For people looking to arrive in style throughout the world and save their precious time, private jets are the way to go. These aircrafts have undoubtedly become a symbol of extreme wealth. The manufacturers of these private jets have a hard job to do. They need to keep their customers happy who are not only extremely demanding but also keep up with competitors that also swear by the axioms of uncompromising quality. This means that business jet manufacturers are always on the cutting edge of technology, using even the slightest advantages to get ahead of the competition.
So much competition is a great thing for the customer, who gets to enjoy all the gains that these private jet manufacturers make in order to thwart each other. So, without further ado, here is a list of the visionary companies that have been pushing the envelope and producing great examples of jet aircraft for enthusiasts to enjoy.
Formed in 1962, Learjet was a pioneer of private jet technology in the world. Hailing from Wichita, Kansas, Bill Lear has managed to instill a legacy that has meant over 3000 jets being sold to the public since the company’s inception. Their offerings started with the Learjet 23, an early 8-seater aircraft with rather powerful specifications for the time. The brand has gone through several changes as well. It started out as Lear Jet but had its name changed to Gates Learjet after 60% of its shares were acquired by Gates Aviation for $27 million, a massive sum at that time. By 1974, the popularity of the Learjet fleet was such that it had crossed the one-million flight hours mark. In 1990, the Canadian company Bombardier acquired it and renamed the brand to Bombardier Learjet, a name that it still holds to this day. Some other popular offerings include the Learjet 35/36 and the Learjet 60 with both jets being some of the most popular private jets of all time. Unfortunately, however, in 2021, Bombardier announced that it was stopping production of all new Learjet models with the Learjet 85 being canceled in 2015.
Gulfstream perhaps best embodies the culture of quality that comes naturally with producing business jets. The oval shape of the windows of its jets is a detail that has always distinguished it from other jets in its class and has made sure that people are always able to spot a Gulfstream from afar. Having produced more than 2000 aircraft since 1958, Gulfstream’s current range has the aircraft G280, G550, G500/600, and the G650. What is interesting is that Gulfstream was also born in the hands of a military aircraft production company, Grumman Aircraft Engineering Co. They developed a turboprop business jet in New York called the Gulfstream 1 and that is where the Gulfstream legend was born. The G1 was a rousing success, followed by the Gulfstream GII prompted the start of the Gulfstream bloodline that still persists to this day. In the late 1990s, General Dynamics acquired the company and opened an aircraft refurbishment facility in Savannah. Galaxy Aerospace was also acquired in the process and its aircraft were rebranded as the G100 and G200 under the Gulfstream umbrella.
Embraer has a wide portfolio of aircraft that range from agricultural aircraft to private business jets. They are also one of the largest producers of civil aircraft in the entire world with only Boeing and Airbus being able to produce more than they do. Founded in Sau Paulo Brazil in 1969, Embraer has its roots tied with the Brazilian government which provided it with government contracts to fulfill. Once a state-owned organization, Embraer was privatized in 1992 and sold to private investors. In 2000, Embraer went public and made IPOs simultaneously on the NYSE and BM&F Bovespa stock exchanges. The real turn came when Embraer launched the Legacy 600, a jet that started Embraer’s successful foray into executive jets. Later on, the Phenom 100 and the Phenom 300 would be released. By 2016, Embraer had delivered 1000 executive jets although it did seem to not have much of a presence in the ultra-long-range heavy jets sector. Although its total market share was still 17%.
One of the more famous names on this list, Cessna was once the biggest manufacturer of private jets in the entire world. Founded in 1927, Cessna was acquired by General Dynamics in 1985 who later sold the company to Textron in 1992. The history of Cessna is actually quite interesting. Clyde Cessna was a farmer from Kansas who built his own aircraft and flew it in 1911. Cessna was formed when Clyde joined forces with Victor Roos and created the Cessna-Ross Aircraft Company in 1927. Roos would end up selling his shares to Cessna and his name would be removed from the company name. The Cessna DC-6 was their first aircraft and would earn its certification that was required to be able to fly the same day as the stock market collapse and the great depression. They closed soon after. However, after the second world war, they resumed production and Cessna grew into one of the most successful aviation companies on the face of the planet. The latest in their line of production aircraft is the Cessna Citation 700 longitude, a super-midsize jet that has been in production since 2019.
You would perhaps know Dassault better for their military aircraft output than their business jet output. The truth is that they are really good at both things. Founded in 1929 by Marcel Bloc, Dassault is a French company with a long history of technologically sound aircraft. The civilian products that Dassault has offered through the years have had their DNA be infused with the military background of Dassault, resulting in aircraft that are technologically ahead of the curve. These include the Falcon 2000, Falcon 900, 7x, 6x, and the Mercure. In 2021, they have over 12000 employees and a culture that is dedicated to innovation. The company Airbus has had shares in Dassault as well which sold a decent chunk of them and reduced them to 27% in 2015. In fact, they sold 17% more as well, leaving 10% for them to own in 2016.
One of the biggest players in this market, Bombardier owns Canadair and Learjet. This means that they have 3 brands inside the company, Learjet, Challenger, and Global. They target different sectors of the market and give the customer a wide variety of options to choose from. In 1986, Canadair was acquired for 120 million Canadian dollars, followed by the acquisition of Short Brothers and then Learjet in 1990. In fact, Flexjet a provider of fractional ownership jets was founded by Bombardier and sold in 2013 for nearly $200 million. In 2017, Airbus and Bombardier announced a partnership on the CSeries program. As of July 2018, Airbus owned a 50.01% stake in the partnership with Bombardier having 31% and Investissement Quebec owning the rest. The CSeries became the Airbus A220.
Airbus is perhaps the biggest company in terms of size in the aviation business. If you have flown in your life, chances are that you flew in an Airbus one way or another. With over 120,000 employees, Airbus is divided into 3 divisions, Commercial Aircrafts, Defense and Space, and Helicopters. In fact, Airbus has a whole corporate division that is simply dedicated to building private business jets. A variant of the A380 was ordered in 2012 by the Saudi Prince Al-Waleed. It had a simply astounding range of 8900 nautical miles. However, the plane never made it into the hands of the Saudi prince with its fate being shrouded in mystery to this day. Their main competitor is Boeing, perhaps the only company that operates on the same level that they do and that is able to compete with them in terms of scale and manpower. Their offerings start with the A220 (previously the Bombardier CSeries) and the absolutely massive A380. The juggernaut that is the A380 can transport 555 people in a commercial setting.
Boeing is a name that is all too familiar for anyone who has not spent their life living under a rock. Boeing occupies a very certain part of the private aviation market. They are the leader in converting commercial-sized aircraft into private ones for individuals or companies that have entourages that can’t be filled even in a heavy jet. In fact, the whole philosophy that they swear by is the fact that they want to recreate the entire office in the sky. Even when business leaders of the world are flying, there should never be a moment where they are not connected with the rest of the world. In fact, they can just take the entire office along with them.
The Boeing Business Jet is perhaps the most famous product of this division, an example is a 737-based behemoth of a private aircraft that is chartered by only the most powerful corporations in the world and billionaires around the world. Even buying one would cost you hundreds of millions of dollars. All in all, they have 237 orders, of which 210 have been delivered and right now 236 are in operation.
A Swiss company formed in 1939, Pilatus has the pedigree to give any of the other manufacturers on its list a real run for their money. The company specializes in STOL aircraft. These are essentially aircraft that have the ability to land and takeoff in smaller runway strips. The abbreviation itself comes from ‘short takeoff and landing’. In the 1990s, the company expanded its portfolio and introduced the PC-12, a turboprop aircraft. The PC-12 ranks as one of the best-selling aircraft of all time, with over 1000 units sold. The successor to the PC-12 was the PC-24, a STOL aircraft that was even able to land in runways that weren’t even paved. While they are certainly a much smaller manufacturer compared to other names on this list with only about 2000 people being employed, it still has a powerful production output, with 134 aircraft delivered in 2019.
Probably the oldest manufacturer on this list, Piaggio was formed in 1884 by Rinaldo Piaggio. In the start, the company used to outfit ocean liners. In 1915, Piaggio produced its first aircraft. The Avanti Evo is one of their latest offerings, a 7-seater aircraft with a very impressive range of 3000 miles. Piaggio has done a lot of work in producing engines in the Aero sector. It has been involved in Rolls-Royce and Honeywell engines as well. In fact, the company jointly produced the RTM322 turboshaft with Rolls-Royce. Their wide-ranging expertise can be understood by the fact that Piaggio has even produced infrared suppression systems for helicopters such as the Augusta A129. The design came from Piaggio, and so did the manufacturing and the testing.
These are the big names in the business jet manufacturing industry. It’s a world that is underscored by vast sums of money. A few million dollars barely gets you a light jet and a few hundred million dollars are required before you are allowed to play at the big boys’ table. In the past century, the technological gains made out of the misery of two world wars put the world on the fast track of innovation and introduced a world order that simply said: You get to survive if you provide value. All of these companies have decades-old history and have survived everything from recessions to pandemics and continue to thrive to this day. As long as there will be connoisseurs of the art that is aircraft building, these companies will continue to survive and thrive.