LEONARDO AW119KX
LEONARDO AW119KX

Best Values in Business Aircraft

The distillation of a bargain aircraft: extra value at a competitive price. The “extra” could relate to speed or range, short-runway performance, or cabin size and amenities. Best-value aircraft deliver one of more of these things better than their peers. They aren’t necessarily the bestsellers in their class, but for the right buyer, they could offer the perfect mix of airframe, engines, avionics, capabilities, and panache. Here are some picks in categories ranging from single-engine helicopter to VIP-configured airliner variants.

Single-Engine Helicopter

LEONARDO AW119KX

Passengers: 4–7 | Range: 515 nm | Price: $3.7 million

The AW110Kx combines single-engine operating economics with the sort of interior you’d expect to see in a light twin-engine model. The helicopter’s cabin is nine inches wider and provides almost one-third more volume than that of its nearest competitor—and the AW110Kx boasts a cruising speed that is more than 10 knots faster. 

You can choose Garmin G1000Nxi VFR avionics or a Genesys instrument panel, which enables flight in instrument conditions. The aircraft, which can be flown with one or two pilots, is derived from Leonardo’s durable AW109 light twin but is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney 1,002-shaft-horsepower engine. It can be configured for a variety of roles, including law enforcement, firefighting, EMS, passenger transport, military, and flight training. 

Light-Twin Helicopter

BELL 429WLG Photo: Mark Wagner
BELL 429WLG Photo: Mark Wagner

BELL 429WLG 

Passengers: 4–7 | Range: 412 nm | Price: $8.4 million

What should a 90-year-old former U.S. president alight from when skydiving? The Bell 429, of course. When the late George H.W. Bush made the jump in 2014, the helicopter was selected partly for its large cabin doors, one of the model’s most distinctive features, which provide easy egress.

Again, this is a case of speed and cabin size driving value. The 204-cubic-foot, five-foot-wide, flat-floor cabin (including a 74-cubic-foot baggage area) can be outfitted with a variety of executive interiors and can accommodate single-seat widths from 15.5 to 21.5 inches. The 429 features faster cruising speeds than other Bells—up to 150 knots.You also get something that’s absent in some other helicopters in its class—a smooth ride—thanks to live-mount vibration dampers on the main gearbox. 

Single-Engine Turboprop

PIPER M600
PIPER M600

PIPER M600

Passengers: 5–6 | Range: 1,658 nm | Price: $2.9 million

The M600 is a longer-range derivative of Piper’s Meridian turboprop single. Its new wing—which is only a few inches longer than that on the M500 (formerly the Meridian)—enables it to hold more fuel, and that accounts for its heftier maximum takeoff weight: 6,000 pounds versus 5,092 for the M500. The new wing is also home to a wider-track main landing gear whose design makes crosswinds of up to 17 knots easier to navigate on the runway. 

Surprisingly, the difference in required takeoff distance between the two airplanes when fully loaded is less than 200 feet, but the M600 needs more than 500 feet of additional runway to stop. This is an aircraft that can easily use runways shorter than 3,500 feet (sea level, standard temperature). The M600 does particularly well under high-altitude/high-temperature conditions like those encountered in places such as Telluride, Colorado. 

Fuel burns are about the same in the M600 and M500 at cruise power—39 and 37 gallons per hour, respectively—and both aircraft have a service ceiling of 30,000 feet. The M600 comes with a solid five-year, 1,500-hour airframe warranty (seven years and 2,500 hours for the engine). It features Garmin G3000 glass panel avionics with advanced safety features, including one that lets the pilot or his front-seat passenger activate a system that automatically lands the aircraft at the nearest airport. 

Priced more than $1 million below comparably equipped albeit somewhat faster single-engine turboprops, the M600 has obvious market appeal, a time-tested fuselage, modern avionics, and pleasant flying qualities.

Twin-Engine Turboprop

BEECHCRAFT KING AIR 90GTX
BEECHCRAFT KING AIR 90GTX

BEECHCRAFT KING AIR 90GTX (TEXTRON AVIATION) 

Passengers: 5–7 | Range: 1,260 nm | Price: $4.2 million

The King Air series 90 twin-turboprop has been produced in one form or another since 1964. Over the years, the aircraft has received numerous cabin makeovers and avionics and engine upgrades. The current model, the $4.2 million C90GTx, has been in production since 2010. It features a swept-blade “turbofan” aluminum propeller, winglets, and dual aft-body strakes that improve performance and stability. The strakes allow for reduced minimum-control speed and increased directional stability in all phases of flight. They also reduce the airplane’s aft-body aerodynamic drag, slightly increasing cruise speeds.

The four-blade propellers have a 30-degree sweep and are six inches longer than the previous ones. They shorten the GTx’s takeoff roll by 600 feet to 1,984 feet and landing roll by 10 percent over a 50-foot obstacle to 2,160 feet, compared with legacy models of the aircraft. The GTx can also fly 200 nautical miles farther and carry 350 pounds more payload with full fuel than its progenitor. In addition, the new propellers allow an rpm reduction for cruise-power settings that reduces cabin noise to a level found in most new luxury automobiles. Flight-deck avionics have been upgraded to the Collins Pro Line Fusion touchscreen glass panel system with features including synthetic vision. 

Compared with a very light jet, the C90GTx delivers a larger cabin and minor speed differences on short hops. The cabin is more than 12 feet long, nearly five feet tall, and five and a half feet wide. These attributes, combined with twin-engine security and modern technology, make the GTx a top performer even 55 years after the first 90 series King Air was delivered. 

Light Jet

BOMBARDIER LEARJET 75 LIBERTY
BOMBARDIER LEARJET 75 LIBERTY

BOMBARDIER LEARJET 75 LIBERTY

Passengers: 6–7 | Range: 2,080 nm | Price: $9.9 million

The current model 75—an updated version of the 45—is the only Learjet left in production. In an effort to keep the product line going, Bombardier is introducing a variant of the 75 called the “Liberty” that eliminates features and some standard equipment and two passenger seats. Concurrently, compared with a stock model 75, the price is being slashed by $3.9 million, down to $9.9 million for the Liberty. 

The eliminated forward seats are replaced by two fold-down ottomans mounted to the forward bulkhead, creating a pair of executive seats with legroom comparable to what you might find in a large-cabin jet. These seats are also serviced by a pair of oversized and more substantial fold-out sidewall tables. The external accent lights, auxiliary power unit, and lav sink, all standard on the 75, are optional on the Liberty. Removing features saves weight and that in turn boosts the Liberty’s range by 40 nautical miles to 2,080. 

You can still order a 75 by buying a Liberty and optioning the removed equipment, including the additional two forward cabin seats. The raison d’etre for the Liberty, according to a Bombardier spokesman, is to offer a product “that’s rightly scoped for the market and competes more directly with light jets.” 

Unlike many other light jets, the Liberty does require two pilots. However, for those who value more personal space and light jet capital costs—as well as the inherent increased level of safety of an airplane built to “transport category” standards—the Liberty could be a good fit. 

Midsize Jet

EMBRAER PRAETOR 500 Photo: Mark Wagner
EMBRAER PRAETOR 500 Photo: Mark Wagner

EMBRAER PRAETOR 500

Passengers: 7–9 | Range: 3,340 nm (4 passengers) | Price: $17 million

Embraer has rebadged and retooled its midsize jet with new interiors, more fuel capacity, new winglets, increased engine thrust, and updated avionics. Derived from the Legacy 450, the Praetor 500 offers a 5,800-foot cabin altitude and a six-foot-high flat-floor cabin. 

The new “Bossa Nova” interior features redesigned seat stitching, carbon-fiber accents, and a minimum of visible switchology. The latter is largely thanks to an upper tech panel, which displays flight information and provides cabin-management-system features for Honeywell’s Ovation Select. Gogo Vision entertainment is optional with the addition of Gogo Avance L5 air-to-ground connectivity equipment. Global airborne connectivity is available with Viasat Ka-band satcom and IPTV. 

The Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics have new capabilities, including MultiScan radar that adds vertical weather and predictive wind shear, cockpit display of ADS-B In traffic, and a synthetic vision guidance system that enables approaches in poor visibility. Embraer’s enhanced vision system, the Collins HGS-3500 compact head-up display, and a Honeywell inertial reference system are options that give the 500 navigation and safety enhancements typically found only in large-cabin jets.

New, larger winglets and additional fuel capacity help to boost the range in the 500 by 350 nautical miles. With the extra fuel’s weight comes the need for more pavement, however: fully loaded, the 500 requires 4,222 feet of runway for takeoff. 

Super-Medium Jet

GULFSTREAM G280
GULFSTREAM G280

GULFSTREAM G280 

Passengers: 8–10 | Range: 3,600 nm | Price: $25 million

A decade ago, Gulfstream reworked the G200 super-midsize jet, an aircraft lauded for its flat- floor, stand-up cabin but often knocked for maintenance problems and long-runway requirements. The improved aircraft, the G280, features more powerful Honeywell high-efficiency turbofans; a new wing; and a restyled, far more functional interior that delivers large-cabin comfort.

The new engines power the G280 up to 41,000 feet in just 20 minutes and reduce cabin noise. The redesigned transonic wing considerably shortens required takeoff distance under full load. The aircraft can now comfortably use 5,000-foot runways. Up front, the G280 is guided by a PlaneView cockpit built around the Collins Pro Line Fusion system. It features three large, high-resolution 15-inch LCD displays and can be outfitted with synthetic and enhanced vision, enabling landings in the worst weather and the most challenging topography.

The G280 features a large, 154-cubic-foot baggage compartment that is accessible in-flight. Three basic cabin layouts are available in eight-, nine-, and 10-passenger configurations, including double-club and club with half-club opposite a three-place, side-facing aft divan. Overall cabin length is 25 feet, 10 inches from the forward edge of the lavatory to the aft edge of the galley. The lavatory is four feet wide and has a wardrobe closet, two large windows, a sink with a raised ledge, and a vacuum toilet system. Cabin altitude at 45,000 feet is a comfortable 7,000 feet, and the G280 has Gulfstream's "100 percent fresh air system."

Large-Cabin Jet

EMBRAER LEGACY 650E
EMBRAER LEGACY 650E

EMBRAER LEGACY 650E 

Passengers: 8–10 | Range: 3,900 nm | Price: $26 million 

Priced like a super-midsize jet but with the roominess of a large-cabin model, the $26 million Embraer 650E builds on its predecessor, the Legacy 650, and adds an upgraded Honeywell Primus Elite Advanced Features avionics suite that has synthetic vision and autothrottles as standard equipment. Also incorporated are a restyled interior and the Honeywell Ovation Select cabin entertainment and management system. Primus Elite Advanced features replace all CRT flight displays with more reliable LCDs. The new aircraft comes with a 10-year or 10,000-flight-hour warranty.

Compared with the super-midsize crowd, the Legacy's cabin is 60 percent larger, measuring 1,410 cubic feet. It is 43 feet long, six feet high on later models (five feet 10 inches on earlier ones), and just under seven feet wide with seating for 14, although 10 is more reasonable. 

The typical executive cabin features a forward galley and closet; four large executive seats arranged in a facing group sharing two foldout tables; four slightly smaller seats with a conference table and an opposite-facing credenza; and an aft stateroom area with two more large single seats, a foldout table, and an opposite-facing divan or couch. The divan is available with a berthing top that slides out to create a comfortable sleeping surface. The six large executive seats recline, track forward, and aft and swivel. 

The Legacy's 240-cubic-foot baggage compartment can hold 1,000 pounds and can be accessed in flight through the roomy 92-cubic-foot lavatory. The lavatory contains a generous wardrobe closet, ideal for in-flight clothes changing.

Large-Cabin, Long-Range Jet

DASSAULT FALCON 8X
DASSAULT FALCON 8X

DASSAULT FALCON 8X 

Passengers: 12 | Range: 6,450 nm | Price: $59.3 million 

The 8X is a stretched, longer-range version of the popular 7X trijet. The aircraft builds on the features, flight characteristics, and superior operating economics that have made the 7X popular, adding more utility and luxury.

The 8X has a range of 6,450 nautical miles (with eight passengers and three crew, at Mach 0.8), 500 more than the 7X. The extra range—courtesy of an additional center-fuselage fuel tank and a lighter, redesigned wing—enables the 8X to fly nonstop from Hong Kong to London, Paris to Singapore, and Beijing to Los Angeles. The reworked wing also keeps the 8X competitive on short runways: it needs 6,000 feet to take off fully loaded but can stop in 2,150 feet. 

The aircraft is designed for long-range comfort with a cabin altitude of just 3,900 feet at a cruising altitude of 41,000 feet. With nearly 1,700 cubic feet of space, you can choose from more than 30 cabin layouts in three zone configurations. Possibilities include turning the aft cabin into a media lounge with oversized divans and a pop-up monitor or making it a separate stateroom with a sliding pocket door. Mid cabin, there’s space to install a six-seat conference grouping. With 33 cabin windows, the 8X delivers more natural cabin light in more places. Other attributes of the 8X include an optional vacuum toilet in the forward cabin and a better cockpit that features super-comfy seats and the new EASy 3 glass-panel digital avionics. 

Bizliner

AIRBUS ACJ319NEO
AIRBUS ACJ319NEO

AIRBUS ACJ319NEO

Passengers: 19 (typical) | Range: 6,750 nm (8 passengers) | Price: $85 million (plus cabin completion)

The Airbus ACJ319neo (new engine option) features fly-by-wire flight controls mated with new-generation, fuel-efficient engines that significantly boost range and cut operating costs. The ACJ319neo’s range is 6,750 nautical miles—more than 600 nautical miles better than that of the legacy ACJ319, with eight passengers, albeit at a relatively pokey Mach 0.82. 

But you’re paying for comfort, not speed. The 950-square-foot cabin measures about 12 feet wide and 78 feet long. All that space means the only limiting factors as to what goes in the cabin are weight, price, and your imagination. The Atelier Pagnani Automobili design house has schemed an ACJ319 cabin with a “sky ceiling,” a generous amount of curves, and partitions that can change from clear to opaque electronically. 

The layout features separate cinema, dining, and lounge areas. An improved environmental-control system lowers the cabin altitude to 6,400 feet at cruise flight. Better efficiency means the airplane can carry less fuel, and that leaves a lot more room for baggage: 222 cubic feet on the ACJ319neo. With this model, you can be assured of lower fuel burns, the latest technology, plenty of room to stretch out, and a level of decadent comfort that only airplanes this big can provide. 

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