Aircraft Inventory Numbers Only Tell Part of the Story

April 4, 2024

Assessing the preowned jet market through recent news articles might send mixed messages. They report that inventory is up and prices are down.

So, what does that mean for aircraft buyers and sellers? The answer is a bit more nuanced than one or two specific statistics. Here’s what people in the market to buy or sell an aircraft should know:

Inventory is Up, But Not Historically

Aircraft market specialists agree that a number around 10% of available aircraft is a sign of a healthy, well-balanced market. That’s a number that’s been hard to find in any segment of business aviation for the past four years, especially in the years where many new buyers entered the private aviation market for the first time.

So compared to tight-inventory years such as 2021, inventory overall is up, but still well below that 10% mark industry wide. The numbers year-over-year seem like they are a significant increase, but that’s really only because the previous couple of years had been so low. In fact, the figure cited by one analyst in February – 4.3% of the business jet fleet – was still below even the five-year average of 5.1%.

Inventory is also not up throughout all business aviation models. The areas where there are more aircraft available tend to be for models older than 20 years. That’s a natural progression as current owners upgrade to newer models, or upgrade to larger aircraft to fulfill mission requirements.

If a buyer is looking for a jet that is more than 20 years old that might serve as an entry into private aviation, some of those models’ inventory levels are above the healthy 10% availability mark. Another factor is that those aircraft are becoming less common in the North American market as those owners are seeking to replace their jets with more efficient models.

Getting Closer to a Balanced Market

The reported drop in prices have not been seen in many areas, and even where they are, they are still elevated from historic levels. What has changed from the 2021 days is the “instant sale,” where buyers had to act fast, sometimes even before an aircraft showed up as a listing.

Buyers have a little bit more time to research and compare aircraft before signing an offer. It’s an area where our experience at Hatt & Associates can assist buyers to identify and secure the right aircraft to fit their aviation needs – not just the one that’s available.

That doesn’t mean, however, that sellers don’t still have the upper hand when it comes to marketing their aircraft. Some types of aircraft – including large-cabin jets as well as modern midsize aircraft – have inventory numbers still under 4% availability.

Newer models built from 2005 on have been selling quickly. Sellers can take advantage of this high demand and maximize their return. Hatt & Associates can help this group ensure their aircraft is promoted the right way to keep in front of prospective buyers and avoid any issues that might cause the aircraft to languish in listings. We are also equipped and willing to take the aircraft into our own inventory to facilitate a seller.

Manufacturers’ Next Wave

Another factor to consider is that the inventory figures are and will be driven by new deliveries from the aircraft manufacturers, or OEMs. As they are able to deliver more of these next-generation aircraft to the market, especially in North America, that opens up preowned aircraft that would fit the needs of many buyers.

One delay in that has been in certification. The Gulfstream G700 was expected to be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration last year but was finally certified this March. Now that customers are taking delivery of their new Gulfstream, we will see more of the previous generation 550 and 650s coming to market as they are being replaced.

Will that be enough to get to the healthy 10% inventory mark? Probably not, but it will give buyers (and sellers) more options. Reach out to us to start the process in finding the next right aircraft, or learn how we may assist you in marketing a currently owned jet.