Bizjet Pilots Pick Their Favorite Airplanes
When you’re choosing a business jet to charter or buy, there’s a lot to consider, including cabin-comfort and size, in-flight entertainment, speed, range, safety features, baggage space and more. You can solicit help from a wide range of experts—everyone from manufacturers’ reps to charter brokers to consultants—but we can’t think of a better source than the pilots who operate these aircraft every day. We asked seven of them to tell us about the business jets they most love to fly.
Bombardier Global 6000—Brian Wilson, chief pilot, VistaJet
“The Global 6000 does more than 6,000 nautical miles—I’ve flown nonstop from Hong Kong to Copenhagen—and it does well in extreme temperatures. I’ve flown in one day from Vladivostok in Russia, where it was –40° F, to Africa, where it was 105° F.
“It has the widest, tallest cabin in this class of aircraft. People who are six-feet-plus can stand comfortably. And it can carry 14 or 15 people, depending on the configuration, but our normal passenger load averages four to 10.
“The Global has lots of super comfortable seats and you can eat at a beautiful dining table, get changed and go straight to a double bed and lie down. There’s a full galley at the front that can cater as many courses as you like. The space also gives you flexibility in terms of entertainment; if you want a 42-inch TV, you can have it.
“The Global is built with both composite material and aluminum. It can withstand higher pressures and the cabin altitude can be kept low. At 40,000 feet, the cabin altitude is 4,000 feet, considerably lower than on other aircraft in this class. This means everybody arrives less fatigued. On the 10-hour runs, it makes a big difference.
“It’ll land and take off on a small strip, so it can operate in lots of airfields that other aircraft in this class aren’t able to use, such as London City in England and Aspen in Colorado. I’ve flown into some fairly small airfields and turned heads because people there aren’t used to seeing an aircraft of this size.
“The Gulfstream G650 and Falcon 7X are the Global’s competitors in terms of range, but I think the Global 6000’s cabin would decide it for most people. There’s nothing comparable in this field.”
Embraer Phenom 100—Alaina Maggio, captain, JetSuite
“The Phenom is best suited to shorter flights—it can go more than 1,200 nautical miles, so from L.A. to Dallas/Fort Worth, nonstop. And because we have smaller engines, we don’t have that bad of a fuel burn; it’s a little greener than other aircraft.
“The avionics in this airplane are amazing—the Garmin G1000 Prodigy system provides full views of the terrain, almost like a video game, which is great for situational awareness in trickier airports like Aspen and Truckee [in California].
“Wi-Fi is available to us as well as to passengers above 10,000 feet, and we can use it for flight planning while in the air. Three screens display weather reports, schematics and up-to-date airport information. All this technology makes the airplane safer—there’s even a safe-taxi display, which really helps out in unfamiliar airports.
“Although the Phenom holds fewer passengers than the Citation CJ3, it’s wider so it feels much roomier. People always get on board and say, ‘Wow, it’s bigger than I thought it would be.’
“Our cabin was designed by BMW, so it looks a little sleeker than other cabins; it’s also really comfortable—people just fall asleep in the back.
“It has lots of baggage space—about 70 cubic feet—so if you want to bring golf clubs and four bags, or skis or snowboards, it’s never a problem.”
Falcon 2000EX EASy—Norbert Ptaszek, lead captain, Priester Aviation
“The performance and comfort on the Falcon are unbeatable. Wing leading-edge lift devices enable it to land in short airfields and provide lift at lower speeds. We can operate on a 5,000-foot runway, both takeoff and landing; we could even operate on a 4,000-foot or shorter runway if conditions permit.
“The Falcon climbs to a cruising altitude of 41,000 feet in about 20 minutes, depending on air-traffic control; other airplanes take a half-hour to reach cruising altitude and have to stay in the mid 30s. As it can fly at up to 47,000 feet, it gets above most of the weather, making for a more comfortable ride.
“The Falcon has incredible fuel economy. It cruises at Mach 0.81 and has a long range—we can fly Chicago to Paris, about an eight-hour flight, without a stop.
“The interface with the EASy II avionics is extremely intuitive and promotes safety by enhancing our ability to perform our functions, program the airplane and double check that everything is being done correctly. The airplane is designed for difficult approaches, so it opens up more destinations for passengers. London City, for example, is right up against London and has both a steep approach and short runway.
“Inside, the Falcon is spacious with a flat floor so people can walk around; we have seating for 10 passengers with space for three single beds and one double, all completely flat. The Falcon is also extremely quiet—people always comment on how quiet it is in cruise.
“We fly with an attendant and have an oven and microwave so that we can prepare meals on board. The cabin has two large TV screens as well as individual seven-inch screens, with satellite radio and CD and DVD players.”
Hawker 4000—Phil Dacy, chief pilot, Priester Aviation
“I have flown numerous corporate aircraft, and my favorite is my current one, the Hawker 4000. It has incredible capabilities and the avionics suite is outstanding. We can operate on relatively short runways: our home base has 5,000 feet of runway but 4,500 feet and less is often doable, making destinations like Key West [Florida] and Bridgeport [in the Bahamas] available.
“The 4000’s wing loading and design provide for a smooth ride and the aircraft offers great fuel efficiency: we can operate nonstop from Chicago to the West Coast, even on warm summer days when many aircraft would need fuel stops. Our crew has flown Bangor, Maine, to Paris and Iceland to Chicago nonstop.
“The Hawker’s autothrottles are a great asset, helping to manage pilot workload and improve safety. The combination of low landing ref speed [the airspeed that must be maintained during final approach] and autothrottles make the common occurrence of a circling approach at our home base much more routine.
“The view is spectacular. The windshields are the largest single panels in any aircraft of this type I am aware of, providing excellent visibility when we’re looking for traffic or on circling approaches. And we constantly receive comments on the windows in the passenger cabin—they’re perfectly placed for enjoying the view.
“The 4000’s flat floor means that passengers can stand and move around comfortably. And the baggage compartment, accessible through the cabin, offers external loading, unlike other Hawkers.
“And even if you have an incredible flight, it is that final arrival that people remember: the Hawker 4000’s scissor-action, trailing-link landing gear—not unique to Hawker, but the 4000 is the only Hawker to feature it—results in a smoother landing.”
Cessna Citation CJ3—Courtney Crain, captain, JetSuite
“I’m also typed on the Phenom 100 but the CJ3 has better performance. The Williams engine is incredibly powerful and we take off like a rocket, which means the CJ3 does very well at places like JFK, La Guardia, Newark [in the New York area] and Boston, as we can go high and fast immediately and keep up with the big boys. It also takes much less time flying nonstop to the Caribbean from the Northeast.
“When storms force delays on airliners, which usually cruise at around 36,000 feet, we can take off; passengers don’t feel a thing because we’re going over the weather.
“At JetSuite, I’ve had extensive training for the CJ3’s extended overwater capabilities, which mean that we can go more than 50 nautical miles offshore, saving the passengers time and money. Our special eligible-on-demand certification allows us to operate within the CJ3’s performance parameters, which account for shorter runways: instead of stopping within 60 percent of the runway’s length, we can stop at 80 percent.
“This means that tricky airports like Aspen and Vail in Colorado are more accessible, even in winter when it’s snowing and most airplanes can’t go in. The CJ3 can still take off with the anti-icing on (most aircraft lose performance when you turn it on) and it does a phenomenal job shedding ice, even when we’re held low where the snow clouds gather.
“The CJ3 is the safest aircraft I’ve ever flown.”
Cessna Citation X—Michael Thompson, chief pilot, XOJet
“The Citation X has an extremely good safety record. It’s the world’s fastest corporate jet and can fly at up to 51,000 feet, which gives you the ability to get above weather and turbulence.
“One thing people really like about the Citation X is that it flies at Mach 0.92, giving it an excellent balance of range and speed. Our customers fly transcontinental a lot, between San Francisco or L.A. and New York. Depending on weather conditions, we can do it in four hours and 45 minutes when an airliner takes six hours.
“In one duty day, also, we can fly from San Francisco to Hawaii—around 2,200 nautical miles, and back to San Francisco. And in the proper conditions, we can use mountain airports such as Aspen and Telluride [in Colorado] with plenty of performance margin remaining.
“Another notable performance characteristic of the Citation X is that it can operate comfortably into runways that are 5,000 feet long—even shorter if the conditions are favorable. This is remarkable given its range capability and high cruise speed.”
Bombardier Challenger 300—Chris DiCara, director of operations, XOJet
“The Challenger has a flight time of five to six hours so it’s built to fly intercontinental and coast to coast in the U.S. I’ve flown nonstop from L.A. to Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, which is about 2,900 nautical miles; and Vegas to Hawaii, which is around 2,400 nautical miles. Because of the Challenger’s design capability we can take off and land on a 4,200-foot runway, making it easy to get into airports like East Hampton on Long Island and Beef Island in the British Virgin Islands.
“The nice thing about the Challenger 300 is that it can operate on wet runways out of some of the more common airports in the U.S.—such as Jackson Hole in Wyoming—where the Citation X and Hawker need runways to be dry.
“The Citation X is faster, but the Challenger 300 compromises speed for longer range. The curved wing tips give a lot of lift at a relatively low airspeed and, combined with fuel-efficient engines, this means you can fly long distances and still have a relatively large amount of fuel remaining.
“The cabin is taller and wider than the Citation X’s with room for 10 passengers; a person of average height can stand comfortably and the flat floor makes it easier to move around. The luggage compartment is as tall as the passenger compartment, so that’s six feet that pilots can use to organize a wide range of luggage. I’ve flown portable wheelchairs, skis, snowboards and things that are valuable and oddly shaped, like artwork and a specialized piece of gyroscopic equipment for a university.
“The Challengers I fly have a large galley with an espresso machine and storage space for custom catering. They also have a divan bed that you can fold out and lie down on comfortably.
“Like the Citation, the Challenger has Wi-Fi, which gives pilots access to the latest weather conditions at the airport as well as posted air-space delays directly from the FAA. We can make adjustments if a delay is about to occur or if a current delay is about to be removed. We can also get real-time info about en-route turbulence and places to avoid from our operations center and directly from other XOJet pilots in the air.
“This ability to communicate quickly gives passengers more options and can provide a seamless flight in situations where flying with an airline would result in lengthy delays. As an example, McCarran International Airport is immediately next to the heart of Las Vegas while Henderson Airport is just 20 minutes outside the city and is not as heavily used. If we see congestion delays at McCarran we can make a decision to use Henderson.”
Gemma Price is a freelance writer based in San Francisco and Vietnam.