This week’s hypothetical mission profile is something we see pretty often with big-time flight departments. Let’s say this flight department has a fleet of six aircraft, all of which are Gulfstream G200s. Each of them is five years old, and the company has depreciated the cost of the aircraft 100 percent over the past five years. To get another income tax write off, they’ll need to sell and purchase new aircraft – which, with the new tax law, they can write off 100 percent in the first year.
One option for this flight department would be to upgrade their entire fleet to brand new G280s. After all, their crew already has plenty of experience with the G200. Avionics are similar, its idiosyncrasies shouldn’t be surprise, and maintenance should remain pretty consistent with what they’re used to. There is value in having a steady fleet that the flight department is already familiar with and each of the pilots is already rated for.
If they go with an entire fleet of G280s, however, there are some pitfalls to watch out for. What’s the wait time for delivery of a brand new G280? They’ll likely need supplemental lift until the aircraft arrive. Do they deliver all six aircraft at once? What if all six G280s arrive and the flight crew absolutely hates them? It’s probably a good idea to stagger delivery of each of the aircraft in order to work out the kinks on the first one and figure out its capabilities before diving head-first into an order of six at once.
Another option would be to mix it up. While there is value in having a consistent fleet of the same aircraft when it comes to maintenance, type ratings, and more, there are simply things a G280 can’t do. What if they need to make a flight to the other side of the world? It might be smart to ditch one of the G280s and go with a larger Gulfstream, or even a Falcon 7X. Obviously, those aircraft are more expensive, but those extra costs could be offset by ditching another G280 and replacing it with a King Air, instead, for flights to small towns with dirt landing strips or short, regional hops, because of its short runway capabilities and cheaper operating costs.
Having an entire fleet of the same aircraft can also pose issues with maintenance schedules. Since they each have the same schedule, what happens when they’re all undergoing maintenance? Once again, mixing it up or staggering delivery of each aircraft can ensure that there are always planes available while others are in the shop.
In addition to the tax benefits, buying a brand new fleet of G280s ensures that each of your planes will be up to date on the FAA’s ADS-B mandate that kicks in in 2020. If you decided, instead, to hold on to those older G200s or replace them with a variety of aircraft that don’t have the 2020 ADS-B upgrades, that can add between $60,000 and $100,000 per plane to make them 2020 compliant.
What do you think? Does the value of a consistent fleet across the board make more sense than having a combination of planes that have different capabilities?