Avionics Upgrades on Older Aircraft Make Sense

January 18, 2022

The first time you drove a car with a backup camera it probably felt like a helpful piece of modern technology. Now driving with it seems as standard as having a rearview mirror. You might take it for granted until you find yourself in a car without it. Would you buy a used vehicle without one?

The same principle is in play for avionics on older aircraft. What start off as new features eventually becomes something operators take for granted. And they’re definitely something that becomes expected by a new owner when selecting aircraft to buy.

This is an important factor for owners to consider when preparing an older airplane to sell. An owner of a Gulfstream GV might be used to the original avionics, which still work, but it may give a prospective buyer pause when considering that aircraft.

At Hatt & Associates, we advise our clients to consider all aspects of their aircraft and whether it makes sense to retrofit avionics. That determination can impact both the schedule and the preparation of putting a plane on the market.

While an owner might not recoup the exact cost of making a Gulfstream GV avionics upgrade to LCD screens or other modern features prior to a sale, it might be necessary to ensure a quick transaction. Owners should be aware of what features (or lack of them) might cause an aircraft to be passed over in inventory searches.

The value transformation is similar to a few years when available aircraft that had ADS-B equipment started off as “a plus” or “premium” amenity. As ADS-B requirements were pending implementation, those features became more and more prominent in aircraft on the market, making their inclusion less noteworthy. Now? It’s considered something that would lower the value of the aircraft for purchase because the new owner knows they’ll have to spend the money to get it up to the standard.

Even in a hot seller’s market like we have now, aircraft with “negative” features will prevent it from selling quickly or reduce its value as a whole even though engines might be newer and operating hours are considered positives.

Another reason to consider making avionics upgrades now doesn’t even involve selling one’s aircraft. As an avionics system gets older, the manufacturer starts to reduce its support for replacement parts, eventually ceasing it completely. With contacts on the MRO side, we’re able to keep owners apprised of which systems are likely to see reduced support.

Getting replacement parts for older (and even newer) systems can be a challenge, too. Once a system loses OEM support, finding the right part can take a long time, if it can be found at all. Like all other businesses today, the supply chain issues are affecting this work, as well. The right part might be a half a world away, with no quick way to get it when it’s needed.

Whether you are considering selling an aircraft or not, it makes sense to talk to one of our advisers to discuss its future resale value and where avionics upgrades or other modifications make sense. With turnaround times at MROs slower than normal, a conversation should be had now to minimize downtime. Start planning now for maximum benefit in the future.