Buying the first aircraft off the assembly line

 - November 10, 2008, 6:44 AM

New aircraft models generate lots of excitement and interest. But David Wyndham, vice president and co-owner of aircraft data company Conklin & de Decker, Orleans, Massachusetts, argues against buying any new model until all of its bugs have been identified and rectified.

“If you’re interested in the latest design, be patient and sign up for around serial number 75 or later,” Wyndham said. He cited five reasons for his advice:

• The aircraft may incorporate unproven technologies that create unforeseen challenges to implementation or certification.

• Problems in integrating new systems may not be recognized until the first models enter service.

• If parts unexpectedly fail, replacements may not be readily available.

• Preliminary design specifications may not be met in the final certified aircraft, so you may not experience the performance that led you to order it in the first place.

• The delivery date is likely to slip as the manufacturer addresses issues caused by the above reasons. If time is of the essence, a wait of several months beyond the original delivery date may be unacceptable.

“Let the first few dozen owners deal with all the new-model teething issues and then you can grab the polished product,” Wyndham said. He stressed that he was referring to completely new designs–not “evolutionary” aircraft like Cessna’s CJ1+, which evolved from the Citation 525. Brand-new jet models that have commenced deliveries recently include the Eclipse Aviation Eclipse 500, Dassault Falcon 7X and Cessna Citation Mustang.

However, spokesmen for some manufacturers disagreed. “If it’s from a company that has demonstrated time after time that it can address the issues with a new design, you remove some of the concerns that might come from an aviation company that perhaps has never done it before,” Dassault Falcon’s director of communications, Ralph Aceti, said. “The first 75 order holders [for the Falcon 7X] satisfied themselves it was the right airplane,” he added.