Turnkey aircraft acquisition and service, the growth and reach of Levaero Aviation
May 11, 2023
Sponsored by David Carr
Covid pandemic has boosted demand for seats on private airplanes. Business executives want the flexibility of private flying and to escape the crush of commercial air transport or being tied to an airline schedule. But as new demand makes the supply of aircraft for charter less predictable, more Canadian businesses are considering becoming first-time airplane buyers. It is a market condition ripe for Levaero Aviation, a turnkey business aviation solutions provider with a team of experienced sales professionals in aircraft acquisition, providing critical expertise for both seasoned buyers and new entrants.
It is a matter of supply and demand says Stan Kuliavas, Vice President of Sales and Business Development at Levaero. “The charter model is based on an airplane owner making the aircraft available for charter when they are not using it. That’s where the inventory comes from. Owners are using their aircraft more these days than in previous years, which has reduced the availability of charter aircraft at a time when demand has never been greater.” Having a charter flight pulled at the last minute because the owner suddenly needs their airplane is not uncommon. Then where do you turn?
More Canadian chief executives are turning to Levaero for its aircraft knowledge, built on 26 years in the industry, customer support and a direct pipeline to the types of airplanes that fit the profile of private flying in Canada, which includes rugged terrain, shorter runways and hops to remote destinations.
“Canada has always been a country dominated by turboprops and light jets,” says Kuliavas. Of the 1,294 private aircraft registered in Canada, almost 57 per cent are turboprops, according to Levaero’s 2022 market analysis. (Levaero Aviation in April 2023 released its inaugural State of the Canadian Market Report, which summarizes aircraft transactions in its sector of the industry that took place into, out of, and within Canada during the year 2022. The report is available for free via download.)
Levaero is the exclusive Canadian dealer for two of the turboprop and light jet sector’s top performers; the Swiss-built Pilatus PC-12 and PC-24, respectively. Often nicknamed the Swiss Army knife of airplanes, both types are among the most versatile in their field.
“The PC-12 and PC-24 are two of the most in-demand aircraft in the world. The PC-24 jet is not a niche airplane. It’s equally a corporate transport, great medevac, cargo and law enforcement airplane.” As of April, there were 110 PC-12s and seven PC-24s operating in Canada. Levaero recently delivered a PC-12 NGX to a customer at Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport. The newest of the PC-12 family, the NGX is an advanced turboprop with design features typically found on larger, more expensive business jets. The residual value of a Pilatus aircraft also remains strong. “If a Pilatus customer wants to part ways with their aircraft, there is a much larger buying market for the airplane,” Kuliavas adds.
While Pilatus accounts for a large chunk of Levaero’s business, the company is plugged into the larger global aircraft resale industry. Levaero is a member of the International Aircraft Dealers Association (IADA). It is an exclusive club consisting of the top 12 per cent of the world’s experts who handle 48 per cent of used business aircraft sales. Everything from an entry-level turboprop to an ultra-long-range Bombardier Global 7500. By dollar volume, IADA dealers buy and sell more aircraft than the rest of the world’s dealers combined. Kuliavas was recently named Chair of IADA’s international committee.
For first-time customers and current operators looking to either upgrade an airplane or transition to a jet, this is an optimal time to buy. Aircraft inventory remains tight, but prices have started to normalize. “People are hanging onto their airplanes longer, so there are less airplanes on the market to buy,” Kuliavas says. He also cautioned against misinterpreting the headlines. “Used business jet inventory is up 40 per cent but that’s not painting a full picture. Inventory may be up 40 per cent but it’s from all-time lows. You need to look behind the numbers.” Complicating the picture further are original equipment manufacturers struggling to keep pace with orders and reporting two-year backlogs. As a result, owners hold onto their airplanes even longer, putting upward pressure on price.
Ownership is not for everyone and charter remains a great option for customers who fly less and cannot justify the capital outlay of ownership. But as flying hours pile up and charter bills pour in, it is perhaps time to consider the switch from renter to owner. There is no set trigger according to Kuliavas: “If there is a magic one-size-fits-all formula, I don’t know about it. One hundred to 150 flying hours a year is one threshold, but there are so many other factors such as personal and corporate security, flexibility, control over the environment and ‘Wow, why am I paying so much to rent when I could spend a little more and own my airplane and not worry about cancelled trips.’”
When that threshold is crossed, Levaero is on the ground with a complete package of services, including needs evaluation, assistance with financing, pre-purchase inspections, pilot training and aircraft management. This involves working closely with charter operations to ensure the customer is maximizing the full value of the airplane. “We believe our experience of aircraft acquisitions and sales to be unmatched in Canada,” says Kuliavas, who has been buying and selling airplanes for more than 17 years. “First-time buyers naturally have the most questions, and we also understand the questions that they don’t know to ask.”
The first rule of connecting a customer with the right airplane goes further than assessing what destinations they are chartering to today, but what locations would you like to access with your own aircraft at your disposal? Kuliavas calls it the 80/20 rule. “No one airplane is going to be a perfect fit for all missions. About 20 per cent are typically outlying types of flights. We will find the airplane that fits 80 per cent of your flying requirement very well, and suggest alternative arrangements for the rest,” he says. “We have a wealth of unique experience in hand holding and having those initial conversations from when they acquire their first airplane to when they upgrade their aircraft over time.” Which is why approximately 50 per cent of Levaero’s business is with repeat customers.
Levaero recently expanded its maintenance and aircraft sales department with an 18,000-square-foot hangar at the fast-growing Collingwood Regional Airport in southern Ontario. The company has always provided aircraft maintenance for Canada’s Pilatus operators and other aircraft from its base in Thunder Bay, minimizing the time a customers’ airplane spends in the shop. (Levaero has one of the largest inventories of Pilatus aircraft parts outside of Switzerland.) Collingwood is a natural fit. “Our customer base is growing in the region,” Kuliavas says. “We opened the Collingwood facility last October and it’s already doing substantial business.”
Levaero’s turnkey business model is built on anticipating a customer’s needs and having an industry-leading network in place to support them. Including taking the guesswork out for first-time buyers. “Customers want the efficiency and convenience that comes with owning a corporate aircraft. They want a business aircraft. They don’t want to be in the aircraft business. That’s our job and we are exceptional at it.” Kuliavas says. “We help our customers acquire whatever aircraft is appropriate to their mission and we are here to support them along the way.”
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