For the last few years, deliveries of large cabin long-range jets have remained stable while the rest of the market has suffered. However, I have to wonder – intercontinental range may be nice, but do owners really need it? And how do they actually use their aircraft?

Business jets such as the Gulfstreams, Globals and Falcons have phenomenal capabilities. Bombardier’s Global 6000 has a 6,000 nm range – sufficient to fly from Moscow to Los Angeles – and the forthcoming Global 7000 will take you up to 7,300 nm from New York to Shanghai. Gulfstream’s G650ER goes even further at 7,500 nm, while Dassault’s upcoming Falcon 8X has enough range to go from Paris to Singapore or Sao Paulo.

Don’t get me wrong, this is all just fine if you’re happy to ride in business jet comfort for up to 14 hours. But, perhaps surprisingly, it seems owners of these aircraft aren’t, with most using them for more mundane missions. A sample of around 100 business jets recently offered for sale shows that large cabin jets fly sectors averaging just one hour and 57 minutes – or around 1,000 nm. This is essentially flying from Washington, DC to Dallas, Texas. Not exactly the long-range missions these jets brag about on the brochures…

Obviously, they do fly long-range missions, and it should be noted that the average for Bombardier Globals is higher – at around three hours. But there was only one aircraft (a G450) posting an average flight sector of more than five hours, and only two more with more than four hours. So the general evidence appears to be that the range capability of big jets is not fully used.

Just in case

Why do customers want more range? One US-based captain of a Gulfstream G450 explains that it was “nice to have – just in case”. “We fly around 300 hours a year and my boss uses the aircraft for quite short business trips from Michigan, mainly to Atlanta, Tampa and Austin, together with trips with his wife to San Francisco where their kids live. But we have taken the G450 to London and Paris a couple of times”. He also says the capacity of the G450 means they don’t have to refuel and can take advantage of best fuel prices on short missions.

But this begs the question, why not have a shorter-range jet such as a Cessna Citation Sovereign and charter a big aircraft for the long-range trips? “Well, the big cabin aircraft is a real flying office or home-from-home with the space to work or relax and to take colleagues or friends,” says one aircraft broker. “It’s all about cabin size, not range, and even if you are only going from London to Rome, a Gulfstream or Global gives you the most comfortable flight. Private owners value the prestige of a large-cabin jet and, for some, it is all about having a bigger and better aircraft than the one owned by your friends or a business rival”.

Our conclusion? Manufacturers may focus on long range, but every buyer is motivated by issues that go far beyond technical specifications


Source: Fly Corporate