Investing in aircraft assets is, on first principles, no different to making investments in any other asset class. In its simplest form, the mantra of “buy low, sell high” applies, although perhaps it should be modified to “buy well, sell better and manage assiduously in between”. Everybody involved in the commercial aviation sector will be fully aware of its highly cyclical nature. The importance of this fundamental fact cannot be overstated when it comes to investing in aircraft – and within the broad definition of “investing” should be included any transaction that relies on the asset’s future value as security against a financing arrangement. Commercial lending banks are just as much taking asset risk on the provision of secured debt into an aircraft financing as an operating lessor taking that asset onto their books – although some banks only come to realise this when they are facing a loan default and possible (re)possession of the asset. The industry cycle has been a core component of commercial aviation for at least 40 years – in other words since almost the dawn of the jet age. Over all of that period of time aircraft have been bought and sold at various stages of their economic lives, including at the end of their lives for part-out, with the aim of making some money from it along the way. Whilst the volume of trading does not come close to that seen in some other asset classes and the industry is far from transparent in the way that trades are reported, there is more than enough empirical evidence available to establish close correlations between i) the age of an aircraft and its value and ii) the proportion of the asset’s value that can be realised through a sale at each stage of the industry cycle. Understanding these relationships, along with the ability to manage the assets during the hold period, is critical to building a successful aircraft investment portfolio.


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