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March 2015 Warbird Market Report
The long-term health of our “hobby” is perhaps the most important result of safe and conscientious operations by the members of Warbirds of America and our friends. However, another barometer of sorts is the amount of projects and aircraft currently being traded or sold in the marketplace. The number of people buying their first warbird, moving up to the next level, or downsizing and moving back in the complexity scale are vital indicators of what’s happening out there. Let us look at March after setting some background. Feel free to send me an e-mail to discuss where these trends may be going.
There are three main categories in warbird operations: trainers, bombers, and fighters. The benchmark aircraft of each type sets the value for all other aircraft in that category (to some extent) and acts as a virtual leader to indicate where the rest of the types are going. The benchmark type is not the most valuable of the category, but is in many cases the go-to type and most recognizable.
The trainer category tends to be divided a bit more because it’s the most numerous and most fluid of the three, and it is also perhaps the most important category to the long-term health of what we do as pilots.
Primary trainer category benchmark: Boeing Stearman Model 75 - There are currently about 18 Stearman biplanes for sale nationwide, with the “ask” between $80,000 and $135,000 for a 450 example.
Advanced trainer category benchmark: North American T-6/SNJ - The T-6/SNJ/Harvard market comprises eight examples offered for sale, a project or two on the market, and a price starting at $132,000 and up to $225,000 for at the top end: a Gold Class Reno Racing T-6.
Bomber category benchmark: North American B-25J - It’s rare to see B-25s for sale, and currently only the ultra-rare B-25H Barbie III is available, asked at $950,000. But the B-25 “kings” at Aero Trader have two projects for sale at $175,000 each, and they can build them into the bomber of your dreams for an additional cost. B-25s are wonderful airplanes and rarely trade hands. There is a reason for that!
Fighter category benchmark: North American P-51D - The Mustang market is pretty active lately, with six aircraft currently on the market. They range from two at $1.95 million, a skeleton dual control D at $2.145 million, a full TF-51D conversion at $2.725 million, and a stock “barn find” example ex-Guatemalan Air Force plane with many spares at $4 million. The famous P-51 Reno racer Strega is also for sale at an unknown price, but this is a “weapons grade” racer and not for weekend flying or entry-level operation.
Here are some numbers to ponder until next month:
- Stearman 75: 10,500 built, 1,000 flying, 500 projects in progress, 18 for sale
- T-6 et al.: 15,500 built, perhaps 800 remain, 400 flying, 250 projects, eight for sale
- B-25 Mitchell: 9,816 built, 116 survivors, about 45 flying, one flyer, two projects offered
- P-51 Mustang: 15,586 built, 294 survivors, 120 flying, six for sale, many projects in the works