By Bruce Byerly
So there I was at FL 340 doing 290 knots true on 58 gallons an hour . . . no, I was not dreaming nor having a nightmare, as some fighter jet pilot might think when he sees 300-knot speeds. I was flying a Commander 1000. High and fast. I was witnessing the efficiency of the Commander and reveling in the fact that a mere 90 gallons a side would last more than three hours at this burn rate, and take me from Kansas City to Teterboro. With those numbers I couldn’t help but appreciate the magic that attracts pilots and owners to excellent legacy aircraft.
In fact, just a couple of days later I found myself in the pointy end of a Citation II. Ok, so the II nose is not so pointy of an end, but I was up front. At FL360 we were knocking down 355 true on 1000 pph, which would be 150 gallons per hour using my rule of thumb, or 149 gallons per hour according to the calculator. (If you don’t have the rule of thumb committed to memory yet, you take the fuel in pounds, drop a zero, then take half that number and add it to itself. For example, 1000 pounds becomes 100, divided by 2 equals 50; 100 + 50= 150 gallons.)
So, 335 knots on 150 gph was respectable performance, and it was a nice ride. But the skinflint in me said, “That’s a lot of fuel for me and my cabin needs, and down low—lookout! Hard to run this thing around doing short hops. I think I need a turboprop. Goes about anywhere, and doesn’t suck fuel through a sewer pipe.”
Fortunately, there are planes to suit any appetite for Jet A. And buyers are making some interesting choices. The Commander market seems to be steady. As usual, the no-compromise airplane is rare, and thus sells well. Jim Worrell at Eagle Creek pointed out that there are fewer than 20 Commanders listed for sale on a popular web site. I think that’s as few as I’ve ever seen.
Looking back, I found it interesting to note that the average number of Commanders for sale has followed a round-numbered trend, from 70 in 2011, 60 in 2012, 50 in 2013 and leveling to 55 in 2014. Currently, 53 machines are offered for sale including models 690, 690A, 690B, 690C, 690D (900), 695 (980) and 695A&B (1000). This information is according to our research and data provider Jetnet. Prices range from $300,000 for somewhat needy fixer-upper planes to approximately $2,000,000 for the latest Garmin-panel-equipped JetProp 1000.
Supply for quality aircraft seems to be trending down. The six-month average of four sales per month indicates just a bit more than a 12-month supply of aircraft, and with less than 10 percent of the active aircraft for sale I would expect prices to remain stable if not trending up, in keeping with the reduced supply. No G950-panel aircraft remain in the current for-sale inventory, which indicates strong demand for turnkey upgraded aircraft.
Bruce Byerly is vice president at Naples Jet Center and a long-time Twin Commander sales professional and pilot.