Plane Advantage: New Jet Models Aim to Please CEOs and CFOs

An all-flagship fleet of next-generation business jets coming on the market over the next year or so is setting a course to transform business aviation. New aircraft from Bombardier, Cessna Aircraft, Gulfstream Aerospace and Pilatus Aircraft raise the bar on performance, efficiency, comfort and connectivity for executives on the go, whether flying nonstop to cities halfway around the world or landing on a dirt airstrip astride remote opportunity.

Moreover, after several years of relative stasis, these clean-sheet models mark the first in a wave of in-development aircraft nearing their initial delivery dates. They also illustrate the increasing segmentation of the super-midsize, large-cabin and ultra–long-range categories as OEMs compete fiercely for customers in an arena where annual unit sales are measured in the dozens. “Everyone’s eager to seize the high end,” says Richard Aboulafia, vice president, analysis at the aviation consultancy Teal Group, “and what’s new [in these categories] really does redefine that part of the market.”

The Coming Fleet
When it enters service later this year, the super-midsize Citation Longitude will be the largest and longest-range—a true transcontinental 3,500 nautical miles (nm)—jet that Cessna has produced, and offer the lowest direct operating cost in its category. The combination of performance and economy “allows us to speak to both sides of the C-suite,” says Rob Scholl, senior vice president, sales and marketing at Cessna’s parent company, Textron Aviation. “For the CFO, it’s an efficient use of company resources. For the CEO, it will make people more productive.”

Gulfstream’s 5,000-nm G500, though not the biggest or longest-legged of the company’s fleet (the G650/650ER holds that title), builds impressively on its popular G450 predecessor’s performance, and introduces new cockpit technology and cabin environmental comfort levels to business aviation. It will enter service at the end of 2017, a year ahead of schedule—virtually unheard of in aviation—yet “more mature than any product that Gulfstream has ever developed,” says Dan Nale, senior vice president, programs, engineering and test.

The Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) Pilatus PC-24, occupying a category that Oscar Schwenk, chairman of the privately owned Swiss company, calls the “super versatile jet,” will open the world’s short, unpaved airstrips to business jet operations while ensuring comfort aboard en route. The multitasking turbine amalgamates the ruggedness of a turboprop, the nimble performance of a light jet and the cabin space of a midsize model.

And when Bombardier delivers the first ultra–long-range (7,400 nm) Global 7000 in the second half of 2018, it will be the world’s largest business jet, a “game-changing aircraft that will define a whole new category,” predicts CEO Alain Bellemare. Its four-zone cabin (first in a business jet) offers room to stretch on nonstop flights that can link New York and Shanghai or San Francisco and Sydney.

Industry analysts and business aviation users cheer the new entrants. “It’s exciting to see the OEMs investing in their future and pushing their product line offerings to meet anticipated demand,” says Jeff Agur, CEO of aviation consultancy VanAllen. “Whether it be capability, technology, comfort or reliability, when the bar is raised, the consumer wins.” Adds Rolland Vincent of Rolland Vincent Associates, “We are bullish on the role that these new business jets will play in the industry bounceback.”

Evaluating the New Jets Most customers judge business jets by three primary criteria: cabin, performance and cost of operation. These aircraft bring new dimensions to all those metrics.

Next-gen jet cabins are growing not only bigger and wider, but also more comfortable and capable. The Global 7000 offers a double bed and stand-up shower—both firsts for Bombardier’s Global jet family.

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