Blackstone Group LP, vying with financiers including Citigroup Inc., is starting a new fund to provide loans for a luxury-jet market projected to reach $280 billion over the next decade.

The fund’s creation adds Blackstone, the world’s largest alternative-asset manager, to a growing roster of lenders taking advantage of a business-aviation rally. The fund says it will be able to finance as much as $2.5 billion in plane purchases and will focus on the biggest models costing $30 million or more.

“We’ve seen more lenders come back into the market that had pulled out and we’re seeing new ones coming in,” said Wayne Starling, chief of the aviation finance unit for Pittsburgh- based PNC Financial Services Group. “The market is showing some real signs of recovery.”

Companies and wealthy entrepreneurs will buy 9,450 new jets over the next 10 years, Honeywell International Inc. said in its annual forecast being released today. Their estimated value at list prices is 7.7 percent more than in last year’s projection, as buyers gravitate to costlier, longer-range jets.

Blackstone is jumping into financing by establishing Global Jet Capital, which will handle sales of new and used aircraft, said Shawn Vick, the fund’s chairman of the executive committee. The fund is being formally announced tomorrow at the National Business Aviation Association convention in Orlando, Florida.

Fund Partners

Joining New York-based Blackstone in the fund are Carlyle Group LP, Franklin Square Capital Partners and AE Industrial Partners. Global Jet Capital’s executive committee includes Bill Boisture, the former chief executive officer of Hawker Beechcraft Co.

“We believe that it’s going to be a strong, healthy, vibrant market,” Vick said in a telephone interview. The fund’s sponsors “came to this conclusion at the same time and we were able to structure the partnership and go to market.”

Even regional banks that lost money in the last recession are hiring aircraft specialists to restart plane financing, PNC’s Starling said. Down payments required on a jet loan are dropping toward 10 percent from 20 percent just a few years ago, he said.

Private-aircraft demand evaporated after the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in September 2008 and the worst U.S. economic slump since the Great Depression. Business-jet deliveries tumbled by almost half and only began to rise in 2013, the first year-on-year increase since 2008.

First-half shipments rose 12 percent to 318, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

New Models

Recently introduced models such as Dassault Aviation SA’s 5X help perk up interest as owners look to replace older planes, said Ford von Weise, global head of aircraft finance at New York-based Citigroup.

“New aircraft have greater utility and capability,” Von Weise said in a telephone interview. “The avionics up front are a lot more sophisticated and do provide a high level of safety.”

The newer models also are getting a boost because fewer old aircraft are being put up for sale. Those planes accounted for 10 percent of the global fleet, down from a 2009 high of 16 percent, according to Morris Township, New Jersey-based Honeywell, which surveyed 1,500 business-jet operators.

Global Jet Capital is offering five-year leases and 12-year loans for new and used jets no more than 10 years old, according to Vick, with an emphasis on the large aircraft that are leading the industry’s rebound.

Big Cabins

“We believe that more and more people will be transitioning into the super mid-sized and large-cabin airplanes in the global economy,” Vick said. “They need to get to distant places in order to conduct business.”

This category includes models such as Bombardier Inc.’s Global 6000. Deliveries in that niche rose 22 percent last year while mid-size and light jets, including Embraer SA’s Phenom 100 and Textron Inc.’s Cessna Citation Mustang, fell 8.3 percent.

Gulfstream’s G650 boasts a range of 7,000 nautical miles (13,000 kilometers), luring customers as high profile as Exxon Mobil Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. It sells for $62 million, according to the website. Gulfstream, a unit of Falls Church, Virginia-based General Dynamics Corp., introduced two new planes last week, including the G600 with range of 6,200 nautical miles.

Citigroup sees the rebound in the jet market starting to reach smaller planes as well, as companies gain more confidence in the U.S. economy.

“We’re finally beginning to see an uptick in inquiries from our clients for financing of light and mid-sized business jets,” Von Weise said. “Really for the past four to five years we have seen very little activity in that segment.”

More “fence sitters” will be convinced that it’s time to buy if the economy continues to show stable growth, Von Weise said, and that will attract more jet-financing competitors.

“A lot of people jump into a rising tide because it’s a heck of a lot easier to swim,” he said.