The world’s largest online marketplace now offers a bridge between buyers and sellers of private aircraft. Hangzhou, China-based Alibaba.com Limited (HKG:1688), which generates more sales than eBay and Amazon.com combined, has started listing privately owned general aviation aircraft on its consumer-to-consumer online auction site Taobao.
On Thursday there were only six aircraft for sale: three single-engine aircraft (planes popular with hobbyists) and three helicopters, including a Eurocopter EC120 Colibri listed for 16,800,000 yuan (about $2.75 million). If that’s too pricey for you, there’s an Australian-made Jabiru J160C for 1,020,000 yuan (about $167,000), the only aircraft that has received bids so far. The top of the page features a corporate jet, suggesting that Taobao hopes to eventually attract high rollers to the site.
The market for private aircraft ownership is small, but it’s growing. There were 150 registered private aircraft in China in 2011, according to the Huron report. In 2012 that number increased to 221, including 156 privately owned large-cabin aircraft, according to Asian Sky, a consultant for business aviation.
Buying big-ticket flying vehicles online maybe be a new thing in China, but that market has been alive and well for years – and Taoabao’s limited offering seems largely for the weekend warrior rather than the high-flying exec. Here are five other sites where you can buy your next corporate jet or turboprop.
Aircraft Shopper Online: Based in Carte Madera, Calif., ASO is one of the more comprehensive online marketplaces for single- and twin-engine aircraft as well as jet planes and turboprop helicopters. The site has an interface similar to popular car-buying sites, with a powerful search engine and links to financing firms. The vendors are commercial aviation companies.
Controller.com: Owned by Sandhills Publishing Co. of Lincoln, Neb., Controller hooks up sellers and buyers for the sale, lease or fractional ownership of an array of aircraft. It also sells ancillary equipment, including fire trucks and de-icing equipment. Like ASO, Controller is focused on commercial vendors.
AeroTrader.com: This online vendor sells new and used aircraft from commercial and private sellers. Owned by Norfolk, Va.-based Dominion Enterprises, it connects buyers to brokers, insurance providers and financial services.
AVBuyer.com: This Surrey, U.K.-based online aviation marketplace deals primarily in business aviation products and higher-end single-engine aircraft, as well as peripheral services and products. It also publishes articles and hosts blogs from private aviation experts.
eBay: The smaller, U.S. version of Taobao is the closest thing to what Alibaba has set up: an online auction site for private owners and private bidders contesting for used aircraft. Like in China, these aircraft have to be certified by civil aviation authorities before they can be legally operated.