Used primarily by business for corporate applications, private jets range in size, accommodating just a handful of passengers that can do short trips, to those with larger cabins with the ability to do long-haul flights. Although some builders manufacture jets solely for private use, others work both the private and regional jet markets. In the early days of business aviation, the manufacturer names were synonymous with the aircraft itself. People would talk about ‘a Learjet’ or ‘a Cessna’ and this would conjure up an idea of a specific type of aircraft. Fifty years on, the landscape has changed hugely. There is a much wider variety of choice for the private jet customer – and what can feel like a baffling array of different aircraft types and names. So here’s a summary of the major private aircraft manufacturers and the key aircraft in their range – our Who’s Who of private jets.
Airbus Corporate Jets
Headquarters: Toulouse (France)
Head of company: Fabrice Brégier
Better known for building large aircraft used by commercial airlines, Airbus SAS first established itself as a business jet manufacturer in 1997, with the formation of Airbus Executive and Private Aviation. As the largest subsidiary of EADS, the French company is still first and foremost a manufacturer of commercial aircraft. Aside from the aircraft it produces for military and freights purposes, it deals only with large airliners, but all of these can be converted into corporate or VIP versions – even the double-decker A380, which can hold up to 555 passengers.
Airbus has two main manufacturing sites, one at Toulouse, France and the other in Hamburg, Germany. All Airbus aircraft are built at Toulouse, but some (usually the A321s) are flown to Hamburg for finishing. Airbus is now beginning to build large military turboprop transports (A400M), but this will be a very small part of their overall aircraft manufacturing. The most popular business jets built by Airbus are corporate ACJ318s, ACJ319s, ACJ320s and ACJ321s. These versions typically seat between 15 and 50 passengers – compared to airline versions which can carry over 200 passengers. Like Boeing Business Jets, Airbus Corporate Jets are often used by heads-of-state, governments and corporate clients, and because over 300 airlines operate Airbus aircraft, it is easy to find maintenance. Airbus officially launched the next generation of the A320 family of aircraft on December 1st 2010. Dubbed the ‘neo’ family, Airbus had been working on enhancing the family since early 2006. As well as including newer, greener and more powerful engines (the neo stands for new engine option), the neo family of aircraft also includes new curved winglets that Airbus has dubbed ‘sharklets’.
Beechcraft Corporation (formerly Hawker Beechcraft)
Headquarters: Wichita, Kansas (US)
Head of company: Bill Boisture
Although stories of Hawker Beechcraft’s financial troubles dominated the agenda between 2012-2013, the company has been producing much-loved aircraft since it was founded by Walter H. and Olive Ann Beech in 1932. Trading under the name of Beech Aircraft Corporation, the company’s first move was to introduce the world to the Model 17 – otherwise known as the Beechcraft Staggerwing – which captured the imaginations of business travellers and air racers in equal measure. In 1980, Beech became a subsidiary of aerospace and defence company Raytheon, before acquiring British Aerospace Corporate Jets and its popular line of mid-sized Hawker jets in 1993. The following year, a merger then saw Beech Aircraft join with the renamed Raytheon Corporate Jets to form Raytheon Aircraft.
Business continued to boom for over a decade, before Onex and GS Capital Partners took over Raytheon Aircraft in March 2007 and renamed the company as the Hawker Beechcraft Corporation. As Hawker struggled to pay the interest on the debt that was used to fund the purchase, the company announced it had entered into Chapter 11 protection in May 2012. Following the collapse of a high-profile takeover from Beijing-based Superior Aviation, the company eventually left bankruptcy on its own as the newly rebranded Beechcraft Corporation in February 2013. Although Beechcraft delivered its last business jet in the first quarter of 2013, it remains active in the market, with a network of 10 facilities in the US, UK and Mexico – along with more than 90 authorised service centres around the world – known as Global Customer Support, providing over 18,000 Hawker owners with spare parts and ongoing support. At the end of 2013, Beechcraft Corporation was acquired by Textron, bringing together Beechcraft and Cessna in a new division called Textron Aviation. Under Textron’s leadership, Beechcraft re-entered the business jet market in 2014 with the Hawker 400XPR, a re-manufactured model of the Hawker 400 priced at $2.9 million. It remains to be seen whether Beechcraft will launch a brand new business jet model in the near future.
Boeing Business Jets
Headquarters: Seattle, Washington (US)
Head of company: David Longridge
Although Boeing is most famous for its iconic airliners, the company launched the Boeing Business Jet series in the late-1990s, taking the commercial airframe of the 737 and turning into the BBJ by way of a number of modifications and luxury refurbishments. More recently, BBJs have included configurations based on the Boeing 777, Boeing 787 and the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental, and can typically hold up to 50 passengers with enough space for a master bedroom, bathroom and living area. The Boeing Company itself was founded in Seattle in 1916 by William Boeing. Boeing continued to expand for many decades, before merging with McDonnell Douglas in 1997 and moving the corporate headquarters to Chicago in 2001. All three version of BBJ remain popular types of aircraft amongst private jet owners and operators, and between 1996 and 2014, there were a total of 164 aircraft delivered to customers. The company’s latest development came in August 2011 when the Boeing board approved the launch of the 737MAX series of aircraft, almost a year after Airbus launched the A320neo family that the 737 competes with. Designed to replace the current in-production series of 737 airliners, the BBJ versions of the aircraft were finally launched in April 2014 with an order from an undisclosed customer for a single BBJ MAX 8.
Bombardier Business Aircraft
Headquarters: Montréal, Quebec (Canada)
Head of company: Éric Martel
As part of Bombardier Inc – which Quebec-born Joseph-Armand Bombardier founded in 1937, while inventing the snowmobile at the same time – Bombardier Aerospace is the world’s third-largest aircraft manufacturer. The company’s involvement with aircraft started with its acquisition of Canadair in 1986. After restoring Canadair to profitability, Bombardier performed the same feat with the Belfast-based Short Brothers aircraft manufacturing company, and then the Learjet Company of Wichita, Kansas. Bombardier makes a wide range of jets to suit different purposes. The Learjet series is made up of light jets capable of carrying around eight or nine over short distances, whilst the popular Global 6000 – previously known as the Global Express XRS – can carry almost twice as many passengers and is able to make much longer journeys. The Bombardier Global 7000 is expected to enter into the market in 2016 and will replace the Global 6000.
Headquarters: Wichita, Kansas (US)
Head of company: Scott Earnest
Having built aircraft since 1927, Cessna’s smaller piston-powered aircraft are what have helped the company to build its name, but its extremely popular line of Citation business jets have helped to define its personality. The company currently has eight business jet models in production (the Longitude still in design phase), ranging from the Citation Mustang, which can hold four passengers in a snug but comfortable setting, to the medium-sized Citation Ten, which can typically hold eight and is known for its breath-taking speed. Cessna was founded by Clyde Cessna, the farmer who was the first man to build and fly an aircraft from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. Like Hawker Beechcraft and Learjet, the company was founded in Wichita, Kansas, and has kept its headquarters based in the city. The company is a subsidiary of US industrial conglomerate Textron and Kansas native Scott Earnest has been the CEO of Cessna since June 2011 after taking over from the retired Jack Pelton.
Headquarters: Paris (France)
Head of company: Éric Trappier
Based in Paris, Dassault Aviation made its name producing fighter jets for the military. In 1954 the company produced a sketch of a sleek-looking business jet carrying two jet engines under the wing. Known as The Méditerranée, the idea never progressed beyond paper it was written on, after it was decided that the aircraft would be too costly to mass produce.
It was not until 1963 that the prototype for the Mystère 20 finally emerged. Looking not too dissimilar to the Méditerranée design, the aircraft was the company’s first business jet and one which paved the wave for the iconic Falcon series. The Mystère 20 gained its certificate of airworthiness in 1965 and a total of 500 were produced, with four per month going to Pan Am. But after the American airline began to go off the idea of marketing an aircraft bearing a French name, it was eventually changed to the Falcon 20 the following year. More Falcons followed throughout the next decade and in 1976, the faster longer-ranged Falcon 50 made its first flight. In recent years, Dassault has produced a number of medium-sized business jet models as well as the larger Falcon 7X, which features three engines and has a range of almost 6,000 nautical miles. Dassault’s latest models, the Falcon 5X and Falcon 8X were introduced in 2013 and 2014 respectively, but whilst the Falcon 8X is a one meter stretch of the 7X with an additional 500 nm range, the 5X is a clean sheet design that could become the platform for later, larger models.
Embraer Executive Jets
Headquarters: São José dos Campos (Brazil)
Head of company: Marco Tulio Pellegrini
Founded in 1969, Brazilian-based Embraer entered the aerospace market making reliable turboprops. Producing a number of military aircraft throughout the 1970s, a regional airliner in 1985 and Piper aircraft from 1974, privatisation eventually saw Embraer sold to avoid bankruptcy in 1994. In the new millennium, the company turned heads when announced that it would start build its first business jet with the introduction of the Legacy program.
Available as a shuttle version with 16-37 seats and an executive version with 10-16 seats, the Legacy 600 flew for the first time in 2001. With the Legacy continuing to cement its reputation as an immensely popular mid-sized aircraft, in 2006 Embraer embarked on a tour across the US to showcase mock-ups of its new Phenom 100 business jet as well as the Phenom 300. The following year the Phenom 100 entered into service, just three months before the much larger Lineage 1000, which achieved FAA Certification in 2009. Having started off in the business by building executive versions of airliners in the early 2000s, Embraer are now aiming to have a model in each of the size and weight categories. First came the Phenom 100 and Phenom 300, but Embraer soon closed the gap between the Phenom 300 and the Legacy 650 with the introduction of the mid-size Legacy 450 and Legacy 500. Embraer decided to give the aircraft the Legacy name rather than the Phenom name to give the new range the feel of the larger aircraft family.
Headquarters: Savannah, Georgia (US)
Head of company: Mark Burns
Although Gulfstream has developed a number of popular medium-sized business jets, such as the G200and G450, the Georgia-based company has built its reputation almost entirely from building large business jets. Having always specialised exclusively in corporate aircraft, Gulfstream Aerospace grew out of Grumman Aircraft Engineering Co., a manufacturer of military aircraft.
The DNA of the company can be traced back to the late 1950s when Grumman produced a business turboprop by the name of Gulfstream I. Relocating from New York State to the city of Savannah, Georgia, it was not until the 1970s that Grumman changed its name to Gulfstream American after merging with American Aviation Corp. Gulfstream was bought by General Dynamics in the late 1990s and built the first ultra-long range business jet, the GV. The company has since hit its stride with large, long-range models such as theG500, the G550 and the G650. Gulfstream’s biggest coup came part way through 2014 with the simultaneous introduction into the market of two new models. Long talked about as the mysterious sounding ‘P42′, Gulfstream managed to keep both both the G500 and G600 secret until the day they launched. During the launch at the manufacturers Savannah home-base, Gulfstream wowed many by having the G500 taxi into view under its own power. Booking a chartered flight on any of these jets is simple by contacting us.
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