Buying a private jet: How to find a good aircraft broker

By Doug Gollan, July 5, 2021

Veteran pre-owned private jet broker Janine Iannarelli shares how to find a good broker, and the questions to ask as part of the interview process

Last year, despite the pandemic, there were over 2,500 transactions involving used private jets. Par Avion Ltd. is an international aircraft marketing firm that specializes in the representation and acquisition of pre-owned business jets. The company was founded in January of 1997 by Janine Iannarelli, an industry veteran with over 35 years of aircraft sales experience. If you are considering buying a private aircraft, in this guest editorial, Iannarelli shares her advice on how to hire a broker.

by Janine Iannarelli

The decision to buy a private jet is not arrived at easily.  Whether driven by need or desire, a prospective buyer puts considerable thought into what are the influencers for the purchase and how much is one willing to spend.  The timeline from when the thought first crosses your mind to actual implementation can take months, if not years. 

Par Avion Janine Iannerelli
Janine Iannarelli, CEO of Par Avion, Ltd.

The next most challenging question is how to go about pursuing the purchase of an airplane?  For most first-time buyers in today’s day and age, the internet seems the first logical step. Soon though you may come to realize that the variety of choices are vast and there is a myriad of details to sort through.  Even among the same make/model of airplane.  You need an expert to help guide you through the acquisition process, but how to select an aircraft broker?  There is no central listing service.  There is no formal accreditation or licensing process.  You can’t go to one central registry.  There are though plenty of glossy websites and airplane ads meant to entice you into believing you have found the answer.

It takes a team to buy a private jet

Today it literally takes a team to bring an aircraft sale to fruition. The key participant on that team remains the aircraft broker. While the days of the country club referrals are not entirely gone, relying solely on the word of one person may not be the most advisable means of selection.  Some of those same qualities you would look for in a key member of your C-Suite or household staff, you should look for in the person you are going to entrust a multi-million-dollar acquisition.

While an over-the-phone interview is where one should start, I am an advocate of a face-to-face meeting.  Even in the age of COVID.  The purchase of an airplane, unlike other assets except for perhaps a yacht, is a very personal endeavor and there certainly needs to be a strong rapport with your representative.  As you have likely learned before, there are just some things that can only be conveyed in person so make sure your broker is willing to travel to wherever you are to have that face-to-face discussion. 

The list of questions you should put to the prospective agent runs the gamut from the usual assessment of their business and sales acumen to the more probing. Ask about financial status, litigation, and other interesting past histories.  Other considerations might include geographical location.  By nature of the industry, a suitable broker can be a time zone away. Don’t let that be a deterrent to selection.  Perhaps you simply want to work with someone local so you can sit down with them on a regular basis.  Questions regarding bankruptcies, legal action or surprise, surprise, criminal activity are sensitive and so consider a background check to turn up potentially negative history. 

Finding a good aircraft broker

The must ask questions of the candidate should include the following:

  • How long has the broker been in business? 
  • What is their work history?
  • How many aircraft transactions have they participated in?
  • Do they specialize in a particular make/model or class of airplane?
  • Are they capable of a global search for a suitable aircraft?
  • What secondary information sources do they subscribe to help support the search effort?  Do they conduct primary research of the market?
  • Are they well capitalized so that the project can be seen through to the end?
  • How strong is their network?  Have them describe the depth of it.
  • Are they able to help form the rest of the team of specialists in legal, tax, technical?
  • What is their experience in dealing with a maintenance and repair station?  Do they know their way around that environment?
  • Have they ever been the subject of a lawsuit related to an aircraft transaction?  If so what was the nature of it and the outcome?

Finally, besides requesting references, make sure you check with them.  Clearly, a candidate for a job will only provide positive references. But it is equally important to hear what the nature of the job was and what that person thought of the way the broker handled it.  A great reference would be someone who can share with you how a broker resolved a challenging event that the team faced. Past performance evaluation goes a long way to indicating future success!

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