Looking thorough aircraft sales ads of ten years ago - I am struck by how little the prices have changed.
I have been searching the market for a replacement for our Saratoga, ZS-OFH, and it seems that you can buy a really nice used piston single for less than it would have cost ten years ago. A case in point is a V35 Bonanza that the owner is struggling to sell for around R630,000 plus VAT. Ten years ago this aircraft would have been on the market for R850,000.
What is remarkable is the massive discount a used type certified plane has to a newer non-type certified aircraft. A decent used RV-10 will cost at least R2.5 million, yet the Bonnie at R630,000 is faster, has more seats and carries more for the same fuel burn. Sure, its maintenance can be eye-wateringly expensive – but you will still have R1.8 million in the bank (or not costing you interest), the lower hull value makes insurance cheaper, and you don’t have hassles with over border clearances, or trying to tell your friends why you fly an ‘experimental’ plane.
That should make the present a really good time to buy a used certified aircraft. But it would appear that many buyers are sitting on their hands. It seems that potential buyers are nervous about the future and are waiting to see what happens at the March 2019 general election.
However, the smart money has already decided. As I write this, reports indicate that business confidence has reversed a long downward trend. The threat of expropriation without compensation has receded as people begin to realise that this is mainly electioneering. One swallow may not make a summer, but there are increasing signs that the ten-year winter of the economy under Jacob Zuma might finally be ending. Significant is President Ramaphosa raising R270 billion in investment pledges from otherwise hardnosed business leaders.
When confidence returns, pilots will stop sitting on their wallets and start buying aircraft again. The prices should improve by 50%, especially if the Rand stays weak – as well it might, given South Africa’s inflation rate and the pressure to print money.
On a completely different subject – the last thing you might expect in SA Flyer is art, especially fine art, as in painting. Acclaimed artist Cobus van der Walt is passionate about flight – particularly birds. We are therefore venturing something different. Our new feature “With Flying Colours” introduces Cobus. His art imagery is complex, but to keep it simple he says his art depicts ‘situational awareness from a bird’s-eye view’. He also mentions that the conservation efforts of our usual helicopter columnist John Bassi is a huge inspiration to him.
It’s been a tough year, but there are real indications that next year will be better.