
NB: I can’t opine on a theoretical trade war at this point and what impact that will have on our business or global GDP. I am highly confident, however, that business jets are a critical tool to the global economy and will continue to be so.
Q: How interesting is the insurance market for JSSI?
NB: We’re working with two of the largest aviation insurance companies, who have made the choice to outsource their engine claims to JSSI. You have to remember that we manage in excess of 8,000 different maintenance events per year. When an engine claim is filed, we step in and perform a detailed analysis of the event. We determine the insurance company’s responsibility and we direct the work to the facility that is in a position to deliver the best turn-around time, highest quality work and the best pricing. And, of course, we audit the invoices when they come in. Our work has driven significant cost savings for the insurer, which ultimately helps the operators.
Q: How big is this market for JSSI?
NB: We’re focused on the “tier one” insurers today and believe this can be a significant business for us.
Q: Over the last two years you have expanded JSSI’s remit to include smaller commercial airlines. How is that working out?
NB: We have been really pleased with our success in this regional airline market. Since launching the program, we’ve enrolled five regionals and have a very robust pipeline. This year is already the strongest we’ve had through nearly three quarters and we do not anticipate it slowing down.
This article was originally published in the Autumn 2018 issue of Business Aviation Magazine.
What’s the Case for Becoming a Jet’s Last Owner? see more
NAFA member, David Wyndham, VP and Director of Business Strategy with Conklin & de Decker, discusses options for a specialized aircraft buyer and how the operator justifies the decision to buy with a view to becoming an aircraft’s last owner.
As aircraft age, they cost more to maintain and support. Spare parts for aging aircraft can be harder to come by as fewer of these models remain in service today and the OEMs shift focus to their in-production aircraft.
Parts suppliers may ‘build to order’ certain spares when demand levels no longer justify keeping a production line running. Be aware that the cost of these spares can fluctuate greatly as the effects of supply and demand take hold. Finding airworthy used spares is often only possible if there were enough aircraft built for salvage companies to tear down and use as sources.
These incremental maintenance costs and procurement hurdles can render an old aircraft unsuitable for a regular schedule of frequent flying. Nevertheless, for the savvy buyer with specific needs and managed expectations, there may be some value left in these airworthy but aged aircraft.
How Old is too Old?
If an aircraft is well cared for, it can have an almost unlimited life with respect to safety and airworthiness. There are DC-3 aircraft that were in service in the late 1930s still flying today. While not much more than the pilots’ control wheels and OEM’s data plate may be “original equipment”, they are still airborne.
Such aircraft are in the hands of loving and dedicated teams who fly for the joy of keeping them flying, not for transportation or business use.
What ends the life of most aircraft is economics—when the cost of flying them becomes more than the cost of replacing them. This is called the economic useful life, which is defined by the International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading (ISTAT) as follows:
“As it pertains to an aircraft or engine, the economic useful life is the period of time over which it is (or is expected to be) physically and economically feasible to operate in its intended role. Periodic maintenance and repair will usually be required in order to preserve safety and efficiency during the economic useful life.”
This age is contextual. An airliner flying 2,000–3,000 hours per year in short-haul trips will reach its end of life much sooner than a long-range business jet flying 300–400 hours annually. For a piston airplane flying 100 hours per year, its end-of-life can easily extend past a half-century. Age is a factor of calendar time and utilization, or flight time.
Research from Boeing Commercial Airplanes published in an article titled ‘Key Findings on Aircraft Economic Life’ (March 2013) found that while no exact definition exists, their data on over 31,000 airliners suggest that this economic life can be expressed in two general ways:
- The average age of airplanes when they are permanently withdrawn from service;
- The interval of time between delivery of a cohort of airplanes and the date when 50% (or some other fraction) of the cohort has been retired.
But what is a typical useful economic life for a business jet?
Data from JETNET showing the business jet retirements from 2011 to 2015 notes that 144 business jets retire each year on average. The vast majority of these are over 30 years of age. Meanwhile, AMSTAT data shows that today, of the more than 7,300 business jets built before 1998, about 46% of the fleet has been removed from service. This data suggests the useful economic life for a business jet is just over 30 years.
When Does an Aircraft Reach Salvage?
An aircraft at the end of its useful economic life can be sold for parts for salvage or scrap value. The Machinery & Technical Specialties Committee of the American Society of Appraisers (July 2010) defines scrap, or salvage, value as follows:
“An opinion of the amount, expressed in terms of money that could be realized for the property if it were sold for its material content, not for a productive use, as of a specific date.”
So, when does the scrap or salvage value of an aircraft exceed its ‘retail’ value as a flying asset?
If the maintenance to be done exceeds the retail value of the aircraft and, if accomplished, does not return enough retail value to cover the cost of the maintenance, then your aircraft is at salvage. In summary, an aircraft would reach salvage when the upcoming maintenance costs exceed the value of the airplane. That can be any maintenance, be it airframe, engines or avionics.
Combining all the above information leads to the following conclusion: If you are the owner of an airworthy aircraft aged 25 years or older, you could be its final owner.
Nevertheless, there may be aircraft younger than 25 that, owing to limited production runs and a lack of product support, will not be economically feasible to fly for much longer than a few years. Meanwhile, for some of the more popular aircraft with a long production run, you may see 40-year-old aircraft still in the air in sufficient numbers to make supporting them economically feasible.
So why would anyone want to become the last owner of a business jet?
If you understand the limitations, your value proposition is likely to be something like this:
You buy a very old business jet for $2m, spending $3.5m operating it for four years, before selling it for salvage at $500k. The net cost to you is $5m. The owner of a new business jet that paid $30m, meanwhile, will see more than that in market depreciation alone.
However, keep in mind that these older jets spend a lot of time in maintenance and there is a higher chance that you will not be able to “call when needed”, but if your flying needs are infrequent and predictable, you may find there is enough value left in these older jets to make the case for buying one.
Next month, we will illustrate with a case study. Stay tuned!
This article was originally published by AvBuyer on November 5, 2018.