The demand for private jets has experienced an increase since the outbreak of COVID-19. The product of this has been a lack of hangar space for a lot of aircraft owners and the issue is still relevant and persisting. To learn more specifics about the continuing issues, continue reading below!
There is a saying in the aviation business that if you’ve seen one airport…you’ve seen one airport. There may be truth in that axiom, but not when you’re talking about a shortage of hangar space among the top 200 or so airports frequented by business aviation passengers. The problem is not new to the industry, but it has become more acute over time for multiple reasons, the first being simply that large markets tend to attract large amounts of business aircraft.
“The problem is people want to be in Los Angeles, Teterboro, Miami, DFW—they want to be in specific places,” said Milo Zonka, vice president of real estate with Florida-based FBO operator and hangar developer Sheltair. “Florida, in general, is definitely constrained—everything from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Naples, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville is full. Of course, we’re really talking about those hangars that can accommodate anything. If you are scrounging for a 16- to 18-foot hangar for a light jet, you might be able to find something in a secondary market.”
Another factor is the longevity of business jets. The age of the business jet fleet has increased as aircraft that in the past would have been put out to pasture have gained new value in the post-Covid private aviation boom. “There is so much demand for private jets now that even if you have a 30-year-old jet that otherwise would have been retired, as long as it is safe and airworthy, it makes sense to keep it in service,” said Tal Keinan, CEO of private hangar developer Sky Harbour. “There is also a technology component. Jets get better over time and live longer over time, which speaks to a swelling population.”
While aircraft are lingering longer, the jet population continues to grow as OEMs meet the demand with new aircraft that will also compete for the existing hangar space. Last year saw 712 business jet deliveries worldwide, with the U.S. accounting for nearly 70 percent of the market or more than 400 new aircraft. Sheltair’s Zonka explained the math: “You take 400 airplanes and the average [hangar space needed] between light, mid, and large jets is 5,000 square feet each, you are talking two million square feet of hangars that have to be built just to accommodate what came off the line,” he said. “Even if you are only talking a million square feet, that is thirty-three 30,000-square-foot hangars, and there are probably only 10 or 15 being built at the moment.” Given current construction prices, Zonka estimates the cost for each at approximately $9 million. “But you are dropping $9 million 30 times just to accommodate this year’s deliveries, and then you have to do it again next year.”
BIGGER AND BIGGER
The aircraft themselves may be the largest factor. “There is a drive toward larger aircraft and larger hangars so that puts pressure on where these aircraft live and go,” said David Best, Jet Aviation’s senior v-p of regional operations for the Americas. “We want to build facilities that are relevant today, but also for the future.”
In 1996, the largest aircraft in Bombardier’s product lineup was the Challenger 604, which has a ground footprint of 4,485 sq ft. That year, the Canadian airframer introduced the Global Express as its new flagship. The long-range business jet more than doubled the 604’s footprint at 9,400 sq ft. “That was only 27 years ago, which in the span of aviation infrastructure isn’t a very long time when you look at 35-year [FBO] leases,” noted Doug Wilson, president and senior partner of industry consultancy FBO Partners. Since that time, Bombardier has delivered more than 800 legacy Globals, equating to more than 7.5 million sq ft of hangar space for just that type. It has since delivered at least 100 of the follow-on Global 7500, which is even larger with a footprint of 11,648 sq ft. Gulfstream has seen similar aircraft evolution. In 1996, its GIV-SP took up 6,942 sq ft of hangar space while today’s G650 is more than 3,000 sq ft larger at 10,000 sq ft. Dassault’s under-development Falcon 10X will be even larger at 12,100 sq ft.
HEIGHT VS FOOTPRINT
But it is not just their footprints that are a concern regarding those aircraft but their heights as well, with the latest ultra-long-range business jets requiring door heights of 28 feet. While that has become a standard these days in the high-traffic areas of the Northeast, Florida, Texas, and California, elsewhere they are still generally the exception.