Star turn for executive jets
By Grant McLaren
Professional Pilot Magazine June 1998
International celebrities have joined major corporations in finding jet
aircraft an essential business tool. The "offices in the sky" are as
productive and indispensable as a company computer system, reports Grant
powered executive jets have long been the aircraft of choice for
Hollywood stars, international sports figures, well-heeled Sultans and
business tycoons. John Travolta flies a vintage Gulfstream IISP, Jack
Nicklaus propels himself around the world aboard a Gulfstream IVSP as
does His Majesty the Sultan of Johor (Malaysia) and Nike Inc. Founder
and CEO Phil Knight manages his global business dealings with both a GIV
and a GIII. While Rolls-Royce powered executive transports had pretty
well been dominated by Spey and Tay powered Gulfstream II, III and IVs
the options have broadened considerably over recent years.
Today's stable of Rolls-Royce equipped transports ranges from the
affordable and sprightly 1900 - 2300 pound thrust Williams/Rolls-Royce
FJ44 powered Cessna Citationjet, Raytheon Premier One and
Sino-Swearingen SJ30 class of entry level jets to the world's fastest
business jet, the Citation X, which is driven by 6400- pound thrust
Allison/Rolls-Royce AE3007Cs at cruise speeds up to Mach .92. At the top
end in airborne real estate is the intercontinental executive version of
the Boeing 757 of which nine have been completed to date. With ample
power provided by twin 40,000-pound thrust RB211-533E4s, and a generous
118 foot long cabin, (see Rolls-Royce magazine March 1997) this
comfortable vehicle will carry up to 25 passengers one-stop anywhere in
the world. Perhaps the two most in-demand longhaul corporate products on
the market today, however, are the 6500-nm plus range-capable Bombardier
Global Express and the Gulfstream V. These top-end executive transports,
powered by a pair of BMW Rolls-Royce BR710s, are the state-of-the-art in
executive transport for those who can manage the pricetags of close to
$40 million (with completed interiors).
first appeared in the mid-1960s with the debut of the Learjet, Lockheed
JetStar, Gulfstream II and the Rockwell Saberliner. Spey-powered GIIs,
with their intercontinental abilities, sold for a then-pricey $1 million
and were considered by many to be the premier executive transport.
Within their generous 12-place cabins all sorts of interior decor
variations began showing up. There were circa-1950s Danish modern
interiors, airborne suites with the English-country look of a Dorchester
hotel room and all manner of experimental interior concepts. The Faberge
company created a cave-like molded plastic interior for its first GII
which features a built-in piano, all sorts of curves and a Spanish
bartender who worked a pressure-fed bar system. Polished hardwood
floors, sculptures and continental-style crystal chandeliers all began
to appear together with built-in early-generation VCRs and heavy TV
1985, when the GIV came out, these 74,600-pound MTOW Rolls-Royce Tay
powered transports reconfirmed Gulfstream's place at the top of the
bizjet market with attractive 4200-nm range capabilities. Exec jet cabin
design became more mainstream by the mid-80s with subdued interiors that
were more corporate and perhaps less individual. Today, you can expect
expanses of fine leathers, rich wood veneers, flat panel video screens
and hidden-away satphones and VCRs aboard typical large-cabin executive
jets yet not so much in the way of French wall tapestries, metal
sculptures and other exotica. The business jet has matured and evolved
into a valuable corporate tool which is equally as productive and
necessary as a company computer system. Exec jets have become, more
often than not, offices in the sky and their typical $3 to $6 million
interior completions are usually absolutely functional. Cabins will
often transform from multi-zone meeting rooms and dining rooms to
berthable arrangements offering hotel-like comfort at night. At average
utilization rates of 580 flying hours a year today's corporate jets do
much to generate and hold-together global business.
key factor in choosing an executive jet today is the level of product
support you'll receive. After investing tens of millions of dollars in
one of these machines you want it to be ready to go when you need it. No
less important than airframe support is support offered by engine
providers. In Professional Pilot magazine's most recent Powerplant
Product Support Survey (November 1997) Rolls-Royce took top spot and
swept first-place in all seven categories -- AOG service, company
response, service satisfaction, cost of parts, spares availability, tech
reps and tech manuals. This will, no doubt, be a reassurance for those
on the waiting list to receive GIVSPs as well as BR710-propelled GVs and
Travlota has operated a GII, modified with a pair of Aviation Partners
range-enhancing winglets, since 1992. A fully-rated pilot, Travolta
guides his Gulfstream throughout North American and Europe an average of
350 hours a year from the left seat. While on film locations the actor
utilizes his corporate jet to commute home on weekends, to attend
talk-shows in New York or to get back to the studio in Los Angeles to
catch-up on voice-over work. For Travolta, having an executive jet is
absolutely essential and he runs his flight department with the highest
level of professionalism.
"I believe in
full-throttle professional procedures. We always fly the Gulfstream with
three pilots, including myself, and on transoceanic flights we'll have a
flight engineer and one or two flight attendants. Most commercial
airlines don't have the flightdeck crew we have."
Travolta has a
passion for service perfection. Flying aboard this exec jet is probably
as good as it gets.
"We try to run
this flight department as if it were a five-star airline. I've created
checklists for every aspect of the operation -- we strive for technical
perfection and passenger service perfection. We have hand-written menus,
luggage tags, special meal services, top-quality bedding and
time-to-destination announcements just like on the Concorde."
in West Palm Beach Florida internationally-renowned golfer Jack Nicklaus
considers his GIVSP to be his number one business productivity tool.
Revenues at Nicklaus's Golden Bear Inc are often in direct proportion to
the amount of time CEO Nicklaus spends away from the office designing
golf courses and overseeing an international web of retail operations.
"Jack has a philosophy of maximizing his time in business and he gets
more done at 40,000 feet than any executive I know," said Golden Bear
President Richard Bellinger. "With the range of the GIVSP he's able to
squeeze in eight-stop seven-day Asian trips. Without a corporate jet we
would have to scale back what we do."
controlled environment of an executive jet makes tough travel schedules
bearable. "The aircraft serves as my sanctuary," explained Nicklaus. "I
arrive in places like Japan ready for a full-day's work. I'm not slowed
down by jet lag and I stock the food I need -- I never have to take
risks adjusting or changing my day-to-day needs."
The first year
that Hillsboro, Oregon based Nike Inc operated a corporate jet, in this
case a GIII, international sales shot up 35%. With the comfortable
executive lift ability of the company jet Nike has been able to maximize
and stretch the charismatic impact of Founder and CEO Phil Knight. He
can attend tennis events in Germany or Australia one week and shoe
factory openings in China or Indonesia the next.
"Our GIII proved
to be such a valuable tool for this company that we added a GIV two
years ago," recalled Nike Director of Flight Operations Lee Crawley.
"This business would not have been as successful as it has become
without the advantages of corporate jets."
infuse flexibility into the arena of international business, they allow
management to be more productive and the payoff is generally far greater
than the cost of acquiring and operating the aircraft. For Hollywood and
the entertainment set, such private transport makes it possible to move
about with security without being mobbed by admirers in airline
terminals. For heads of state, royalty and sultans, these aircraft
provide complete control of the transport process and sufficient range
to go wherever required without having to put down in between.
new generation of BR710 turbofans will soon be a common sight at
executive jet airport terminals. Gulfstream is well into deliveries of
the GV and Bombardier will be shipping-out the Global Express before
year end. While this flying merchandise is expensive it gives
international operators unique capabilities. Flying Singapore to London,
New York to Tokyo and Los Angeles to Dubai nonstop will only increase
the productivity and effectiveness of top world corporations. Toyota,
which as been operating a GIV and a Challenger 601, has both a Global
Express and a GV on order. Ultra long-range abilities will not be lost
on this operator.
stop for fuel on 85% of our international operations with the current
fleet," explained Toyota Flight Department Manager Terry Haebeck. "But,
with our Global Express and GV, we'll soon be on equal footing in terms
of range with the Boeing 747-400. We'll benefit from more nonstop
operations and have access to dedicated on-board crew rest facilities."
spaciousness is, of course, always available for a price. Rolls-Royce
powered executive jets not only take the form of the popular B757 but
also the less commonly executive-configured B747-400. On the B747-400
side of the scale expect to be able to travel anywhere in the world
nonstop and to enjoy the niceties of a formal dining room, spa, perhaps
an airborne operating room and a master bedroom equal to anything you'll
see aboard a Mediterranean-based megayacht.
flying a Citation X, a Global Express or a B757 there are interior
completion houses around the world ready to transform the interior into
a mission-capable configuration with as many extras as may be desired.
Waterfall Babinga, tortoise shell maple and Australian Eucalyptus have
been popular veneer choices for executive transports lately as have
marble and semi-precious stone facings in galleys and baths. Custom
china and silverware can also be created to accent the interior theme.
jets typically have long useful economic lives we'll continue to see
Spey-powered Gulfstream IIs and IIIs well into the next decade. In fact,
these early large-cabin executive jets are currently on their way up in
the price and their performance abilities continue to be most
Lacy Aviation CEO Clay Lacy, out of Van Nuys CA, recently won a world
speed record in a vintage, winglet-equipped, GII with an elapsed time
from Los Angeles to Paris of 10 hours and 32 minutes. He then broke
seven time-to-climb world records with his Spey-powered IISP including a
climb from sea level to 41,000 feet in just 6 minutes and 32 seconds.
proliferation of affordable, $3.2 to $4.2 million, Williams/Rolls-Royce
FJ44 powered entry-level executive jets over the next several years
together with some 300 plus ultra-long-range BR710 powered Global
Expresses and GVs through the next decade. Rolls-Royce powered executive
jets will soon cover the waterfront from the 6,000 lb MTOW FJ44-powered
single engine Century jet through to the 255,000 pound MTOW Boeing 757