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The First Step: From Hollywood to Aviation

This article is the first in a continuing series
A Career Change: Learning the Aircraft Brokerage Business

I am Adam Mesinger, son of Jay and Sandra and brother of Josh and I am one of the newest additions to the aviation industry and proudly and happily to my family’s business.  I am coming to this business after a 12-year pursuit of the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, CA, beginning with 4 years of college at NYU’s TISCH School of the Arts.  It was definitely not the most direct path to the airplane business, but I believe the skills I learned in Hollywood are in many ways directly relatable to the skills needed to buy and sell aircraft and I’m glad I can bring those to J. Mesinger.   

I had a goal to be a movie producer, which is something that took time, patience and constant effort.  I also always had a day job working in post production as a Post Production Supervisor on TV shows such as Entourage and Ghost Whisperer.  It amounted to two full-time jobs.  However, the entertainment industry has changed so much in the last ten years, with reality television, the economic downturn, the studios being taken over by major corporations, the writer’s strike and the almost actor’s strike, that the ability for a newcomer like me to get the attention and finances needed to complete a project had become an almost impossible task.  But the pursuit of producing a movie taught me skills and lessons that I know will help me and J. Mesinger grow together.  They involved confidence, organizational skills and the ability to strategize and solve problems.  In addition, in television, like the airplane business, there were many episodes happening at one time, in various stages of completion.  I was able to track and manage those in much the same way I will track and manage various transactions.  I helped to produce over 100 hours of television with budgets of almost 3 million dollars per episode.  It’s big money and there is tremendous pressure to succeed.  I know, even coming from a different background than some in this industry, that I will fully understand and appreciate the scope of the transactions and the importance to the people involved. 

Thankfully throughout my pursuit in film I had a family that supported me and urged me to keep at it, which I did for many years.  Also, thankfully, I had a family with a long-standing successful business.  And, although I had never intended to join it, when I did ask, they graciously and enthusiastically accepted me.  My wonderful wife, Ayeisha, who is from Los Angeles, with her own career in the fashion industry, made the leap with me.  We loaded up a 27ft U-haul and our two cars and headed to Colorado.  My blogs will be from the perspective of a newcomer to the industry.  I switched industries, because I believe my skills began to outgrow my position and I wanted to work harder and accomplish more than I could do in television.  I know there are many others of you out there who are interested in becoming a broker.  I hope my insights and experiences can shed light on what that career choice may look like.  I am 30 years old, and I am changing the course of my life, in career, location and social network.  There will be good times and bad, frustrations and accomplishments, and I will try to share everything honestly.  Stay tuned.  Thanks to the aviation industry for accepting me and my family for their trust and a job.  I am really looking forward to this future!

Are aircraft over 20 years old safe to buy?

I am asked this question more and more lately.  If I take the question literally as it is asked, I would answer it on the basis of safety of flight and the answer would be the less complex.  Yes.  The biggest effect as a result of age is not necessarily about safety.  The effect is more often about enhanced inspection protocol and life limited component compliance.  If all of the care is taken by the operator to maintain the aircraft according to the manufacturers’ maintenance programs, safety should not be compromised due to age, hours on the airframe or cycles.

Now for the more complicated answer.  Most people ask me this question, however, with respect to residual value of an aircraft over 20 years old.  Of course this answer needs to incorporate the above with respect to keeping up with maintenance and record keeping.  The usual value adds will also apply as do having no material damage or corrosion, complete records and logs, good cosmetics and proximity to engine overhauls and mid-life inspections and/or being on engine program.  The root of this question I am sure comes from the absolute unwillingness by 98% of the lenders to loan on an aircraft this age.  I used to say an aircraft like most assets are not worth more than a lender will loan on them.  I stand corrected!  If this were a true statement today, these aircraft would have no value.  In fact, today these aircraft have more of a value proposition than ever.  Imagine being able to buy a 1990 Falcon 900B for literally one half of what you would have paid for the same aircraft 2 years ago.  How about a 1990 Challenger 601/3A for sixty five percent of what you would have paid for the same aircraft 2 years ago.  If that is not value what is?  

The old days of having a trusted partner help us establish value based on lending appetite is over.  We as an industry are left to help the buyers without this critical data point.  For those buyers who can generate the funds to purchase through other available credit facilities they are left reaping the rewards.  These older aircraft, if carefully evaluated based on the normal criteria outlined above, will have long lasting value that the smart buyer will enjoy based on years of safe, reliable flying and mission fulfillment.  Let’s be very careful as an industry that we do not write off this segment of inventory due to lenders making choices about how to loan that absolutely do not take the combination of exceptional aircraft and solid credit worthiness of the buyer into account.  We must as an industry promote this enormous segment of our life blood.  There are 11,766 jets based in the United States and 3,834 units or 32.6% of those were built in 1990 or before.  The value proposition of this huge segment must not be established based on what a lender will loan, but rather the individual aircraft’s ability to meet the mechanical tests established through a comprehensive pre-buy inspection and the buyer’s mission established through the mission profile and budgeting analysis.  These aircraft are safe to buy.  They are safe to operate and they will have a residual value that I believe can be relied on with confidence.

Real Value

I am on a flight home from New York after a successful few days showing our Gulfstream IV and our Falcon 900B to two different buyers.  And, I’ve been thinking about conversations I have had this week with many different buyers and brokers regarding what determines real value and what distinguishes real value between two competitive offerings.

I was reminded yesterday when I showed our Falcon 900B S/N 42 of what a great airplane it really is. It has average total time for its vintage.  The records are impeccable.  The aircraft has no major damage history. The cosmetics look great.  It has a lot of avionic and cabin upgrades. The engines are on MSP Gold.  And, we just lowered the price by $900,000 last week making it the most competitive offering in the market.  Then I thought how ridiculous it is that most lenders would probably refuse to loan money to a buyer with good credit, even one possibly willing to put 20% down, based on age alone.  Many lenders clearly don’t recognize real value.  I’m glad that the prospective buyer that I am talking to does!

On Monday of this week I showed the Gulfstream IV that we are representing for sale.  I have written before about the need to look below the skin of the onion to really understand the differentiating factors between competitive offerings.  The prospective buyer asked me why our aircraft was worth more than others that are on the market.  If you took all available Gulfstream IVs and just looked at total time and vintage you would think that they should all be worth the same thing.  If you, however, study the inner layers of the onion for each, you would clearly start to see significant tangible differences: engine programs, modifications, cosmetic condition and more.  If you continue to dig down you will also start to understand the value of pedigree and maintenance history.   I really believe that the great pedigree and condition of our GIV S/N 1165 (average total time, full engine program, highly equipped and with high ASC compliance, no expenses spared maintenance, average cosmetics, ready for immediate worldwide operations, one U.S. owner) will result in lower go forward costs compared to other offerings.  No two aircraft are exactly alike and you need to look at the inner layers of the onion to understand true value or you could end up with pretty skin and a rotten core.

I could go on and on, but the point has made.  Aircraft don’t just have to be new or like new to have real value.   And, there are real tangible and intangible value differences that can effect the go forward operations and costs of the aircraft.  They aren’t all worth the same just because we are in a depressed market.

Pre-Purchase Planning, Part 4 – Log Books and Records

Never enough can be said here.  Prior to the aircraft leaving for pre purchase “all” records should be itemized with a very detailed inventory list.  Boxes of some sort should be used to hold all historical records and these should be identified in some manner and shown on the inventory list by number (could be chronological) to their specific contents. 

The records review by a facility during a pre purchase is by far the most time consuming and important part of this process.  It will most likely be the pacing item to the whole operation.  It has been my experience that most facility personnel tasked with records research will inspect what is immediately available and easily accessed and beyond that write a discrepancy.  I see many discrepancies written for missing data, manuals or equipment paperwork which I can find in box sent with the aircraft after a couple of hours of searching.  Here again these are written discrepancies that must be cleared by someone. 

All log books must be available at this time, they must be in good condition, chronological, “every” entry must have the correct documentation, including appropriate signatures and dates.  Every entry which makes reference to a document (337, engineering letter or drawing) should be supported.  It helps to have a copy of the FAA file on CD or even better a three ring binder containing printed chronological copies of all.  All installations will require “instructions for continued airworthiness,” copies of pertinent STC cover sheets as well as flight manual supplements when referenced.  In speaking to these items it is also a good thing to check that CAMP records are supporting and tracking them per the ICA data.  All installed parts as we know now require traceability.  Some operators leave this data with filed work orders or CAMP records, place them in log books or keep them all in single location. 

All life limited components during a pre purchase will have to show documentation by serial number to the unit installed or face being unnecessarily overhauled.  It is good practice to take a CAMP status run and go down the list matching parts to paperwork.  Missing information can usually be tracked down by log entry and work order and supplied by the vendor ahead of time.  It is better to send all available records to meet the above requirements so they are available to the facility at the time of inspection than to have the facility bill their labor to research them. 

All flight manual and operations manuals will have to be current on their revision status and available to the facility.  During a records review a facility will also research “all” AD listings for an aircraft, this includes the vendor and appliance AD lists.  In the normal scope of operations most operators only concern themselves with pertinent AD list to their specific aircraft, so what one could see at this time would be a long AD list supplied by the facility as “open” yet they still need to be addressed in the records as “Not Applicable.”  On older aircraft this list can be quite long and a facility will try to charge large amounts of labor to research these and sign them off as NA.  An operator could take the supplied list and supply the list of NA sign offs to address this issue. 

Any damage history or major repairs due to corrosion, however minor, should have as much supporting documentation as possible.  It is a good idea to take all materials affected (work order, photographs, drawings, engineering statements and complete parts lists) and make copies of all to be placed in specific box or file folder envelope along with copies of the log entry and a brief description of the event and have it readily available to the buyer and the facility.  Fear of the unknown is the single most concern to an unknowledgeable buyer.  This type of presentation tends to minimize the event and calm nerves and keep a buyer from running away.

Logs and records can mean as much to the value of the asset as the asset/aircraft itself.  This is a critical component of any pre-purchase inspection and the above are some simple suggestions that can help the log and records research go smoothly.

“MSP doesn’t allow us to boroscope the engines.”

I cannot tell you how many times in the course of a year I hear that statement from a maintenance facility; many times from the same facility and same person within a period of a couple of months about different aircraft.  That statement is not exactly true and should be completely understood by the seller and the buyer during a pre purchase inspection.  I have also heard that MSP will only allow a visual inspection of the aft part of the engine to identify any irregularities and 5 point runs to determine the overall health of the engine and that if there is a problem, even from FOD, then this should be sufficient to identify the problem. 

I can say from past experience that we have successfully accomplished those steps then complied with full boroscopes only to find internal issues with the engines that required disassembly.  To address this issue MSP has published many letters to facilities (read that as Authorized Service Centers) and operators to completely state their position.  What we do know and should all adhere to based on that information is as follows:

  • MSP should be notified by the maintenance facility and the operator prior to any work taking place
  • The facility should be an authorized service center or at the very least supported in writing by Honeywell
  • MSP does state that a performance evaluation is not required for transfer of the contract to the buyer
  • Per MSP should the buyer elect to go beyond that they recommend a visual inspection of the inlet and tail pipe areas (at buyers expense) only
  • Should an operator (or buyer) elect to expand that further they will be responsible for all related “test” cost.  These “tests” could include vibration surveys, 5-point performance runs, boroscope inspections, bearing cavity and accessory gearbox pressure checks, special SOAP samples and analysis and flight tests
  • MSP is not obligated to pay for any repairs as a result of an owner or buyer electing to perform the above inspections
  • Per MSP if a maintenance action is deemed necessary by the expanded inspections Honeywell will pay for said repairs under normal guidelines (excluding FOD) at a warranty level with a 5% handling fee on Honeywell parts only
  • Per MSP in order for the above statement to be valid they must be formally notified of the location and date of any such expanded inspection (as we have already touched on).  And, very important, they must be “given the opportunity to have a technical representative present during said inspection.” In the event the expanded inspections identify the need for engine repairs normally covered by MSP, Honeywell is “given the opportunity” to re-inspect the engine and direct the maintenance workscope to be followed

I can say from past experience that Honeywell and MSP want the customer to be happy with their experience and have a safe and operable engine.  They will do all they can to support that.  MSP understands that addressing a minor problem now means that we could be preventing what could lead to a more catastrophic event later on.  If FOD damage is found it can be identified by the maintenance facility and addressed by the seller’s insurance as it should rightly be.

Hopefully these thoughts will help take away some of the scariness of the dreaded per purchase engine or APU boroscope and prevent starting into things on the wrong foot.  I cannot reinforce enough  that you  need to “communicate!” with the facility and Honeywell MSP, follow the steps above and point them out to the facility if they tell you “MSP doesn’t allow us to boroscope the engines”.

Pre-Purchase Planning, Part 3


At some point in advance of the aircraft traveling to pre purchase there should be a complete and thorough cockpit sweep and avionics functional check (it is a good idea to have a pilot and maintenance person work together here).   Preferably this should be done far enough in advance to address any major issues that are found by exchanging or troubleshooting expensive avionics boxes or equipment.  I see many discrepancies written by facilities during pre purchases for minimally functioning systems that in a day to day operation would be allowed by either MEL or the understanding that it is an intermittent problem and not yet identified.  These can be the most time consuming and expensive issues in a pre purchase to repair. 

Any item not used on a daily basis such as HF radios, phone systems and heads up displays are prone to small issues that can become a concern by someone not familiar with the aircraft and must work correctly at the time of the sale.  It is important that each item or installed system should have available a dedicated manufacturer’s manual and most likely a current flight manual supplement.  From that, find the documented self test or operational test for that equipment and complete it step by step as that is what will happen at the facility.  These tests are seldom done nor are they truly required on a daily basis and can uncover problems that go unnoticed in normal operations.  Also check the cockpit for burned out light bulbs, loose switches or knobs, crew seat operation and all required emergency equipment.  Here again, many of these items can be fixed simply in house but would require additional labor and undue exposure at the pre purchase.

It’s late and I’m tired, but I’m proud.

It’s late and I’m tired, but I’m proud.  I am on a late flight home on Friday night.  I have been in four cities since last Sunday and I wouldn’t trade any of it.  I have been in Tucson, Arizona to show a Global Express that we are selling.  From there, I went home to Boulder, Colorado long enough to repack and sleep for about 3 hours before heading to go to Houston, Texas to show a Falcon 2000 and from there on to New York to show both a Gulfstream IV and a Falcon 900EX for two different clients to two different buyers.

We still have problems in our industry.  Not every market is recovering.  Overall, however, people are flying.  People are buying airplanes.  People are modifying and refurbishing airplanes.  I think that mostly, people (and companies) are excited to get out again.  They are excited and ready to go see their clients, customers, partners and operations and travel for personal reasons.  We still have obstacles and hurdles to cross.  Parts of our global economy are still struggling and some are just starting to experience their worst pain.   Our aircraft finance markets are still weak and the lenders inability to see the value in older aircraft not only saddens me, but angers me.  I could understand it a year and two years ago when prices were inflated in some cases 100 percent and values were in free fall.  Today, however, at current market values our financial institutions need to recalculate their understanding of true value and not write off the majority of corporate aircraft worldwide because of age alone.

I am proud of the work that I have done this week.  During over two years of slow sales we (J. Mesinger Corporate Jet Sales, Inc.) never put up the “gone fishing” sign.  We never retreated.  Instead, we diligently kept up our communications.  We maintained our marketing.  We supported our clients’ needs.  We provided good guidance and good information to help them make smart informed decisions in difficult times.  As a result, today, we are busy.  And tomorrow, we will still be busy and we will continue to thrive in our industry. We also don’t do it alone.  We have a lot of good peers in our industry and this week I met with many of them as they represented buyers for aircraft that we are representing for sale and we talked to several representing sellers for aircraft we are working to buy for clients.  Thank you to all of you in our industry that kept working hard in our hard times.  Thank you to all of our clients for your support.  People don’t often stop long enough to say thank you.  We could not do this if we were not all doing it together.  Tonight, on this late flight home, it’s late and I’m tired, but I am proud.

Everyone wins as buyers come back, but we aren’t out of the woods yet.

I am writing you from an airplane as I fly home after showing a Falcon 900EX that we are representing for sale.  This is an exciting time in our business as buyers come back in and I am proud to say that we are working on many pending transactions both buying and selling.  Everyone wins as buyers start buying again.  A seller finds a buyer.  A buyer finds a good aircraft at a great value.  A service center gets business for a prebuy inspection.  Brokers help facilitate the sale.  Attorneys help contract it.  Insurance agents sell new policies.  Flight departments are built, sustained or expanded.  Fuel is sold and so on. 

At the same time, I was reminded today of the harsh reality that we are not out of the woods yet.  We have been representing an incredible Challenger 601-3A for a long time.  In 2007 we sold eleven Challengers.  Today, the Challenger markets are still sitting virtually quiet as other markets around them start to move.  This particular aircraft has approximately 6,000 hours total time.  The engines have 200 hours each since overhaul.  It is highly equipped and it has had many avionic upgrades over the years.  It has a 12 passenger interior in good condition.  And, the records and pedigree couldn’t be stronger.  Yet, we have struggled to find a buyer even though it stands out as one of the best aircraft and best values in the 601-3A market (call today to learn more if you might be interested in the aircraft). 

About a month ago we started working with a buyer.  He seemed well qualified and he built the right team of partners around him to help facilitate the sale.  We agreed on a sale price and sale terms and had a signed LOI and deposit in escrow.  Unfortunately, today he terminated our sale because the bank that initially approved him has decided they are unwilling to loan on the aircraft.  Actually, he said that he contacted many banks and none of them will finance the sale through a traditional aircraft loan; even with his willingness to put down 20% or more.  The objection was not about the merits of the aircraft or even its competitive value in the market, but instead the age of the asset.  The aircraft is a 1989 model and none of the lenders he talked to want to loan on an aircraft that is twenty years old. 

As I sit here thinking about losing this potential sale I am reminded that as great as it is to see buyers come back into the market, we are not out of the woods yet. Many make and model markets are experiencing great activity, however, that activity is predominantly in the newer aircraft.  We still have challenges ahead of us.  Hopefully the buyers, lenders and our industry won’t lose sight of the fact that for aircraft that are well maintained, age alone won’t make them obsolete.  Even aircraft that are twenty years old or older can provide safe reliable lift for owners, operators and buyers for years to come.  There is a lot of value in some of these aircraft.  This particular Challenger 601-3A would have sold quickly in 2007 for $11,000,000 or more.  Today, we are only asking $4,850,000.  I have spoken before about looking at all of the layers of the onion to understand the full story about an offering.  Age is only an outside layer.  I hope that buyers (and their lenders) don’t miss the sweet inside due to the age alone.

International Aircraft Transactions: Its the people that make them successful.

This week I was privileged to both co-moderate as well as speak at the International Aircraft Transactions conference at the EBACE Convention in Geneva. The event was a success and very well attended. The attendees list was made up of brokers, attorneys, lenders, manufacturers  and other industry professionals and it was a truly an International group. This made for a very engaging program. The question and answer period that followed each presenter was really great with terrific perspective. What became clear very early into the day were the complexities of international transactions. There is no such thing as a cookie cutter technique. Every country has very different tax considerations, regulatory considerations, recordation body complexities. So even though the day was filled with wonderfully skilled professionals, each speaking eloquently to their assigned topics, weaving the day together was challenging at times.

What was not challenging was identifying the real solution to building a successful International aviation transaction; good people. After all, isn’t that usually the real solution to complex problem solving? I have always said I am not in the aircraft sales business, I am in the people business. People selling people aircraft. This piece of our business is no different.

So here would be my strategy for building an International transaction. Get a clear understanding of the client’s operational needs. This first needs assessment should be based on their travel patterns. Once you have identified the desired home base and the most common trips, and then reach out to that group of local players that will make up the transaction team. This team should be made up of local tax authorities, local legal advisors, and local specialists in the regulatory and airspace territory and local operators who are familiar with the intricacies of the country or countries that will be regularly flown in and out of. It is also important to find lending partners with familiarity and willingness to work in the buyer’s country and where the aircraft will be operated. In short build a group of highly skilled, carefully chosen people who can lend their individual talents to the strategy.

As I invest in traveling to shows like EBACE in Geneva, I am reminded of one of the most valuable reasons to come. Networking. Not just with the usual group that a broker would want to meet. Networking to build the team players that can assist you and your clients as that clientele grows globally. The only way to stay relevant as well as a team captain in these processes is to be able to build the team. So next time you plan on a trip to an event that aggregates industry professionals, remember to add to your target list of people to meet, those people that can help you complete, talk and act professionally in this arena.

By the way, this show was very upbeat and very well attended with many great people feeling good again about the future of our wonderful and exciting industry.

Exceeding Expectations

People often have a litany of questions when I tell them what I do.  The simple answer is that I work in a family business as an aircraft broker and we help people buy and sell corporate jets on an exclusive basis worldwide.  In today’s economic environment most people immediately question if anyone is buying or selling.  I am proud to say that it is nice to be able to tell people that buyers are starting to come back into the market.  For some, the conversation ends there and we move on, but many people I meet often ask more questions and they are curious what I like about my work.

Buying and selling corporate jets is how we earn a living.  It is how our success is measured.  It is not, in and of itself, why I jump out of bed in the morning.  I jump out of bed excited about buying and selling corporate jets because each day is a new opportunity to exceed expectations.  To deliver on a promise that I/we make each time we talk to a new prospective client or present a proposal.  The first sale that we make is not the sale or acquisition of an aircraft, but the sale of our service.  I do not know that I would enjoy selling widgets, but selling our service is an entirely different matter.  When I make the sale of our service, we are the product.  We can affect our deliverable every day.

The biggest testament to our work is that year after year over 80% of our business is from repeat and referral clients.  The rest is new business that we find through our marketing, speaking engagements, reputation and cold calls.  Every day that I go to work I have an opportunity to meet, exceed or fall short of expectations.  Every day I work to exceed them.  There is nothing more gratifying than when a client tells us that we have exceeded their expectations and they are happy that they made the decision to hire us.  It is that opportunity and that ability to directly affect our deliverable and fulfill a promise made that I jump out of bed for.  Meeting this challenge is rarely easy.  It is a constant pursuit and one in which we can never let our guard down.  We are available to our clients twenty-four hours a day seven days a week and that occasionally impacts my personal world.  But, I grew up around this business watching my father and today, I would not trade any of it.  Call me hokey, but I love what I do.

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