Since the Learjet 23 took to the skies in the early 1960s, innovations in business air travel have aimed ever higher. Aviation writer and historian Dan Pimentel looks at 10 jets that revolutionised the form, both technically and aesthetically, over the last six decades.
FIRST FLIGHT: October 7, 1963
IMPACT: Invented the light-jet segment for corporate travel.
VERDICT: “With a 902km/h speed, six-passenger cabin and modern styling, the 23 reimagined regional travel while delivering a sexy, James Bond ramp appeal.”
FIRST FLIGHT: October 2, 1966
IMPACT: First large business jet with an exquisite cabin and extended range.
VERDICT: “With a stout airframe to withstand heavy transport demands, the GII became the executive transcontinental jet of choice.”
Photo: Adobe Stock Image
Dassault Falcon 50
FIRST FLIGHT: November 7, 1976
IMPACT: Dramatically extended range in the super-midsize category.
VERDICT: “The three-engine design—the first of its kind—made nonstop travel across the North Atlantic or continental US possible, setting the stage for decades of successful tri-jet Falcons.”
Cessna Citation X
FIRST FLIGHT: December 21, 1993
IMPACT: Clean-sheet design that shattered Cessna’s image as a maker of slow jets.
VERDICT: “The X was Cessna’s counterpunch to Learjet, making it an instant super-midsize category leader with its 976km/h top speed.”
Bombardier Global Express
FIRST FLIGHT: October 13, 1996
IMPACT: A revolution in ultra-long-range, large-cabin private jets.
VERDICT: “With its 6,000-nautical-mile range, for the first time 16 passengers could travel, with at most one fuel stop, between any two points on Earth.”
Embraer Phenom 300
FIRST FLIGHT: April 29, 2008
IMPACT: Breakthrough design in a light-jet airframe.
VERDICT: “The best of what a small executive jet can be, with a single-pilot flight deck, 2,000-nautical-mile range, advanced cabin entertainment and room for nine passengers.”
FIRST FLIGHT: February 18, 2014
IMPACT: Reinvigorated the midsize-jet category with a clean-sheet fuselage.
VERDICT: “The enhancements included a lower cabin air pressure, flat floor and Garmin’s G5000 avionics that made the Latitude a favourite among pilots.”
FIRST FLIGHT: November 19, 2018
IMPACT: Bespoke interiors and a 6,000-nautical-mile range make it the pinnacle of air travel for up to 25.
VERDICT: “The cabin on this massive wide-body, 15 per cent larger than its closest competitor, can be laid out in highly creative configurations.”
Photo: Boeing Business Jets
BBJ MAX 7
FIRST FLIGHT: March 16, 2018
IMPACT: With the lowest operating costs of any BBJ model, the Max 7 is the evolution of the BBJ Max 8 and Max 9, delivering 7,000 miles of range with its more fuel-efficient LEAP-1B engines. Its enormous cabin is 26-metres long and 3.3-metre wide, for about 82sqm.
VERDICT: “When the 737 Max comes back online, passengers will love the space and solitude of the Max 7’s luxurious cabin and owners will surely notice the increased ROI.”
FIRST FLIGHT: February 14, 2020
IMPACT: Longest, widest and tallest cabin of any business jet, featuring five living zones.
VERDICT: “Travel up to 7,500 miles in a cabin that minimises jet lag with true circadian lighting while being bathed in sunlight from 20 panoramic oval windows.”