While the flight training business is booming, flight schools are having a hard time finding aircraft. The glut of general aviation airframes that peaked at nearly 18,000 deliveries in the late 1970s seems to have finally been used up, as evidenced by a rapid rise in used aircraft prices. Especially difficult to find are training airplanes like the Cessna 172 and four-seat Pipers, some new models of which sell for nearly half a million dollars.
To help flight schools obtain aircraft, a group of aviation and transportation entrepreneurs have founded FlytFinance to lease new trainers to Part 61 and 141 training centers. “There’s been a huge spike in flight training, unparalleled since World War II,” according to co-founder Jay Taffet. “We need to be the supply chain when it comes to their fleets.”
“We are transportation finance people, as well as aircraft owners and pilots, and we recognized a tremendous need for accessible and affordable fleet-build opportunities for flight schools,” said co-founder Craig Berry.
With some leases already signed for, FlytFinance has placed an order for more than 75 new Cessna 172S and Piper Archer TX single-engine trainers and twin-engine Seminoles, all equipped with Garmin G1000 NXi avionics and GFC 700 autopilots. The first delivery will take place in the second quarter.
Leases are for five years, and the schools pay a flat monthly lease rate ($4,850 for a 172) with no minimum-hours requirement, so the more they fly, the lower the average hourly cost. Lessees also pay a $10-per-hour, per-engine allocation to cover engine overhaul costs. This money goes into reserve and is paid out when the engine needs to be overhauled. The flight school also must pay for insurance and maintenance.
“We have detailed provisions in the lease to make sure we have a mutual agreement on how to maintain the airplanes and keep their value,” Taffet said. Flight schools will be subject to a vetting process to make sure they qualify for the lease and can take proper care of the airplanes.
FlytFinance will consider other aircraft, Taffet added. “We’re going to stick with these for now, but we are open to other makes and models…wherever we have fleet partnership opportunities. We know we’re on the right side of this supply-demand imbalance.”