They Keep Going and Going and Going…
The latest large-cabin ultralong-range business jets promise nonstop service to nearly any destination in the world.
Can a business jet have too much range? This question is becoming ever more relevant as aircraft manufacturers scramble to provide travelers with large-cabin jets that can link nearly any two points on the globe. In May, Gulfstream announced that its newest jet, the G650, is going to receive an upgrade that will increase its range by 460 miles. The new jet, the $66.5 million G650ER, will have a range greater than 8,600 miles, which means that when it takes off from London (carrying eight or fewer passengers) it will be able to fly nonstop (at 562 mph) to any country in the world except Australia. The G650ER is expected to complete the FAA certification process by the end of this year or in early 2015. After it goes into service next year, it will soon be joined by a new long-range offering from Dassault, the Falcon 8X, and will later compete with Bombardier’s Global 7000 and Global 8000, the latter of which will boast a range greater than 9,000 miles.
Range has become the focus of a new arms race in private aviation, but the competition eventually should end. “We have a finite globe, after all,” says Steve Cass, Gulfstream’s vice president of communications. “We’re not there yet, but we’re getting close to the point where you won’t need more range, because it will be cheaper to turn [the aircraft] around and take a different route.”
Nevertheless, large-cabin ultralong-range jets may be the wave of the future. To the aircraft makers, they represent the most important segment of the market, because customer demand for jets capable of making nonstop flights across continents and across oceans continues to grow, even though the prices of these aircraft can exceed $70 million. But corporations are making the investment, presumably because the jets’ range plus their spacious cabins and communications systems enable them to serve as mobile offices as well as bedrooms for C-level managers during 14-hour flights. “The demand for large-cabin jets and long-range jets is ever increasing,” says Bombardier spokeswoman Annie Cossette. “This segment of the market is going to drive worldwide demand for jets for the next 20 years.”
The initial entry in this new category was Gulfstream’s G650, the first private jet capable of traveling 8,000 miles nonstop (when carrying eight or fewer passengers) at a cruising speed of about 560 mph. The G650 went into service at the end of 2012, and since then Gulfstream has delivered about 60 examples of the $64.5 million jet. Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil, and Qualcomm are said to be among the corporations that own a G650.
“When we were designing the [G650],” says Cass, “we kept hearing from customers that they wanted to go faster, and they wanted more range.” He says there is an enormous backlog for the aircraft. If you placed an order today with Gulfstream, you would not receive your jet until sometime in 2017. Consequently, pre-owned G650s are selling for more than $70 million. Dick’s Sporting Goods reportedly sold its G650 for at least $73.5 million in February.
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