Falcon confab predicts better times ahead

 - October 8, 2007, 6:46 AM

The economy is recovering more quickly than some experts predicted, though not as robustly as expected. The pre-owned aircraft market is busier following a dismal year; it’s more of a buyers market now; business jet depreciation is typically 2 to 4 percent per year; and capital equipment loan interest rates are the lowest in 40 years. These are some of the observations made by aviation experts at Dassault Falcon Jet’s fifth annual Aviation Professionals Conference, held May 1.

This uniquely Dassault event, this year accompanied by a morning round of golf, gathers a number of speakers to present their views to invited attendees on such vital topics as aircraft financing and leasing, the pre-owned market, aircraft valuation, the charter/management industry, human resources and fractional operations. 

Invited attendees include Falcon customers and suppliers, as well as representatives of the financial, leasing and operator communities. In the past, this conference has been held in one of the large meeting rooms at Falcon’s Teterboro headquarters.  
But each year the number of attendees has grown, and this year a larger facility was required. And a more elaborate affair was also planned. A country club in North Branch, N.J., served as an ideal venue for the 100-plus attendees, allowing for golf in the morning, lunch and the business meeting in the afternoon and a reception in the evening.

Speakers and topics for this year’s event included Bob Zuskin of Jet Perspectives, aircraft valuations; Alan Clingman of Marquis Jet Partners, fractional perspective; Cai Von Rumohr of SG Cowen, used aircraft pricing; Ed Kilkeary of LJ Aviation, charter and management; Bill Watt of Fleet Safety International, human resources; Pete Agur of VanAllen Group, consultants’ role; and John Unchester of JP Morgan Leasing, finance.

AIN was invited to attend, but strictly with the understanding that we wouldn’t report directly on what  any specific speaker said. Falcon officials believed that the speakers wouldn’t be “candid” or “blunt” in their remarks if they “worry that their remarks will be published.” In the end, we didn’t view any remarks as being particularly controversial.

The 10-min presentations (long enough to import the main points, short enough to stay interesting) by each speaker were followed by a 30-min panel discussion moderated by Dassault Falcon Jet’s Brian Foley. Panelists included Pat Janas of Corporate Jet Sales; Jim Dickerson of Bank of America; and Paul Gross of Key Global Finance. Scheduled but unable to attend was Christian Domer of Rifton Aviation Services. Foley steered the discussion to address the conference’s theme of “Managing Change in 2002.”

There was a consensus among the speakers that the economic recovery is definitely under way, though not as dynamic as hoped for. Ironically, because of the modest recovery it is a buyers market, and although the used aircraft industry appears to be recovering nicely as prices are firming, buyers of new aircraft are not lined up at salesmen’s doors because they are waiting to be sure the economic recovery is not a hiccup. Some of the lowest interest rates in years and the new 30-percent bonus tax deduction (AIN, April, page 2), initially in effect for purchases made through 2005, should help to stimulate new aircraft sales. 

Competition among financiers should also help to rally sales. As one speaker put it, “there are lots of financial participants” and the number of sources is growing. One of the latest to offer new and pre-owned purchase financing is Webster Bank’s Center Capital of  Dallas.

The meeting was hosted by Dassault Falcon Jet president John Rosanvallon, who, in his usual good humor, said he wasn’t about to lose the opportunity to provide a brief status report on the company’s milestones for several new products, including the Falcon 7X, 2000EX and the EASy cockpit.

Despite the understanding that AIN couldn’t attribute comments to a specific speaker, we felt Dassault Falcon Jet achieved its goal of providing an interesting and informative conference. We know of no other manufacturer that conducts a similar event–at least none to which AIN is invited.