Mallory Cantrell | July 6, 2023

10 Tips for Buying Your First Aircraft

Buying an aircraft is an exciting investment that can save you time while providing the flexibility that commercial flights might not always achieve. However, if you’re new to aviation, the details can get overwhelming if you aren’t familiar with the full process.

Follow these tips for buying an aircraft to ensure you have all of your boxes checked.

1. Determine Your Needs

The first step of buying an aircraft is determining what you’ll use your private jet or airplane for. For example, will you primarily be using it for business purposes? If so, how far will you travel regularly? What is your budget? And how many people do you expect to travel with? This is where working with an experienced aircraft broker like Omni Aircraft Sales can be extremely beneficial in helping you determine your specific needs.

Different aircraft models have unique specifications for range, speeds, and seating. Outside of the budget, range is often the most significant factor as it determines how far a jet can travel before it needs to land and refuel.

For example, the Learjet 45 and Pilatus PC-24 have broad ranges of just under 2,000 nautical miles, which is enough to travel across most of the United States. However, for international travel, you’ll need an aircraft with more range, such as the Gulfstream G550, which can travel over 6,500 nautical miles.

The number of seats in your aircraft is also important if you plan to fly with other passengers regularly (or even irregularly). It’s crucial to look at specific seating details as certain jets have restrictions at full capacity.

For instance, some jets can fit more passengers if lavatory seats are utilized. Additionally, most jets have a decreased range if their cabins are full due primarily to the weight of fuel storage, passengers, and luggage.

2. Set a Budget

For many people, the budget is the most crucial factor to consider when selecting an aircraft. Before you decide on a private jet, don’t just consider the purchasing price but also the costs of upkeep and operation.

Aircraft maintenance alone can cost owners anywhere from a few thousand to upwards of one million dollars per year, depending on the model, condition, and price of parts. Additionally, a jet with poor fuel efficiency could add significantly more to your annual budget than one with better efficiency.

When setting your budget, always leave room for contingency. Other costs to consider for your budget include:

  • Insurance
  • Storage and hangar fees
  • Pay and accommodations for the crew
  • Ground handling
  • Fixed Base Operator (FBO) fees
  • Security
  • Transportation fees
  • Interior cleaning
  • Inflation of gas and part prices

3. Research Aircraft Models

As discussed partially in the first two steps, you must comprehensively research aircraft models before investing in them. To start, look at their specs, such as dimensions, wingspan, range, speeds, seats, manufacturing date, and operation requirements. Then, compare these details with your needs, budget, and storage capabilities.

Your aircraft broker will provide you with all of this information in a comprehensive aircraft comparison report.

4. Inspect the Aircraft

Once you’ve found an aircraft that meets your needs and interests, a qualified broker should inspect it on your behalf. Never buy an aircraft unless someone you trust has seen it first. The broker will usually only look at the aircraft from a base level, so you’ll need to engage an experienced inspection facility to complete a more thorough inspection.

When inspecting the aircraft with your broker, ensure its interior feels comfortable enough for you, as you’ll likely spend a lot of time inside the cabin. Next, thoroughly examine the aircraft’s structure, technical details, engine, and paperwork for any noticeable problems.

Things to look out for during your inspection include the following:

  • Confirmation that the aircraft is equipped and in the condition that it was represented.
  • Review the logbooks for completeness and accuracy back to birth.
  • Review the logbooks for any damage history or other events that could impact the value of the plane.
  • Other obvious defects.

5. Get a Pre-Purchase Inspection

Once your brokerage company believes it’s safe to move forward, they will help you schedule the PPI (Pre-Purchase Inspection). Even if you’re an expert, a second set of eyes from a qualified technician will help you spot any defects, concerns, or maintenance needs missed during previous inspections.

Experienced aircraft inspectors know everything important to look for when buying an aircraft, including its paperwork. They’re also typically familiar with common defects of specific models and different ways sellers cover up or only partially fix problems.

Keep in mind that not all problems with an aircraft are deal-breakers. Like buying a house, some defects may be easy to take care of prior to purchasing.

6. Consider Financing Options

Depending on your financial situation, you may require a loan to purchase your aircraft. As with any significant investment, take your time and look at as many financing options as possible when deciding between lenders.

7. Consider Management Company Options

An aircraft management company is a must-have for many private jet owners. These companies oversee the operation of your aircraft, including refueling, arranging storage options, scheduling flights, managing crew, and securing insurance.

Like financing options, take your time to look at as many management companies as possible, comparing prices, accommodations, years of experience, and what businesses they work with. Which specific management company you choose may depend on your budget, location, travel needs, and aircraft type.

Omni Air Transport has provided aircraft management services for over 40 years, helping our clients find the best insurance, hangars, crew, and technicians. We aim to help optimize your investment by finding the best savings possible on costs like fuel. Additionally, our monthly bill-back packages specify all expenses spent on maintaining and operating your aircraft to keep you up to date with where your money’s going.

8. Understand Maintenance and Operating Costs

As discussed in Steps 2 and 3, you must understand your aircraft’s financial and maintenance needs before buying. Some aircraft models require additional maintenance and use expensive or hard-to-find parts.

Beyond maintenance needs, reconsider all operating costs that would go into your specific model, such as fuel, oil, storage, and crew. Jets with poor fuel efficiency or a large wingspan will cost you more to own and operate year-round. Set your budget accordingly.

Take this step to reach out to maintenance technicians and storage hangars for estimates and re-evaluate your budget one last time. A management company can assist with this step, and as a brokerage company, Omni Aircraft Sales will provide a pro forma of cost expectations.

9. Join an Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (Optional)

When you join the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), you’ll receive access to training opportunities, networks of pilots, industry news, unique events, and many other resources. Most AOPA memberships cost under $200 per year.

While joining an AOPA isn’t necessary for all private jet owners, it’s a helpful way to receive industry updates, learn more about regulations, and meet other pilots and aircraft owners. Networking is especially beneficial for new jet owners who want to learn more about the field.

10. Take a Test Flight

The test flight will be done as part of your pre-purchase inspection. This test is to ensure all systems, components, and cockpit controls are operating correctly (or as disclosed).

Once you’ve ensured the aircraft meets your needs, budget, and expectations, you can finally complete your purchase.

At Omni Aircraft Sales, we understand how massive of an investment buying an aircraft is. This is why we take the maintenance, financing, and documentation of our jets seriously. Contact us today to see which jets in our inventory will meet your needs.

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