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used aircraft

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2017 End of Year Market Commentary

Autumn is traditionally the best time to sell an airplane.  Buyer's are looking to make year-end decisions, often for tax reasons, and 2017 has has been no exception.  In many ways, Q4 2017 has surpassed previous years by a wide margin.  Is it because of an overall strong economy, the prospect of lower taxes, pilot medical reform, the need to upgrade capital equipment, rising aircraft prices, or all of the above?  The bigger question is whether or not this momentum will continue in to 2018?

So, what types of airplanes are driving this activity?  This commentary will reference the piston and single-engine turbo prop markets only.  Buyers want consistency, pedigree, and recency. 

They want consistent and frequent operation.  Airplanes that have sat for extended periods, even if low time, are not attractive.  A misconception among sellers is that buyers want low time engines but that's only half of the story.  What they really want are engines that have been frequently used.  A low time engine with minimal use over an extended period is considered a gamble by most buyers.

They want pedigree, meaning thorough, capable, and first-rate maintenance.  They want more than minimal maintenance.  If you're one of those owners who brag about your $1,000 annual then you're going to be in for a surprise when buyers don't appreciate your frugality.

And, buyers want recency.  In other words, they want an updated panel (it doesn't have to be state-of-the-art though), they want a 30 year old airplane to have an upgraded interior, and they want to feel like they're buying a plane that doesn't look like it's a blast from the past.

Consistency.  Pedigree.  Recency.  How does your plane measure up?

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Cheap or Good?

Speaking only for myself – I can imagine that others may feel the same way – one of the most frustrating, and frankly counter-productive, first questions a buyer can ask is, “so, what’s the lowest you’ll take for that thing, anyway?”

Really??

I mean, you don’t know a thing about the airplane other than what you’ve seen on the ads.  More than likely, you haven’t taken the time to dig into the logs or speak with the mechanic to see what type of maintenance has been done on the plane.  You certainly haven’t seen it yet.    Have you even considered the possibility that a “cheap” airplane or “smoking deal” may cost you more in maintenance, upkeep and upgrade than you’ll ever save on the front end?

When a buyer asks me this question within our first few minutes of conversation I automatically lower my expectations of that prospect and begin to discount their legitimacy.  Experience has taught me over and over again that this question is often asked when little research has been done, when they suffer from price myopia, or when the buyer can’t think of anything else to say. I've also found this question to be reflective of their ability to financially qualify for the plane in the first place. 

Some say there are no dumb questions.  Honestly, I’m not so sure about that.  What I am sure about is that there are dumb times to ask certain questions.  Buying and selling is a lot like dating.  There are just certain questions you don’t ask until you get to know someone first.  Know what I mean?  Should you forget that basic principle, you’ll likely find that to be your last date…or worse.  Educate yourself first.  Try to get as much of the big picture as you can before jumping right to the bottom line.  You’ll undoubtedly find the other party more receptive and appreciative of the efforts they’ve made to maintain their airplane. 

So, if you call and ask me that question, don’t be surprised if my response is, “Do you want a cheap airplane, or do you want a good airplane?”  Because there’s a difference; a BIG difference.  Happy and successful aircraft ownership is based on understanding the costs involved, not just the price.

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What are the first two words in “Good Customer Service?”

Of course, the answer to the question in the headline is “Good Customer.”  Easy enough right?

Wrong.

Why?  Because far too many people demand good customer service without actually being a good customer.  They are rude, arrogant, condescending, and boorish.  They are entitlement minded.  They’ve conned themselves into believing that they actually deserve good customer service without having to give anything in return.  They’ve become that person you’re embarrassed to go out to eat with.

How did we forget basic civility in this country in such a short period of time?  Why is it we think we are special, that we know more than previous generations, and that our expectations are justified?

Don’t agree with me?  Take a look around the next time you’re at a restaurant and watch how patrons treat the wait staff.  Think about how you’ve treated a vendor whom you’ve never met in person.  (Anonymity can easily foster this type of behavior – social media diatribes are a case in point).  Watch how the gate agent is treated the next time you’re at the airport.   I’m not talking everyone here, but it probably won’t take you too long to find someone who fits this description.  Heck, I find myself guilty of such actions from time to time.  We all do.  But enough is enough.

My intent here is not to get into what’s happened to our societal norms, values, and behavior.  What I want to do is to help each of us see where we fit into this equation and what we’re each doing to foster this unhealthy environment.  And it starts with expectations.  Who told you things were going to be perfect all day long?  Did someone, somewhere, whisper in your ear that you have a right to demand perfection from others yet expect grace when it comes your own shortcomings?  I’ll bet your mom didn’t teach that you shouldn’t ever have to wait.  Nor did your dad tell you things wouldn’t go wrong.  If they were good parents they probably told you things like “get over it”, “suck it up”, or “treat others the way you want to be treated.” 

Just to set the record straight, I’m certainly not writing this article based on experiences with my customers.  I’ve got a very deep respect with those who do business with me and vastly appreciate their perspective and experience.  And, almost without exception, I’ve found them to reciprocate on every level.  I like to think that folks in my industry are a notch above others, but I may be slightly biased.  My comments are however based on casual observations from daily life.  Traveling.  Going to the movie.  Eating out.  Waiting in lines at the airport. 

May I encourage you then, the next time you’re faced with a less-than-perfect customer experience, to put on your best face, lift up those who are serving you, and get out of the paradigm that you’re owed something and are not getting it.  In other words, get over yourself, roll with the punches, and appreciate the efforts of others.  Do that, and I’ll bet you’ll notice an improvement in the customer service you receive.  

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