Thinking of purchasing your own jet? From order to acquisition, here’s an informative breakdown of the steps involved.
It can take years to prepare for the arrival of an aircraft, all leading up to one of the most exciting days for any new owner—delivery day. But what many don't realize is that the process of accepting a whole aircraft is complicated and often can be overwhelming. In AirSprint's case, a purchase involves every department in the company, from sales to finance and flight operations to maintenance.
"We have an excellent relationship with Cessna and Embraer. They produce great airplanes all the time," said James Elian, President & CEO of AirSprint. "AirSprint has very high standards, and my understanding is that both OEMs have added additional steps to the process for us. This results in an even higher-quality aircraft."
According to James Elian, President & CEO of AirSprint, the company’s fleet of Cessna Citation and Embraer Praetor and Legacy jets has grown by 50 per cent since the pandemic began in 2020.
“The onset of the COVID pandemic has seen a lot of people who could always afford to fly privately, but couldn’t justify it, to move towards private aviation,” he confirmed. “Airlines were hit hard due to government restrictions and because of that we’ve seen a real impact on airline frequency and route structure. It made a lot of travel more inconvenient. The private aviation market has expanded by around 30 per cent overall in Canada.”
With such high demand for both new and used aircraft, Elian said AirSprint must carefully forecast its future needs.
“For the last few decades, you could often get an aircraft within six months. Today, the wait can be in excess of two years. It varies, with each OEM [original equipment manufacturer] being a little bit different.”
In the past, pre-owned aircraft presented a viable and affordable option for operators who needed another jet quickly. But Elian said that prices for used aircraft have skyrocketed due to high demand. In some cases, pre-owned airplanes are priced higher than comparable new machines—simply because they are available now.
He explained that prospective owners must be wary of paying too much in today’s hot market. In a cyclical environment such as aviation, it’s absolutely essential to do your research and obtain expert advice before proceeding with any purchase.
Elian said AirSprint, which has 22 years of fractional ownership experience, is planning to acquire at least seven aircraft over the next 18 months. Currently, five aircraft are pre-sold and waitlists for two more are filling up.
“It basically doubles our fleet over a four-year period,” he said of the increased demand.
How does AirSprint forecast demand and order aircraft accordingly?
Forecasting has always been a critically important part of AirSprint operations. Companies can get into trouble if they order aircraft and demand is not there. We look at several factors: How big is our waiting list? What is our average closing ratio? What interactions are we having through our website and sales people?
In general, how long is the window between placing the order and bringing the jet online?
From the time we order the plane until delivery, the wait depends on the type. Today, Citations are about 12 months from order to delivery. The Embraer products are closer to two years. Normal timelines are usually around half of that.
How are you involved, step by step?
We are constantly looking forward. I’m working with the sales team to understand what our demand is, and working with the finance team to understand financial commitments we have. I work with suppliers and manufacturers to understand aircraft availability and pricing. Together, we put forecasts together with various assumptions. We want to understand the financial risk involved with ordering an airplane. Then, I get board approval for the purchase.
How do your relationships with OEMs benefit the company in the current business climate?
If we are forecasting well and have built the orders in with OEMs, owners can get aircraft more quickly. In today’s environment, there is a long lineup. It’s less about getting preferential slot timing and more due to the fact that we simply do this a lot. We can move quickly because we order several jets at once. We’ve done this 40 to 50 times in our 22 years.
How would this process compare to an individual ordering their own jet?
We have had individuals reach out to us before and we are always happy to provide some guidance. We have heard some stories about single owners who expect to show up and take their jet home immediately. OEMs do their best to walk everyone through the process, but some challenges can come up. From a regulatory standpoint, when trying to bring an aircraft into Canada, you can buy it but you might not be able to fly it for a while. Understanding the regulatory process is critical. Our team brings a level of expertise that can really streamline the process.