The human mind is forever entranced by the concept of ‘bigger’. Our phone sizes have increased from puny 3.5 inches screens to well over 6 inches, even at the cost of their usability. Everyone wants a bigger monitor and an even bigger house. Every year the new S-class is longer than the old one. Theaters seem to be getting bigger and so are stadiums. This is more than enough evidence to see that humans are obsessed with being bigger. You can trace this urge back to the days of the hunter-gatherer humans. To survive in that environment, you had to have the most puffed-out chest and the greatest muscles. It was ‘kill or be killed’. While this urge to be more threatening has certainly settled down a bit, it still finds ways of creeping into our psyche even in 2022. Talking about ‘bigger’, we will be having a look at heavy jets and ultra-long-range jets today.
We are talking about the big boys in the private jet space today. In many ways, there is not much to separate heavy jets from ultra-long-range jets. However, the differences that exist between these two classes however small can still prove to be quite instrumental in the long run. As the name suggests, the biggest difference between these kinds of jets is the range itself. The levels of luxury on board a Gulfstream G450 (a heavy jet) or a Gulfstream G550 are not far apart but the difference where it really counts is in the margins themselves. For a high-flying CEO who has to regularly fly across the globe to participate in high-level meetings, even a heavy jet might end up being insufficient. Even though both of these classes are extremely expensive, ultra-long-range jets cost a little bit extra considering the fact that they have to be equipped with much more powerful technology in order to fulfill their requirement of more than 10,000 miles of non-stop travel. Corporate jet makers like Gulfstream and Bombardier have made sure that this battlefield is well contested and even a hair’s worth of an advantage is fought over by both companies.
This is what makes sure that these very expensive toys are really in the reach of the top 1% of the top 1% of the world. A fine example of a heavy jet, a Gulfstream G450 will cost nearly $40 million new in 2022. In fact, the per hour variable cost of this jet is nearly $4000. This actually might not seem like a lot, but these are only the variable costs themselves. Variable costs are the costs that are required to run an operation, the operation in question being the operation of the jet itself. So, these costs include fuel, any taxes that you might encounter, and even destination hanger fees. The fixed costs are entirely a different matter. These can include hiring a full-time staff who will be on payroll regardless of whether you decide to fly or not. Considering that heavy jets generally have two attendees and 2 pilots, the payroll can jump to quite a bit as well.
A Bombardier Global 8000, a classic example of a long-range jet will cost you more than $70 million while new. This means that a long-range jet is nearly double the price of a heavy jet. You can also expect the hourly variable costs to be more than double the size of the heavy jets as well. This is mainly due to the fact that long-range jets are much more expensive to run due to the higher fuel costs. With a worldwide wave of inflation engulfing every sector, these numbers are sure to only increase in the next few months as well.
With globalization coming to the fore in the past 50 years, the world has become more and more interconnected. Before the internet had become mainstream, the only way high-level executives and CEOs of companies with interests that extended internationally could connect with people abroad was through travel. Now, air travel was the obvious option. The business world moves fast and no wastage at any level can be accepted in terms of time. A lot of these business groups would have large entourages that would have to travel along as well which meant that commercial air travel would not only be slow but also incredibly disruptive for the concentration of these individuals. Ask yourself, would you be able to make sure the numbers were in order for a multi-billion dollar hostile takeover while a baby was wailing in the seat right next to you? The business leaders of the world needed a solution. They wanted a solution that was fast, could afford them privacy and be able to travel the world over without needing a pit stop. This is how the ultra-long range jet was born. For example, the Bombardier Global 6000 has a range of 9000 nautical miles. For perspective, the shortest distance between Australia and the USA (on two opposing sides of the globe) is also close to 9000 miles as well. On the other hand, the G450 pales in comparison with a range of 5000 miles. Although it must be acknowledged that the G450 is no slouch either, 5000 miles is more than enough for transatlantic flights.
Coming back to the fact that many of these business groups needed to be able to transport large entourages efficiently. This is also something that we can observe being fulfilled by ultra-long-range jets. The Bombardier Global 9000, which we have been using as a case study is able to transport about 19 people on board. In this regard, the G450 is not that far behind, being able to seat 14 passengers with configuration settings that can take that number to 18 as well. The cabin of the G450 is 40 feet long with a width of 7.33 feet and a cabin height that is well over 6 feet tall. The internal baggage is also extremely impressive, coming in at about 170 cubic feet. The length of the entire aircraft is about 89 feet which is absolutely massive.
Dwarfing these numbers is the 8000 Global. It has a cabin that is 45 and a half feet long with a 6.25 feet cabin height. It is also about 8 feet and 2 inches wide which gives it a much more roomier feel than the G450 is able to provide. The length of the aircraft itself breaks the magical 100 feet barrier by coming in at a length of 101 feet. The luggage space is also a sizable upgrade, coming in at about 200 cubic feet.
In this battle of which aircraft is able to deliver the greatest utility to its passengers, no one pulls any punches. Gulfstream is perhaps the most respected name in business aviation right now. The prime reason for this perception is their no-compromise approach to luxury, so many Gulfstream aircraft are able to bulldoze the opposition with the sheer width of their technological vision. The PlaneView cockpit is considered to be the industry leader in terms of flight decks in business aviation. On top of that, the Enhanced Vision System is able to provide visual guidance to the pilot of the surrounding landscape, runways, and markings during situations of compromised visual awareness like the night or during bad weather. There are 6 different seating configurations that the operators can choose from. All of this is enhanced by the signature oval windows of the Gulfstream, something that makes these jets instantly recognizable. Extremely high levels of soundproofing have meant that you could be escaping from war and not really know the difference.
The features of the Global 8000 are also extremely impressive as well. The aircraft has three cabin zones inside the cabin with updated windows that are designed to be extremely broad sized as well. The Global Vision flight deck is also a powerful tool as well. It includes four LCD screens, a HUD, an enhanced vision system, and a synthetic vision system as well. If that wasn’t enough, the plane has a radar system that is able to accurately detect wind shears as well as a plethora of disturbances in the wind system of its surroundings. On top of that, the cabin management system of the aircraft is industry-leading, providing the customer with the greatest ‘optionality’ while still firmly seated. The philosophy of the Global 8000 seems to be one of enabling its passengers to be truly productive while still being on the go. In pursuit of this vision, the aircraft is able to provide stable internet to the passengers, making it feel like they never really left the office. This also means that any work breaks can be sufficiently entertained by watching Netflix. After a tiring session where the all-important company CEO has performed a few mergers and hired a few thousand employees for a new factory, they are able to truly relax going into the stand-up shower available onboard the Global 8000. What is perhaps even more impressive is the fact that the crew is also given a dedicated area for their stay during the flight.
The creature comforts don’t really stop there as well. The jet features a large galley with microwave ovens, a sink and faucet, an espresso machine, and chilled storage. If the all-important company CEO has a meeting tomorrow where he/she needs to look sharp, the wardrobe is available to transport their bespoke suits around without the fear of wrinkling them. Lastly, a very underrated feature is the incredibly steep approach of this aircraft, making it one the largest aircraft that are able to land inside London City Airport without a fuss.
Which one do you need?
Both of these aircraft offer features that are not only truly unique but also very specialized to the purpose that they are supposed to fulfill. The question then really becomes of being able to ascertain what your needs are and seeing which aircraft can fulfill them better. The Bombardier Global 8000 is a business aircraft in the most literal sense of the world. It is designed as a flying office space in mind. That can be clearly seen by the fact that the entire narrative of the aircraft seems to be of boosting productivity so that even the hours while flying are not wasted in any way at all. All of these features obviously don’t come for cheap, with a massive $70 million price tag making sure that this behemoth is only really affordable for billionaires and large business groups. On the other hand, the G450, a classic heavy jet, certainly is not able to provide the same breadth of experience as an ultra-long-range aircraft like the Global 8000. However, the price must also be kept in mind, coming in at about half of what the Global 8000 is going to cost. The G450 is also able to go to a top speed that is nearly the speed of sound, coming in at about 0.88 Mach, an extremely impressive number.
The G450 is ideal for smaller assignments that require even better speed to go over. The use of the word ‘smaller’ being relative here as we have to remind ourselves that the G450 itself is a big aircraft and is also extremely well equipped. It only really pales in comparison to an aircraft like the Global 8000.
Using the case study of the G450 as an example of a heavy jet and the Global 8000 as an example of a long-range-jet, the one conclusion that we can come to is that the advantage the Global 8000 has due to its superior feature set is perfectly counterbalanced by the fact that it costs nearly double what the G450 costs. In reality, there is no competition between these 2 types of aircraft as the mission profiles that they offer are so different that the whole comparison is a bit like comparing very high quality apples and oranges.