A pilot who is not dreaming of what airplane will come next would be almost unheard of. For most, the insatiable desire to go faster, climb higher, fly farther and carry more will lead them to transition to more powerful and complex aircraft. With the goal of ending up in the left seat of your own light jet comfortably cruising in the 40’s, you might ask yourself how you are going to get there and what factors you will have to consider along this journey.
The first step for many owners wanting to make this transition is moving from a piston driven aircraft to a turbine aircraft, and it’s a big jump. Turbines are bigger, faster, more powerful and mistakes can be much more costly. However, the safety, reliability and ease of use that a turbine offers over a piston engine are undeniable. Moving to a single engine turbine aircraft is generally the natural progression for those currently operating high performance pistons with aspirations of jet ownership. There are several options out there, the most popular being the Piper M600, Daher TBM, and Pilatus PC-12. Or, for multi-engine drivers, the King Air C90 and 200 series aircraft make great stepping stones to light jet operations.
Identifying the Next Aircraft:
There are several things to consider when shopping for your next aircraft. Budget, mission, availability, and training should be at the front of mind. You’ll want to really lay out your mission profile. Where are you going? Who is coming with you? How often? This will help you decide if you really need the payload and capacity of the Pilatus or if you’re better suited for the jet-like speeds of the latest and greatest TBM.
As you most likely did when acquiring your current ride you’ll want to consider the cost to acquire the aircraft, broker fees if you decide to retain a professional, insurance, hangar space, operating costs, inspection costs, training and more.
Availability is often overlooked when initially planning a transition, but it’s more important now than ever before. Are you buying new? If so, when is the earliest delivery slot from the factory? You might be surprised to find how long you could be waiting. Buying pre-owned is smart and advantageous for many, but availability can vary greatly. We are living in a different world these days, so your best bet is to partner with someone who lives and breathes the pre-owned market.
You’ll want to start training as soon as you’ve identified what your next aircraft will be. All of the turboprops listed above are under 12,500 lbs and legally do not require a type rating in the United States, however, your insurance company likely has other plans for you. This can vary between different companies, aircraft, and pilot experience. Make sure you know your insurance company’s minimum requirements well in advance so that you are not surprised on delivery day.
Timing is a crucial factor in a transition. If you rely on your aircraft for business you want to make sure that your timing won’t leave you without lift for any amount of time. First qualify and establish your financing and structure the entity that will be purchasing the aircraft, so you can understand what your tax plan will be for closing. If you are purchasing a pre-owned aircraft make sure that you have identified a qualified facility that is an expert on your airframe to perform the pre-purchase inspection and get a date on their books. A strong relationship with a maintenance facility is crucial to ownership and will serve you well when it comes time to sell and transition to your next aircraft. Communication is key, make sure you know who is who. Turbine aircraft deals can have lots of parties on the communication channel such as the owner(s), attorneys, brokers, chief pilots, directors of maintenance, customer service representatives at the maintenance facilities and more. It’s important to manage the flow of information and identify who the key players are. Remember, you’ll likely be managing this all in tandem with the sale of your current aircraft, so you’ll want to make sure the inspection and delivery dates all line up with your schedule.
There’s a lot that goes into a big transition like this and the process can feel overwhelming with limited resources available on the subject. Start early, be flexible, and keep sight of the bigger picture. A broker with experience in transitions can help relieve a lot of the burden of managing two transactions at once and become a great resource and friend on your journey to the jet. Don’t forget, flying is fun and it will all be worth it when you take the family on that first trip to the Bahamas in your shiny new turboprop!