AINsight: Curveballs Can Tank a Deal

 - July 6, 2018, 5:46 AM

I had the distinct pleasure of attending and speaking at the NBAA Regional Forum in White Plains a couple of weeks ago. What a great gathering for the industry. The buzz at the well-attended event was what I have been reporting: the surreal quick turnaround in our market. Demand increased and the supply of great aircraft diminished rapidly. Along with this reduced supply comes a firming of prices. However, the same criteria exist for those airplanes and segments enjoying a new firmness, including great pedigree, great records, great maintenance, NextGen compliance well underway and great cosmetics.

Along with the surreal turnaround and firmer prices, a great amount of discussion was centered around the new reality of how difficult finding an airplane is and the great frustration around keeping a client focused on the process. The days of just picking up our research and finding a great choice among the planes listed for sale are gone.

I write and speak often about the industry I’ve enjoyed participating in every day for the last 44 years as being really a “people business,” people selling and buying aircraft for other people. The aircraft is just a piece of equipment. At the end of the day it either turns out to be what you hoped or it does not. Many historical circumstances with these pieces of equipment—such as major repairs or lost or bad records—cannot be changed. It will be what it will be. It is the representation of these pieces of equipment that makes or breaks the experience of the transaction through poor or misleading information. Those are the curveballs. Accurate representation and a transparent process are critical to keeping a deal together and there are myriad ways a missed detail can lead to a misstep.

There is so much reliance on the way an aircraft is represented, especially if the aircraft is in a different part of the world, and you have to at least at first have great reliance on the words, the pictures, and the historical story given by the seller’s broker or the seller. Not only did everyone at the forum and the corresponding event speak of the market we are in, but without exception, we all fell back on the critical importance of the representation of the proposed aircraft. There will be enough innocent findings during the course of the pre-buy that purposeful withholding of information or misleading and inaccurate information is just not acceptable.

Now back to the people side of this business. We must as an industry continue to work carefully with our partners across the table and across the world to provide useful and accurate information. Our buyers and sellers want this, and our fellow aircraft sales professionals demand this. We are in for a different time in our collective industry than we have enjoyed in over 10 years. It is a new day for us all. This means the ability to keep clients confident in an already difficult time erodes rapidly if once we think we find a great choice, deeper fact gathering makes our choice go away based on a curveball thrown. Let’s work together to make this a rich experience for us all.