By S. Clayton Moore
Sierra Industries, based in Uvalde, Texas, is offering an alternative to customers pining for their own very light jet. The company’s new sales program for refurbished jets is designed for potential VLJ customers who want to build up their jet experience prior to the availability of high-tech jets due from manufacturers in the next several years.
The VLJ category includes state-of-the-art aircraft like the Eclipse 500, the Adam A500 and Aviation Technology Group’s Javelin. Sierra will sell refurbished Cessna Citation 500 and 501s under their “Value Light Jet” brand. While the Citation doesn’t have the capabilities of the incoming futuristic aircraft, it offers the chance to gain jet piloting experience and enjoy the efficiency of jet-powered travel until the new aircraft are available.
“We’re reacting to the VLJ market,” said Tom Canavera, vice president of sales and marketing. “We’re excited about this prospect because it brings in potentially new customers to the aviation industry.”
He says that the advantage of their refurbished jet program is the availability of aircraft today.
“The difference is that we can provide this product to them right away,” Canavera said. “They don’t have to wait. They can come right now and we can have an airplane ready for them almost immediately.”
The standard Sierra Value Light Jet will be a Cessna Citation 500 with GPS, TAWS, new paint from the company’s selection of standard paint schemes and a completely new six-passenger interior. A Pratt & Whitney engine will power each aircraft.
“You make your selection of airframe and engines, some of which will have zero time since overhaul and some with 300 hours left until overhaul,” Canavera said. “A customer can come to us just like they would go to the VLJ OEMs out there and we can provide a trusted product that has been around a long time.”
The company has developed a Web tool on its site at www.sijet.com similar to those used by automobile dealers, to help customers design the aircraft they desire. It enables the customer to choose airframe and engine combinations, avionics, paint and interior colors.
“At the end, you will have picked an entire package with a final build price,” Canavera said. “It will come here to our sales department at Sierra and we’ll analyze those choices. Based on what they have built on the site, we can have an airplane ready for them at a specific date and price.”
The suggested retail price for a Sierra Value Light Jet is $845,000 but Canavera says that price could skew as low as $700,000 or as high as $1.5 million, depending on the customer’s needs, the selected engine and choices in avionics and other variables.
In addition to their “one-stop shopping” site, Sierra has bundled additional features into their Sierra Value Light Jet program. Support aspects of the sales program include pre-arranged financing, a source for comprehensive insurance coverage, initial and recurrent pilot training, and a written warranty on engines, airframe and avionics.
“This is a very easy way for customers to move up to a light jet,” Canavera said. “A big difference is that we will provide them help with securing their financing, their insurance and their training so they’re not floundering trying to work through this paperwork on their own and having to talk to ten different people each time. We’ll hold their hand through the entire process.”
The company is confident enough about its product to provide a buy-back program for every aircraft sold. Depending on a number of aircraft use and maintenance conditions, Sierra will repurchase its aircraft–no questions asked–anytime within two years of the purchase date.
Sierra Industries has been specializing in aircraft modifications and maintenance on Cessna Citation model business jets for more than 25 years. Founded in south central Texas in 1983, the company has prospered under the direction of CEO Mark Huffstutler. Starting with 10 employees and 11,000 feet of hangar and production facilities, Sierra has since increased in size to employ 125 employees with over 74,000 square feet of hangar and office space at its headquarters in Uvalde.
The company made its reputation by manufacturing and installing Citation modifications. In 1986, Sierra obtained the rights to the Eagle and Longwing modifications for Citation aircraft. Sierra has also produced modifications by Branson Industries and the Dee Howard Company of San Antonio, Texas.
Its maintenance and modification specialists are highly trained and licensed by the FAA. They staff a facility that includes a well-equipped sheet metal shop, a state-of-the-art machine shop and extensive repair and maintenance facilities.
Canavera and his sales staff believe the Sierra Value Light Jet program has a wide appeal.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we sell aircraft to people who have ordered an Eclipse or a Mustang who aren’t getting it for four years,” Canavera said. “They can get a jet now, get their training and jet time in, and then sell this Sierra Value Light Jet right before taking delivery of that new aircraft. I also think it will appeal to customers who have considered aircraft from those companies but who were reluctant to put money down on a new venture.”
Canavera says the idea isn’t new but that Sierra’s experience goes a long way.
“We feel like we’re in a great position to launch this program because we’ve been doing this for years,” Canavera said. “Really, we’re just packaging the idea more efficiently and providing a value to people who have wanted to get into a VLJ.”
Huffstutler is even more bullish on the concept.
“We’ve designed a program to meet the need for an immediately available, reasonably priced personal light jet,” Huffstutler said. “VLJ manufacturers have made promises for years to produce personal business jets for under $1 million in cost, but can no longer deliver. Sierra can!”
For more information on the Sierra Value Light Jet sales program, visit [http://www.sijet.com/myvlj].