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Can you buy old jets?

Many people dream of owning a private jet to enjoy the luxury and convenience of private air travel. While new private jets are incredibly expensive, some buyers consider purchasing a used or older private jet as a more affordable way to fulfill their aviation dreams. In this article, we’ll look at some of the key questions around buying older jets:

What are some reasons people want to buy old jets?

There are a few main reasons why people consider purchasing older, used jets instead of brand new aircraft:

– Cost – Used jets can be anywhere from 30-70% cheaper than a new, equivalently sized jet. For buyers who want a private jet on a budget, used is often the only feasible option.

– Experimentation – Some first-time jet buyers want to “test the waters” before committing to private jet ownership. An older jet allows them to experience owning/operating a jet before potentially upgrading to a newer model down the line.

– Specific needs – Buyers looking for a specific make/model or configuration may only find it available on the secondary market. Vintage jet enthusiasts often seek out classics no longer in production.

What are the main considerations when buying an older private jet?

Buying an older private jet is very different than purchasing a new one. Some key considerations include:

– Maintenance history – Ensuring proper maintenance and repairs is crucial for any used aircraft. Reviewing logs, maintenance records, and overall condition gives buyers confidence in the jet’s airworthiness.

– Upgrades needed – Older jets often don’t have the latest avionics, cabin amenities, entertainment systems, etc. Factor in upgrade costs to get the features you want.

– Operating/ownership costs – Insurance, maintenance, repairs and fuel costs may be higher for an older aircraft. Make sure to analyze operating budgets thoroughly.

– Pilot experience – More experienced pilots are recommended for older jets, as they’re less technologically advanced than new models. Proper training is a must.

– Remaining useful life – Consider the jet’s age, flight hours, and any inspection results to determine how many years of service it likely has left before reaching retirement age or requiring major maintenance.

What types of old private jets are available to purchase?

There is a wide variety of older private jet models available on the secondary market. Some of the main types include:

– Vintage business jets – Iconic models like the Learjet 23, Hawker 125, and Cessna Citation I revolutionized business aviation in the 1960s/1970s and remain classics to this day.

– Out-of-production airframes – Discontinued jets like the Gulfstream IV, Bombardier Challenger 300, and Dassault Falcon 50 trijet offer buyers more options, often at lower prices.

– Early examples of current models – First-generation variants like original Cessna Citation Xs, Embraer Legacy 600s, and Bombardier Global Express planes come up for sale as owners upgrade to newer iterations.

– Former airliner conversions – Some buyers opt to convert former commercial airliners into private jets, like Boeing 727s and McDonnell Douglas DC-9s.

– Military surplus – Demilitarized fighter jets and transport planes, if purchasable, require extensive modifications to become civilian private jets.

How old is too old when it comes to jets?

There is no set age limit for private jets, but generally older than 50 years merits greater inspection. Key factors beyond age alone include:

– Total flight hours and cycles

– Overall airframe condition

– Ongoing maintenance quality

– Availability of spare parts

– Up-to-date avionics and systems

As a rule of thumb, it’s best to be very selective when considering jets built before the 1970s due to their simple avionics and higher maintenance needs. But some buyers specially seek out vintage jets from the 1950s/1960s for historic value.

Finding Used Jets for Sale

For buyers serious about purchasing a used private jet, finding available jets for sale is the next step. Here are some tips for locating used private jets on the market:

Use aircraft brokers/dealers

Reputable private jet brokers like Jetcraft, Elliott Jets, and Aerospace Reports have large inventories of certified, pre-owned aircraft available for sale. They can help match buyers with planes that fit their needs. Brokers also assist with inspections, paperwork, financing and other aspects of the transaction.

Attend used jet trade shows

Shows like the annual NBAA Regional Forums provide excellent opportunities to see multiple used jets for sale in person all in one place. Buyers can walk the exhibit floor and view different models while connecting with sellers and brokers.

Check online aircraft marketplaces

Major aviation websites like, and feature searchable databases of hundreds of used private jets for sale. Buyers can filter by make/model, price, age, and other parameters. Online listings have photos/specs/details on each jet.

Research manufacturers’ inventories

Some private jet manufacturers like Cessna, Bombardier and Gulfstream have dedicated used aircraft sales divisions. Their certified pre-owned inventories offer late model, low-hour jets coming off operating leases. Factory-backed planes may provide buyers extra peace of mind.

Consider private sales

Some used private jets are sold directly by their owners without brokers. This can potentially save on commissions, but may lack third-party inspections, records review, warranties, etc. Private sales merit especially thorough due diligence.

Inspecting and Test Flying Pre-Owned Jets

Before committing to purchase a used private jet, it is critical that buyers thoroughly inspect the aircraft and test fly it themselves. Here’s what to expect during the inspection/flight testing process:

Physical inspection

A pre-purchase inspection, performed by licensed mechanics, will evaluate the jet’s overall condition inside and out. They will look for any signs of damage, corrosion, leaks and other issues, and may open access panels or remove seats to inspect behind interior surfaces. Expect this inspection to take anywhere from 1-3 days depending on the aircraft’s size and complexity.

Logbooks review

Examining the jet’s full set of maintenance logbooks and records dating back to original manufacture provides crucial insights into its service history and any issues. Ideally there should be comprehensive logbook documentation without any gaps. Review total flight hours, cycles, repairs, replacements, etc.

Avionics check

During the physical inspection, mechanics will also power on the jet’s avionics suite, flight management systems, and cabin electronics to test functionality. Outdated or nonworking equipment may need upgrades or replacements.

Engine borescopes

Borescopes (video cameras on cables) are used to internally inspect the jet’s engines by inserting them into each engine’s intake and combustor. Borescopes allow close-up examination for any debris, damage or wear inside the engine.

Test flight

The buyer will want to personally fly the aircraft for at least 1-2 hours with a trained pilot to experience the jet in operation. The test flight can validate avionics, engines, performance and handling qualities before purchase.

Appraisal vs. asking price

Once inspection is complete, a buyer will typically commission an appraisal by a third party to determine the aircraft’s fair market value. The appraised value can then be compared with the seller’s asking price to inform negotiations.

Financing the Purchase

Very few used private jet purchases are made in cash. The following are some of the main options for buyers to finance their older jet acquisition:

Bank loans

Banks may offer secured loans for used private jets, often covering 50-80% of the purchase price. Interest rates are based on prevailing market rates, borrower credit profile, loan term, and loan-to-value ratio.

Manufacturer financing

Some OEMs like Cessna Finance offer financing programs specifically for their brand’s certified pre-owned aircraft, which may offer buyers more attractive terms compared to banks.

Fractional jet partnerships

Providers like NetJets and FlexJet allow individuals to buy “fractions” or shares of a used private jet. This splits ownership costs and purchase financing across multiple partners.


Rather than purchase a used jet outright, buyers can lease the aircraft from a third party. But monthly lease payments still add up, so leasing doesn’t necessarily save money versus buying over the long run.

Seller financing

In some cases, sellers may agree to directly finance a portion of the jet’s purchase price for the buyer at mutually agreed upon terms over an extended repayment period.

Operating and Maintaining an Older Private Jet

Once they take delivery of their older private jet, owners need to understand the unique aspects of operating and maintaining it compared to new jets:

Finding parts and support

Parts and support for older jets may be harder to source as technology ages. Check for available inventory and manufacturing backlogs before buying as some out-of-production airframes now lack parts suppliers.

Increased maintenance needs

More maintenance checks, inspections and repairs should be anticipated. Budget for above-average parts replacements, engine overhauls and avionics refurbishments. Factor in higher repair costs as parts age.

Managing repairs and downtime

Breakdowns and malfunctions inevitably happen more frequently with older jets. Have contingency plans for when the jet is down for maintenance or repairs, as these grounded periods may last weeks or months.

Finding experienced pilots and mechanics

Older analog cockpits and less computerized systems require more specialized pilot knowledge. Recruit pilots with specific experience flying the jet’s make/model if possible. Similarly, find mechanics trained on maintaining your particular aircraft type.

Understanding operational limitations

Some older jets lack modern capabilities like full RVSM certification or digital cockpits. Know the jet’s limitations on issues like flight ceilings,nav system precision, runway requirements, etc. and how they may impact operations.


Buying an older private jet requires careful consideration, but offers a more affordable entry point into private aviation for some buyers. By realistically assessing an older jet’s condition, operating costs, maintenance needs and limitations, buyers can determine if purchasing a used aircraft fits with their budget and requirements. Proper inspections, legal due diligence and operational planning are absolute musts when acquiring a pre-owned jet. While not right for everyone, older jets continue to provide safe, reliable and cost-effective private flying when purchased and maintained judiciously.