Don't Sell, Upgrade Your Aircraft

If you are looking to upgrade to a newer aircraft, here are three things to consider:

1. The value of your current aircraft has taken a beating since 2008 and you will not be happy with the loss in market value.

2. While you should be able to negotiate a good purchase price for a newer aircraft, many owners still may not be willing to part with their aircraft at today's prices (see #1 above).

3. Your financial institution may not be willing to lend on terms that you find desirable. If the aircraft you are buying is new or nearly so, this isn't an issue. But it is for older aircraft.

If you need "more" as in seats, payload or room, your only alternative is acquiring a larger aircraft. If you need more speed or more range, and want newer avionics, but are happy with your aircraft's cabin, there is another alternative: upgrade your current aircraft. 

Companies like Aviation Partners, Raisbeck and Blackhawk have been quite popular for many years.  They, and others, have performance and engine upgrades that allow your current aircraft to fly faster, further, or both. There a top notch avionic shops offering upgrades that can turn your old steam-ship panel into a modern marvel. Recover the seats and add a new paint job, and voila — a new plane. Is it worth it? Before you undertake such a major project, here are some things to consider:

Why You Might Not Want To Upgrade Your Existing Aircraft

Older aircraft cost more to maintain than newer ones. Wear and tear items, aging aircraft issues, second or third engine overhauls all drive the cost up. Your aircraft must be in excellent mechanical condition and essentially free of corrosion, otherwise don't consider the upgrades.  

You think that the upgrade will add enough value to pay it back when you sell your aircraft. Some upgrades add value to your aircraft while others add value only to you. With today's market, do the upgrade if it has value to you. If it has value in the market place, so much the better but do it for you.

If your current aircraft cabin is plenty suitable, here are some upgrades to consider:

Enhanced Aerodynamics & Engines

Performance enhancements can range from winglets to engine retrofits. Given the cost of fuel, things that make the aircraft go faster on the same fuel, or engines that burn less fuel, can be desirable. 10 knots more speed on 3% less fuel may not sound like  much, but over time will add up. Do the gains make sense to you and your operation?

Glass and More Glass

Update the avionics. There are impressive upgrades that can turn your old analog cockpit into a glass heaven. This can range from updated Nav gear to a full panel replacement. When looking at new systems, look at what the current variant of your aircraft (or closest relative) has for its avionic system. Done right, these systems enhance both safety and reliability.

Budget carefully and talk to other operators who have done the same upgrades. As long as your current aircraft is in excellent mechanical condition and you plan to keep it for the next few years, the added utility and flexibility of the upgrade can add all the value you need.