A Different Business Model

Christiansen Aviation’s main business is leasing piston trainers nationwide

He credits much of the success of the program to the fact that he built much of his leasing fleet in the ‘80s, before shortages hit the used market and before new units began entering the market following liability reform.

“I started back when it was easier to get in the business and made it work for me,” Christiansen says. “Look at a 1981 Cessna 172 that I bought in 1985 for $25,000, with maybe 500 hours on it. Today, that airplane is probably worth $40-45,000, and it’s got 8-9,000 hours on it.

“But now I’m to the point that I’m having to buy newer, almost-new airplanes. I get more money for them per hour, but it’s hard to get a lot more.”
According to Christiansen, the majority of his aircraft leases are by the hour, with a guaranteed minimum (usually 40) hours per month.

He’s expanded his maintenance shop, and has three technicians who solely focus on rebuilding Lycoming engines for his company aircraft. At the same time, he’s moving the department more into turbines as his based customers upgrade to jets.

Admitting the business is tougher today, Christiansen still sees opportunity, particularly because of the increasing dominance of universities and proprietary flight schools.

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