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Lessons Learned from Pilatus Projects in Aviation Sales

How to Sell a Plane in the 2022 Market

Finance | April 1, 2022 | Claire Harrison

We’ve heard a lot of it over the years, but never as often as today…. “In this market, my Pilatus is going to sell itself.” There’s no doubt that there has been great growth in the private aviation space in 2021 and 2022. With Covid boosting the interest in flying private, Pilatus, like many aircraft makers, is dealing with a backlog of new orders. Used aircraft are more difficult to come by than they have been in the past. Inventory of used Pilatus for sale is at record lows and prices continue to climb. More people than ever are asking, “What’s my plane worth?”

Our answer: That depends.

Here are some ways to get the most out of selling your Pilatus, or any aircraft for that matter.

 

How to Get the Best Sale Price for Your Plane

#1. Make a good first impression.

Because you won’t get a second chance. Sounds simple, but it’s amazing how subjective “a nice plane” is in this industry.

While professional photos go a long way, so does the first impression.

To get top dollar for your aircraft and minimize risk, the prospective buyer needs to perceive your plane as a tightly run ship. Clean. Well-maintained. No excuses. From beginning to end of the sales process.

 

#2. Get your house in order.

Take inventory of all the things that are associated with your airplane. Whether it’s a missing emergency exit pin, or maintenance record, you’ll want to be prepared to quell any airworthiness and convenience concerns.

We waste a lot of time and back and forth, requesting manuals, logbooks, and maintenance history. To make sure your sale is as smooth as possible, have all your documents and records for your Pilatus organized and readily available.

Oh, and don’t forget the extra seats and carpet configurations you pulled out to haul the hunting gear last season.

 

#3 Prepare your asset to look its best.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I just had it detailed. It’s fine.” It’s NEVER fine. Please. Go the extra mile. Unless your prospective client is used to buying used aircraft, they are expecting the best.

I recently flew across the country to look at a Pilatus for sale for one of our acquisition clients. My eyes hit the plane and I knew instantly this would be a project. I was appalled by the condition. I would never show that plane to my client.

After years of working with pre-owned Pilatus, I can see past the grime. But it’s often a good indication of how well-maintained the plane is. Pride of ownership applies to this topic!

So, don’t kid yourself. Your potential buyers’ perceptions WILL be skewed by dirty carpets and bubble gum stuck to the chair.

Imagine: You are dating a beautiful woman (or handsome man.) They appear lovely in their dating profile pic. You’ve been invited to their home for dinner. Upon arrival, you can’t help but notice weeds in the front yard, a foul smell as you walk through the door, unkept kitchen and worse of all… a dirty toilet. No matter how good-looking that potential mate is, your perception of them is going be affected by their dirty house.

When it comes to selling your plane, err on the side of being over the top with the little things.

Paint scratch? Touch it up.

Carpet dirty? Get it cleaned.

Lightbulb out? Fix it!

Nothing should be NOT working! Hello!

 

#4 Understand your exposure.

“Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.” does not apply here.

Damned if you do. Damned way worse if you don’t.

The risk associated with selling a plane doesn’t end with your signature on the transfer of ownership. It can be exponential if you don’t know how to avoid the landmines. Coming out of an aircraft sale unscathed makes you the guy that went to Vegas, placed 10 bets, and won them all.

Trust the sales process and avoid….

  • Deposits forfeited.
  • Miscommunications in aviation-specific contract language.
  • Tax liability exposure.
  • Tearing your airplane into 100 pieces at the wrong time.
  • Survivability in the title
  • Warranty disclaimer language
  • etc.

When a client’s most trusted lawyer says, “Let’s get an aviation attorney on this one,” or “We are speaking to a specialist in aviation law about this one.” That’s when you know you’ve got a good attorney.

Here’s an example of how NOT to sell a plane…

We know an entertainer who received an inquiry about his plane, in an offhand conversation on the ramp. Stranger wants to buy the plane. He says, “There’s no inspection needed. Here’s the money.” Meanwhile, Entertainer’s friend (who is in the aircraft business) says, “You should do an inspection.” Entertainer agrees to sell the aircraft “as is” and the Buyer DOES NOT perform an inspection, regardless of Seller saying they should perform one. Ten days later, XYZ part fails. Stranger/Buyer slaps the Seller/Entertainer with a lawsuit claiming that they can prove the entertainer knew the part was failing. Now, lawsuits are flying faster than the plane…

 

#5 Find the right partner for the process.

Dad always told you, if you’re going to be in business and be successful, hire the best attorney you can afford. Hire the best accountant you can afford. Hire the best financial advisor you can afford. Why do you stop that mindset at an asset that costs $3-5M that’s going to take your grandkids to Disney Land?

By asking a professional pilot or admin to chaperone the sale process you’re jumping over a nickel to save a dime.

Good business owners surround themselves with what they don’t know. This is not like selling a used car. This is a multi-million-dollar asset with peoples’ lives in the balance. Consult a professional.

 

#6 Don’t Leave Money on the Table.

We see a lot of people who sell their own airplane, or have their pilot sell the aircraft. After discussing the process, we find that 95% of the time they’ve left money on the table.

If you’re considering selling your aircraft FSBO make sure you do your research.

Make sure your pilot, administrative assistant, or broker knows the ins and outs of the process to maximize your return on your plane sale.

 

The bottom line on selling your airplane…

Ultimately, you want to walk away from the closing table with the lowest amount of risk attached to your signature and the highest amount of money in your pocket.

Hiring a representative like JetSwiss is like hiring a tax accountant that used to work for the IRS. As the experts in the pre-owned Pilatus market, we can help you understand how much your asset is worth, where the pitfalls may be and how to make the most of your plane in a sale.

Today’s private aviation market is filled with people stupid-excited to pull the trigger. Make sure you’re covering all your bases when the dust settles.

If you’re interested in working with JetSwiss or would just like to have a conversation about your aircraft. Give us a call at 913-839-2627. We’d love to talk shop or provide an aircraft evaluation.