​​​​​​​How To Buy A Used Jet
Flying|May 2018

Practical Advice On How To Purchase The Airplane Of Your Dreams

Dick Karl

ANYnumber of experts can help you buy a jet. Unfortunately, I am not one of them. But I did buy a jet — my first — recently, and the experience taught me some lessons. It is entirely possible that you and your company will employ an expert or two to help you find a turbofan-powered airplane and that my experience will seem bush league to you. It did not seem bush league to me.

Since buying the jet, I’ve spent several hours listening to recorded messages when looking for information from Rockwell Collins (FMS database), CAMP (maintenance tracking) and Williams International (engines). These phone calls include a lot of “press 1 for this,” “press 2 for that” instructions. So, picture my imaginary phone interactions with the Jet Buying Gurus (JBGs) when I set out to buy one:

JBG: “Thank you for calling the Jet Buying Gurus. Press 1 if you need a jet. Press 2 if you want a jet. Press 3 if you don’t need a jet, but want one anyway.” 

Me: #3 

JBG: “OK, I hear you want a jet but don’t need one. What kind of jet do you want but not need? Press 1 if your average mission is 500 nautical miles or less, 2 if 500 to 1,000 miles, 3 if greater than 1,000 and 4 if you don’t know.” 

Me: #4 

JBG: “That’s fine. I understand you don’t know your typical mission. Are you going to be the pilot?” Me: “Yes.” 

JBG: “OK, I will assume you will fly your airplane single-pilot. If that is correct, press 1.” 

Me: #1 JBG: “One final question: Do you have any idea how much it costs to own and operate a single-pilot jet?” 

Me: “Obviously not!” 

And so it went. Based on these imaginary conversations, I concluded that the primary candidates were the Cessna Citation series of jets, the Hawker Beech Premier 1, the Embraer Phenom 100 and the Eclipse Jet. Older Citations (501 SP, Citation II) seemed like dinosaurs.

Bigger, older airplanes (Citation Ultra, V) seemed too big and burned too much fuel. Newer, cooler airplanes (HondaJet, bigger CJs) were too expensive. What’s a guy gonna get for a million bucks? A CitationJet built in the 1990s, that’s what.

For $1.2 million, an older CJ1 or Premier 1 (but not the 1A) would be possible. That’s where I settled. That’s where I started to look. I was an entry-level guy with just barely entry-level money looking at the bottom rung — or close to it.

I had originally thought a CJ1 would make the most sense. The airplanes are plentiful, popular, easy to work on, have simple systems and are, well, just plain cool. I was already typed in the CE-525s and familiar with the Collins Pro Line 21 avionics found in most.

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