15 business jets that shaped the industry
Lockheed Jetstar

15 business jets that shaped the industry

Business jets have improved enormously in the past 50 years, from gas-guzzling go-getters to today’s highly efficient, long-legged luxury liners and tiny personal jets.

During the first half-century of the business jet industry, manufacturers tried out a variety of types and configurations. Many failed, but many others have endured in derivative and upgraded versions. What will be interesting to observe in the coming decades is whether business jet manufacturers continue to innovate, not just in cabin and cockpit appointments where technology changes rapidly, but in basic configuration and in engine and aerodynamic development.

In chronological order, based on when production began, here are 15 aircraft models that played a key role in shaping today’s business aviation environment:

1. Lockheed Jetstar (1961 - 1978)
Such a heritage, born from Kelly Johnson’s famed Lockheed Skunkworks, but such a heavy, large and fuel-swallowing four-engine beast. If any business jet was the originator of the pejorative “royal barge,” surely it was the Jetstar. Even upgrades to more efficient engines couldn’t keep this incredible machine, one of the progenitors of the business jet age (and, many claim, the first business jet) going indefinitely, although a handful still fly. An excellent example of a Jetstar II is Elvis Presley’s 1960 model, on display at Graceland.

2. Sabreliner (1963 - 1983)
Few out-of-production jets are as well-supported as the Sabreliner series, which enjoys the attention of Sabreliner Corporation, whose programs are designed to keep the airframe healthy for years to come. Sabreliner’s own corporate aircraft is serial number 001, the first Sabre jet to roll off the assembly line, which has been updated with all the current modifications. Pilots love Sabre jets, which North American Aviation originally built for an Air Force contract, and the efficient Garrett (now Honeywell) TFE731-powered Sabre 65 kept the production line going until 1983.

3. De Havilland Hawker 125 (1964 to present)
The British Aerospace/Hawker Siddeley HS.125 family–now built by Hawker Beechcraft, although Airbus makes the major components–has been in production longer than any other business jet airframe. Will the Hawker 900XP survive Hawker Beechcraft’s financial troubles and keep the storied Hawker line in production? Time will tell.

4. Israel Aircraft Industries Jet (1965 -1987)
Commander/Westwind I and II ungainly looking and lacking in sporty attributes, the Westwind nevertheless is an efficient 10-passenger jet, something that wasn’t readily available in a smaller jet when it joined the market in 1965.

5. Dassault Falcon 20 (1965 - 1988)
The eight-passenger Falcon 20 firmly established Dassault Aviation in the ranks of business jet manufacturers. With a production run of 513 (including 38 F200s and one prototype), the model served a huge variety of missions and hundreds of these reasonably priced excellent performers continue to fly.

6. Lear 24 (1966 - 1979)
The Lear 23 launched Bill Lear’s manufacturing company into the business jet age, but the Lear 24 and subsequent models really paved the way to success. The Lear 23 was certified under simpler FAA Part 23 regulations applying to lighter airplanes–sort of like today’s very light jets–but the Lear 24 became the first business jet to meet more stringent Part 25 regulations (and the first to be certified to 51,000 feet), and that firmed up the company’s status as a real contender.

7. Gulfstream GII (1967 - 1977)
Who knew way back that large-cabin business jets would be the best performers during the dreadful recent recession? Grumman’s move to turn the turboprop GI into a jet was stupendously prescient and it launched a long line of big-iron airplanes, but it was Allen Paulson’s purchase of the jet program in 1978 and formation of Gulfstream Aerospace that truly unlocked the value of the Gulfstream line.

8. Cessna Citation 500/I (1969 - 1985)
Designing and building a new jet was a bold move for a company that was far more focused on its piston airplane bread and butter and solid but unexciting twin turboprops. The original Citation–not fast, not sexy, but solid, reliable and almost as easy to fly as any Cessna–paid off handsomely, spawning a famous family of jets filling almost every available market niche, and some niches that no one previously even knew existed.

9. Gulfstream GV (1997 - 2002)
The GV is the airplane that spurred the ultra-long-range, large-cabin market and became the glitterati’s preferred mode of transport. The cabin wasn’t really wider than the GII’s, but Gulfstream is fixing that with the upcoming G650 (it’s not a G6!). Of course, the original V lives on as the 500/550 model.

10. Cessna Citation X (1996 to present)
This speedy jet isn’t much bigger than some other Citation models, but for travelers who like to get there now, the Rolls-Royce-powered X does the job at a smooth Mach .92 (600 mph). Who said Cessna can’t build a fast jet? And the follow-on Citation Ten, with more powerful engines and winglets, will fly even faster.

11. Bombardier Global family (1999 to present)
Bombardier couldn’t sit still and allow Gulfstream to capture the ultra-long-range, large-cabin jet market by itself with the GV, and thus the Global Express was born. It offered a huge, wide cabin; a complex airliner-style supercritical wing that delivered impressive short-runway performance; and range sufficient to provide a clear alternative to the GV. Now the Global family has grown to four versions, two in production (5000, 6000) and two in development (7000, 8000), with range in nautical miles roughly corresponding to the model number

12. Beechcraft Premier I (2001 - 2005)
The first successful business jet with an all-composite fuselage (and some composites forming the tailfeathers). Beech Aircraft (later Raytheon Aircraft, now Hawker Beechcraft) spent tens of millions of dollars on the failed all-composite Starship twin-turboprop, but that experience paid off when it came to the clean-sheet-design Premier twinjet, which was flyable by a single pilot and considered by many to be a high-performing small jet. Sadly, the Hawker 200 upgrade of the Premier is on hold as Hawker Beechcraft fights for survival.

13. Eclipse 500 (2006 - 2008)
Eclipse Aerospace–the new owner of bankrupt Eclipse Aviation, which built 261 Eclipse 500 very light jets–has relaunched production and will deliver the first Eclipse 550 next year. Of course, plans by Eclipse and other manufacturers to “darken the skies” with very light jets never developed, but producing a new jet under today’s regulatory, financial and market constraints is a remarkable accomplishment. Plus, pilots love how the Eclipse flies, and for a tiny jet, it has a quiet and surprisingly roomy cabin.

14. Dassault Falcon 7X (2007 to present)
With its heritage of designing and building sophisticated military fighters, Dassault applied its engineering smarts to the fly-by-wire 7X, the world’s first non-airliner-derived dedicated business jet to feature such envelope-pushing technology. Now other manufacturers are following the lead of Dassault, which was first to demonstrate that a business aviation market exists for the benefits offered by fly-by-wire flight controls.

15. Embraer Phenom 300 (2009 to present)
The significance of Embraer’s rise into the business jet market, first with the airliner-derived Legacy 600, then with the clean-sheet Phenom 100 and 300, is not just that Embraer found niches unfilled by other manufacturers. What Embraer did was force other jet-makers into realizing that it was attacking their markets, and now they are fighting back with interesting new models. Meanwhile, Embraer is moving into the super-midsize category with the in-development Legacy 450 and 500, both featuring fly-by-wire flight controls and the latest cockpit and cabin amenities.

Show comments (11)

I think the Canadair Challenger 60X should be one of the first jet of your list. Almost 1000 aircrafts delivered since 1980 (and counting) and it's the predecessor of the CRJ family, the most popular regional jet family of aviation history.

Very pleased to see the Jetstar on your list. Yep---it could be viewed as a "royal barge" in it's day and it was a gas guzzler before we converted the Pratt JT12's with Garrett engines, however what a great business tool!! I started flying the Jetstar in 1968 and have 4000 thousand plus hours in this great "bird". Eventually we replaced our Jetstars with Gulfstreams II, III, & IV's, however the Jetstar ranks as one of my favorites.

Thanks for keeping me on the subscription list.

Al Lane
Amoco/BP Retired

I was glad to see the 65 model mentioned in the article. My friends Rick and Bob and I crewed and flew a 65 model which was a great stable platform. One of the smoothest rides with great performance.

Glad to see the mention of the Sabreliner in the article especially the 65 model. I got to fly it with a crew of my friends Rick and Bob. It is a great and stable platform.

While many of the pure business jets look great I truly think that the Jetstar has to be top of the style listings. From a photographers point of view it is everything a class jet needs to be-it simply oozes style from top to bottom, a wonderful looking machine if ever there was one!


Barry Ambrose

Actually the Gulfstream GV is still being produced, the GV-SP, G500 and G550 are FAA certified as 'GV' (derivatives). Also it was the first Ultra Long Range Business Jet. With their new G650 Gulfstream is keeping up their reputation bulding the longest range BJ. Hence, you may as well add Speed to that

Come on the Challenger was the first in the wide body A/C , and it is not mentioned . Good , cheap and still going .

I am one of three Lockheeed JetStar Instructors at FlightSafety Atlanta and the one who does the final training and part of the type check in the airplane following the simulator. We still have many loyal operators and other proscpective operators for the approximately 40 airplanes still flying. It has become a very good deal. What other large cabin Mach.82 coast to coast stage III noise 10 passenger jet of this reliablilty and comfort can be had for around one million dollars? Compared with a Falcon 900 or a Gulfstream IV, you can operate the JetStar on just the interest after investing the difference in purchase prices! And anyone who has flown it says that it flies better than any other military/business jet in the history of corporate aviation. One correction, the production ended in May of 1980.

I was disappointed that the Diamond/Beechjet wasn’t included in “15 Business Jets That Shaped the Industry” [August/September 2012 ]. The Diamond–and the follow-on models–had a number of distinctions.

This is the first business jet that used a full-span fowler flap, with spoiler used as primary roll control. This was an important safety advancement to light jet aircraft. Since 1981, there have been only two fatal accidents in this airframe, one early Diamond and one Beechjet 400. There have been no fatals in later models. This makes it the safest jet ever produced. The design was so sound that Raytheon never changed it or any of its major components. Now, with the adaptation of the Williams engine and upgraded avionics, it can compete with any other jet in its class at a fraction of the cost.

Patrick E. Cannon
Turbine Aircraft Services
Addison, Texas

The Elvis JetStar is not a JetStar II, rather a JetStar 731 which is a conversion from the two engine JetStar to the four 731 engines via STC. The JetStar II was made at the factory by Lockheed, not converted, and first appeared much later around 1976.

Does a jetstar ii have spoilers? i have a jetstar on flightsim program and i noticed there was not any spoilers...

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