In the early days of business aviation, the manufacturer’s names were synonymous with the aircraft itself. People would (and sometimes still do) talk about ‘a Learjet’ or ‘a Cessna’ and this would conjure up a picture of a specific type of aircraft.
See our infographic: History of the private jet
Over 50 years later, the business aviation landscape has changed hugely. There is a much wider variety of choice for the private jet customer – and what can feel like a baffling array of different aircraft types and names.
So here’s a summary of the big private aircraft manufacturers and the key aircraft in their range – our Who’s Who of private jet makers.
For expert advice or to compare prices on the best business jet aircraft for your flight, contact our Flight Team (24 hours) or call +44 1747 642 777.
The Cessna Aircraft Company is based in Wichita, Kansas, USA – the aviation capital of the US and home to several major aircraft corporations. Formed in 1927 by farmer Clyde Cessna and originally known for making small piston and turboprop aircraft, Cessna later began to produce a range of business jets.
The company became part of Textron Aviation in 2014, which also owns Beechcraft (see below).
Cessna’s business jets are produced under their ‘Citation’ brand name. Their current range includes the Citation Mustang (seats 4, range 1207 nm) – small and perfectly formed, it’s our most popular small jet for charter and has shown strong growth in the European charter market as a cost-effective ‘air taxi’.
Cessna also has the badge of honour for the world’s best-selling private jet, the highly successful Citation XL/XLS/XLS+ (seats 8, range 2111 nm). Mid-range and versatile it is popular both in the US and Europe and is well-established in the charter market, offering the world’s most cost-effective midsize cabin.
At the top of the current size range, Cessna’s largest and fastest jet currently in production is the Citation X+ (seats 8, range 3430 nm with a maximum speed of Mach 0.935). This is currently the official fastest civilian aircraft in the sky, just pipping rival Gulfstream’s G650 to the post.
Behind this sits both the Citation Sovereign (seats 8, range 2643 nm) and Cessna’s latest release, the Citation Latitude. The Latitude (seats 8, range 2,850 nm) became available for charter in late 2015 and has the tallest and widest Citation cabin to date.
And Cessna will be pushing up the size and range barrier further still in the next few years with the release of the Citation Longitude (seats 8, range 3,400 nm) and the Citation Hemisphere (seats 12, range 4,500 nm) – when they come into the market in 2017 and 2019 respectively.
Bombardier Aerospace is the third-largest aircraft manufacturer (after Airbus and Boeing). The company was founded in 1937 by French Canadian Joseph-Armand Bombardier, and its headquarters remain in Quebec. Bombardier entered the business jet market following its acquisition of the Learjet Company in 1990.
Bombardier produce a wide range of business jet aircraft including their Global Express family. The pioneer of ultra long range jets, this was the first purpose-built business jet to be able to fly between any two points on the globe with just one fuel stop – such as New York to Tokyo or Paris to Singapore. The luxurious and spacious cabin provides exceptional comfort and privacy for long transoceanic flights, including fully-flat bed seating, an aft lounge/bedroom and two bathrooms, including a shower option. The well-equipped galley to allow the cabin crew to provide hot and cold catering.
The current flagship is their upgraded Global 6000 (seats up to 19, range 6000 nm) and its slightly smaller sister the Global 5000. And due for release in 2018 (two years later than originally planned) is the larger Global 7000, followed by the Global 8000.
Further down the sizer spectrum, they also produce a range of super-mid sized jets – the Challenger 300 family.
The Learjet aircraft are Bombardier’s smallest aircraft range of light and mid-sized jets, seating up to 8 passengers. Cessna have dominated this category of the market since the 1990s, but Bombardier responded by introducing the re-engined and updated Learjet 70 and 75 models in 2014. These are the only Learjets currently in active production.
Brazilian manufacturer Embraer Executive Jets is the new kid on the business jet block. The Sao Paulo-based company was formed in 1969 by the Brazilian government to build military aircraft and commercial airliners, but only moved into the private aviation market in 2002, with the launch of the Legacy. It now rivals Bombardier for the third largest share of the global manufacturing market.
The original Legacy 600 (seats 13, range 3250 nm) was a great success for Embraer in the long range category – proving very cost-effective for buyers, being based on an existing Embraer airliner frame. It then extended the size and range upwards with the Legacy 650 (seats 14, range 3900 nm), and slightly downwards into the mid-size category with the Legacy 450 (seats 7, range 2500 nm) and Legacy 500 (seats 8, range 3000 nm), which became available for charter last summer.
Embraer are also seeing growth in the VLJ (Very Light Jet) market, with the Phenom 100 (seats 4, range 1078 nm) offering a little extra space and style than its rival, Cessna’s Mustang. The equally stylish, bigger Phenom 300 bridges the gap between small and medium jet, seating 7 and with a range of 1800 nm.
The Lineage 1000 (seats 19, range 4600 nm) is Embraer’s biggest business jet, and offers one of the most large and luxurious VIP cabins available. The company is reportedly considering expanding its offering in the ultra long range jet category, taking on the market share of big jet rivals Gulfstream and Bombardier.
Gulfstream Aerospace is based in Savannah, Georgia, and a subsidiary of US defense and aerospace giant General Dynamics. The company evolved from military aircraft producers Grumman and became known as Gulfstream in 1968 when it focussed on business jets.
It has produced some mid-sized jets, such as the G200 and G450. But its name is now synonymous with its larger, long range jets – with their trademark wide, oval windows.
The GV (G5) was the world’s first ultra long range jet when it launched in the 1990s and offers a range of 6,500 nm, seating 14. Gulfstream has since gone on to produce the similar sized G500, G550 and more recently the G650 and its extended range variant, the G650ER.
The G650ER is billed as the world’s ‘fastest and furthest’ business jet, neck-and-neck in speed with Cessna’s Citation X+ with a cruise speed of 0.9 Mach, but offering the longest maximum range of any business jet, at 7,500 nm. See The G650ER flies faster and further.
In 2014, Gulfstream announced plans for its new G500 and G600 twinjet aircraft, which it says will take the long range jet category to even greater levels of efficiency and comfort. The G500 is on schedule for its 2018 planned entry into service.
The Beechcraft Corporation (formerly Hawker Beechcraft), has had a turbulent time financially in recent years. The company started out as the Beech Aircraft Corporation in 1932, with Wichita-based founders Walter H. and Olive Ann Beech making much-loved turboprop and piston aircraft.
Over recent decades it has been through several mergers and changes of ownership, including joining forces with Hawker jet owners Raytheon Aircraft. In 2014 it was acquired by US giant Textron, who went on to buy Cessna.
The King Air has been highly successful, particularly in the USA as an executive aircraft, air ambulance and regional airliner. It seats between 5 and 9 passengers and offers a flight range of 1500 nm for a much smaller price tag than a jet aircraft.
The Hawker jets are a series of mid-sized business jets and popular variants include the mid-sized Hawker 900/900XP (seats 9, range 2500 nm), Hawker 800/800XP, (seats 8, range 2300 nm) and the lighter Hawker 700 XP (seats 8, range 1960 nm).
French manufacturer Dassault was founded in 1929 by Marcel Dassault. Headquartered in Paris, the company was a producer of military fighter jets before moving into business aviation in 1963. Its first business jet was called the Mystère 20, was eventually changed to the Falcon 20, to give the name more appeal outside of France. More Falcons followed throughout the next decade.
The 10-seater Falcon 2000 is currently the most popular Falcon in the charter market, with a transcontinental range of over 3,000 nm.
The Falcon 900 is an impressive and stylish long range jet with an innovative three-engine configuration, offering a range of 5,000 nm and seating up to 12. But the Falcon 7X (seats 13, range 5,950 nm) is Dassault’s current flagship in the ultra long range segment – coming close to the range of rivals Gulfstream and Bombardier’s big jets, and linking most of the world’s top city pairs. The longer Falcon 8X will fly 500 nm further and be one of the most fuel-efficient big jets available, when it comes into the market later this year.
The Falcon 5X (seats 14, range 5,200 nm) is also in development, is now expected to enter service in 2020 after Dassault announced delays to its innovative Silvercrest engines.
Best known for being an airline manufacturer, US aviation and defense giant Boeing entered the business jet market in the late 1990s. The Boeing Company was founded in Seattle in 1916 by William Boeing.
Boeing used its existing airliner airframes to create the Boeing Business Jet (known as the BBJ) series. The initial launch was based on the 737, with modifications and luxury interior design to provide what is regarded as the world’s largest and most desirable private jet, used by governments and VVIPs.
Interior options include master bedroom, two bathrooms with showers, boardroom, full kitchen and living area. It can seat up to 30 people, depending on the configuration, and with a flight range of over 6,000 nm, rival the range of most other ultra long range business jets.
Further versions of the BBJ have since been developed, based on the Boeing 777, Boeing 787 and the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental.
Like Boeing, European Aerospace giant Airbus SAS is obviously best known as a manufacturer of commercial airliners, including the world’s biggest, the A380. The company’s headquarters are in Toulouse, France, with a second major manufacturing plant in Hamburg. Airbus began in 1969 as a consortium of European firms to compete with the big American aviation companies.
Mirroring developments at rival Boeing, Airbus started producing corporate jet versions of its airliners in 1997, converting them to very large and luxurious VIP business jets. The target market is similar to Boeing’s – heads of state and large corporates. The most popular business jets built by Airbus are the corporate ACJ318, ACJ319, ACJ320 and ACJ321. They typically seat between 15 and 50 passengers and offer close to a 6,000 nm range.
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