Ex-defense minister Ueli Maurer was desperate to have a Swiss jet for the federal government. And the purchase was a worthwhile investment.
The coronavirus pandemic has not only cost the federal government vast sums of money. There are also some bright spots that have brought money in to the federal coffers. One case has just been closed, according to the administration.
It concerns the sale of the Pilatus PC-24, the jet of the Federal Council, which the then-head of the Swiss Federal Department of Defense, Ueli Maurer, had pushed hard to acquire. He was desperate to have a Swiss-made jet for the administration.
Unsuitable for civil servants
No sooner said than done: the Swiss Confederation purchased a PC-24 in 2018 and it was put into service in 2019.
But in February 2022, the Federal Council decided to restructure the fleet and to jettison the PC-24. The jet has only an emergency toilet on board and was only moderately in demand by civil servants anyway.
Then the aircraft was advertised for sale on the Armasuisse website. The buyer of the PC-24 is JoyVida International of Interlaken, a company active in the textile industry. The company submitted the best offer and was thus awarded the contract, Armasuisse further announced.
Silence in the forest
Now, of course, every ordinary citizen wants to know how much the whole investment in the private jet has cost on the bottom line. The federal administration is being coy about this. Even in response to a special inquiry from muula.ch, it simply said that the “details of the purchase price are part of the contract and are therefore a business secret.”
A media spokesman for Armasuisse also refused to provide us any information on the original purchase price. However, it was said – at least as an indicator – that the marketable sales price actually exceeded the acquisition price at the time. So, at least it was not a losing proposition on the luxury plane.
But what is the market price like for such luxury jets? muula.ch asked several experts about the PC-24 and requested their assessments of the purchase and sales price. The following picture emerged in unison:
The Swiss government purchased the aircraft from Pilatus in 2018 as one of the first customers for this aircraft type. The purchase price of the luxury aircraft is unlikely to have exceeded the ‘magic limit’ of ten million dollars at the time.
More likely, the purchase price was between eight and nine million dollars, estimated our experts, who asked for the confidentiality of their names in this small small market.
In the case of a customer, such as the federal administration, it can be assumed that significant concessions were made in the purchase of the private jet, which were not only reflected in a significantly discounted price but also in good conditions for maintenance and service.
After all, the Swiss government is not a normal business customer, according to the tenor, but rather a prestige user for the manufacturer.
With the coronavirus pandemic, however, there has been an absolute boom in demand, especially for small jets. This was because it has been important for wealthy private and business people to travel in small aircraft without contact to many other passengers.
The PC-24 with its 4 to 8 seats was therefore in great demand on the market, said one expert. First-time buyers were literally overflowing.
As a result the market also saw a price increase of between 10 and 30 percent. The fact that Pilatus continuously raised prices for new aircraft, which also drove up the value of used aircraft, probably played a role in this.
Long waiting times
In addition, delivery times for new aircraft became longer and longer during the coronavirus pandemic, with all the logistics problems that entailed. Waiting times were between one and two years. This also led to a significant increase in the price of used PC-24s.
After the federal government’s decision to sell their PC-24, ten interested parties for that jet came forward, according to Armasuisse. After that, two concrete offers were received, it added. One of them came from JoyVida International, which has now been awarded the contract.
How much did the Confederation earn from this? According to official data the federal council jet in question had completed 1100 flying hours, which was a rather low-to-normal level for its 3.5 years of use.
With the increase in price levels during the coronavirus pandemic, several experts calculated to muula.ch that the Swiss government may have made a nice little gain of between 15 and 20 percent. Add to this the fact that Switzerland should actually have received much more favorable package terms, which made the deal even more propitious.
The current value for such a jet is assumed to be about $10.5 million to $11 million, according to one estimate. It still has an influence as to whether only interested parties in Europe or Switzerland or worldwide have jumped at the offer.
Worldwide, the price level was still somewhat higher, the experts indicated. In the end, however, a bidder in Switzerland made the deal.
All in all, Federal Councillor Maurer made a good investment. At least the boom in demand for precisely these jets during the coronavirus pandemic resulted in a significant price increase. So there was a good end for Switzerland with this jet, which was actually unpopular for the federal administration.