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A New High: Personalised Private Jets

Owning a corporate jet continues to be the entrepreneur’s ultimate status symbol. And, needless to say, the more personalised, the better

Published: Oct 14, 2013 07:35:11 AM IST
Updated: Oct 9, 2013 05:47:06 PM IST
A New High: Personalised Private Jets
Bombardier’s Global 6000 is an ultralong-range plane, one of the most popular categories among corporate jet owners. It can fly non-stop for 13 hours

Businessmen and the skies: The attraction is self-evident. Not surprisingly, a corporate jet remains the loudest signal that an entrepreneur has arrived. GD Birla and JRD Tata were flying planes even before the jet age dawned. Their modern-day counterparts are drawn to newer machines that fly faster, higher and farther: Speed and utility combine with luxury to form the ultimate status symbol.

Ownership established, the next step is personalisation. Seats fully loaded with telescoping headrests, flexible wings, waterfall leg rests, electric lumbar controls—older CEOs often choose seats with heat and massage options, and full-flat berthing. Leather ledges, less veneer, more gloss. Monogrammed galleys and crockery. Only the sky is the limit.

While the slowdown may have tempered demand, leading to a spurt of interest in pre-owned aircraft instead, those who can, buy, or at least aspire.

Here’s a glance at the coolest machines, some already owned by Indians and others that are fresh out of the hangars and currently on shopping lists.
Gulfstream 550
Michael Dell owns one, so does Lakshmi Mittal. The G550 ultra-long range plane is also the ride of choice for Kumar Mangalam Birla. The billionaire with businesses around the world often uses this head-turner for intercontinental travel. Powered by two Rolls Royce engines, the plane has a range of 12,500 km. The machine can also cause turbulence in its wake, as Gautam Thapar found out. Its Rs 270-crore price-tag ruffled Crompton Greaves investors so much that the company had to quickly sell it to a subsidiary.

The plane is available with an Elite Interior option. Using an iPod Touch, passengers can control the lighting, temperature, entertainment equipment and window shades.

Dassault Falcon 7X
Dassault has a long history of producing top-notch military aircraft and its business jets often tend to incorporate these cutting edge technologies. One of only two business trijets in operation, the Dassault Falcon 7X has the distinction of being the first fully ‘fly-by-wire’ business aircraft in the world. Carrying up to 14 passengers, the Falcon is among the largest mid-size corporate jets and boasts of an 11,000 km range.  At $50 million, this machine is certainly among the priciest.

Its sibling, the Falcon 2000, is more popular in India. Eleven of the machines are in use already. Its most famous owner-pilot is Ratan Naval Tata. The planes are actually owned by Taj Air, which charters them out. But the former Tata group chief is always happy to take them up for a spin.

Global 6000

The aircraft, formerly known as the Global Express, or the Global XRS, comes from Bombardier’s stable. The Canadian plane-maker has had a good run in India selling dozens of planes across its three brands—Learjet, Challenger and Global. The idea is to entice an entrepreneur with a smaller aircraft in the lighter, medium range plane. As he gets used to the convenience of a private plane and as his net worth grows, he is ready to upgrade to the larger, faster machine. You can’t argue with that strategy.

Also very popular is the Global 5000. Kalanithi Maran’s Sun group, Sajjan Jindal, Rahul Bajaj and both the Ambani brothers, Mukesh and Anil, count among its users.

Like in the automobile industry, newer, more sophisticated and fuel-efficient models tend to drive sales in the corporate jet market. Several aircraft, now under development, could whet buyers’ appetite. These include, apart from the new Gulfstream G650, Cessna’s latest Sovereign and Citation X jets as well as Bombardier’s Challenger 350.

Challenger 604
The spacious Challenger 604 is among the world’s best-selling large corporate jets, thanks mostly to its versatility, comfort and cost efficiency. Equipped with one of the widest and quietest cabins in its class, the aircraft provides an ideal environment for in-flight business meetings or for catching up on some R&R. It can accommodate nine to 12 passengers.

Probably the most famous Indian owner is Gautam Singhania, who rents it out when he is not globe-trotting himself. The plane can go up to 850 km an hour, and is easily available for hire in India.

A New High: Personalised Private Jets
Gulfstream G650
At this point, this plane looks to be the holy grail of business aviation. The G650 is Gulfstream’s biggest and sexiest jet yet. The 18-passenger capacity means it can carry a large entourage to a maximum range of well over 12,000 km. It offers 12 different floor plans that include a conference room, staterooms and complete passenger privacy.

Some might say a Boeing Business Jet (basically a 737 platform) or an Airbus Corporate Jet (A320 platform) is bigger. But these are really commercial jets repurposed for business. Both are actually slower and have shorter legs than the G650. Cruising at Mach 90 (90 percent of the speed of sound), the plane allows up to 13-hour non-stop flights.

No Indian owns this one. Yet.

And The Biggest  

The world’s most expensive private jet is an Airbus A380 owned by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud. It has an estimated cost of over $500 million. Some of the special features of the jet include a two-car garage, a stable for horses and camels, and a prayer room that rotates so it always faces Mecca. What happens when the oil runs out, we wonder? 

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(This story appears in the 18 October, 2013 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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  • Martin Rubin

    Corporate greed is even sucking the air from Mother Earth.

    on Oct 22, 2013
  • Russell Westerberg

    What better way to flaunt it when you got it than with an airplane which shares the wealth with good paying jobs to create, maintain and fly.

    on Oct 17, 2013