Plane Advantage: How to Buy a Business Jet

Maybe your company is outgrowing charter, or you have a demanding new client in a hard-to-reach location. Perhaps your company had a jet but sold it during the Great Recession. Whatever the reason, if you’ve concluded that owning a corporate jet makes business sense, you’ve picked an opportune time to be in an acquisition mode. Not only are several next-generation jets coming to market (for a guide, click here), but pre-owned aircraft are at historically low prices, and plenty of perfectly airworthy legacy platforms are begging for buyers.

However, navigating the market for both new and pre-owned aircraft requires an experienced crew. Large sums of money and personal safety are at stake, and the transaction presents many opportunities for expensive mistakes.

“It’s a complex, fast-changing environment, and it has to be dealt with by professionals on all sides,” says Jay Mesinger, CEO of Mesinger Jet Sales, based in Boulder, Colorado, citing deal components that include regulatory considerations, financing and tax strategies, and export and import logistics, as well as coming avionics mandates. “The good old days of the back-of-a-napkin or handshake deal are really gone.”

“I would encourage anyone to seek counsel,” advises Johnny Foster, chairman of the National Aircraft Resale Association (NARA) and president and CEO of OgaraJets in Atlanta. “Align yourself with a professional team as if you’re going into court to go to battle.”

“It’s a complex, fast-changing environment, and it has to be dealt with by professionals on all sides. The good old days of the back-of-a-napkin or handshake deal are really gone.”

If you’re like many CEOs, you may opt to use a brokerage firm to handle the acquisition process rather than be personally involved. And you may not even plan to be the primary user of the jet. C-suite executives are aboard less than half (48%) of corporate jet flights, according to a 2015 Harris survey of business jet users and flight crews, a figure that counters the myth of corporate jets as fat-cat toys. Regardless of your level of involvement in the purchase—or even how much you personally expect to use the jet—here are seven steps to follow to ensure the process goes smoothly and you get the right aircraft for your company’s needs.

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James Wynbrandt is a pilot and aviation expert, author of Flying High and a contributor to Air & Space and Business Jet Traveler, among others.

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