Six over-the-top ideas for the well-to-do jetsetter
People either like to fly or they don’t. Many even love it. The six gifts we have gathered here are for those in your life who love that time soaring above the clouds, en route to the next breathtaking adventure. We highlight a jet designed to be flown by its owner, a jet card for those who prefer to be flown, a heli-skiing trip to the Alps, a ’round-the-world adventure, and more. These are the gifts your jet-setter will rush to find under the tree.
And if you’re looking for more luxury gift ideas, check out the complete Robb Report Ultimate Gift Guide for 2017, which includes inspirations in every category from cars and watches to fashion and travel, and more.
A Spike in flight innovation
Price: US$100 ($A131) million
The Spike Aerospace S-512 Supersonic Jet will be more than fast: Its projected cruising speed is Mach 1.6, or 1770 km/h, which, according to the company, is 725 km/h faster than any other civilian aircraft.
The boom it produces when it breaks the sound barrier will be more like a whimper by the time it reaches the ground — quiet enough to allow for travel at supersonic speeds over land masses with sound restrictions. But perhaps more impressive than the aircraft’s speed or sound will be the “view” from inside. High-definition screens will run the entire length of the windowless cabin walls, displaying video feeds from exterior cameras. “You’ll have a panoramic view of whatever is outside, as if you were standing on a beach,” says Vik Kachoria, the president and CEO of Spike Aerospace, which is based outside of Boston. “From left to right, you’ll have a view of the full horizon.” The screens will be able to display movies or other presentations from a laptop. Kachoria notes that the windowless design will also make the cabin quieter.
The cabin will accommodate 18 passengers in a variety of configurations, including a bedroom if desired, although the flight times might be too short to need one. The S-512 will have a range of 11,480 kilometres; when flying at supersonic speeds, it will be capable of traveling from New York to London in 3.3 hours and Los Angeles to Tokyo in 5.17 hours.
Spike has begun test-flying scaled-down, subsonic drone versions of the aircraft. It expects the full-size, full-speed S-512 to enter service in 2023, after the required certifications from the FAA and international aviation authorities. The early adopters, says Kachoria, “will be the first on their block — or in their country — to own the world’s fastest jet.”
Cutting-edge flying car
Price: Starting at US$140,000 ($A184,000)
About a decade ago, aviation enthusiast Sam Bousfield, an architect turned inventor based in Oregon, asked himself, “What does aviation really need?” His answer, ultimately, was the Switchblade — the three-wheeled, carbon-fibre flying car that his company, Samson Motors, is developing.
On the road, the Switchblade will achieve 100kms on 6.7 litres of regular unleaded automobile gasoline and will burn only 34 litres per hour when flying. At 5.15 metres long, it is slightly longer than a Honda Accord. Plus, it’s only about 2 metres wide, so it will fit in your home’s garage. Samson is offering the base-model Switchblade (including the company’s builder-assist program) as an experimental aircraft, along with a bespoke Limited Edition model (starting at $A500,000 ($A657,450)). Each LE will have a custom interior and include unique exterior features.
The Switchblade’s name comes from its wings, which swing out from the belly of the vehicle like the blade of a pocketknife. When the vehicle is in driving mode, they disappear into the body so they are protected from fender benders. The transition from automobile to aircraft is automated and will take about 45 seconds. The vehicle will be classified by the U.S. Department of Transportation as a motorcycle, but Bousfield likes to call it a flying sports car because of its street-mode capabilities: zero to 96 km/h in 6.5 seconds and a top speed of more than 200 mph. In the air, it will cruise at 257 km/h and reach a top speed of 290 km/h.
Give the gift of flight
Price: US$224,275 ($A295,000)
Sentient Jet, the company that invented the jet card nearly two decades ago, has a new offering: the SJ25+. It’s a limited-edition, specially priced 25-hour card that guarantees you access to a Wi-Fi-equipped, super-midsize aircraft built no earlier than 2000. The card also allows you to upgrade or downgrade to a different aircraft class at a fixed hourly rate without incurring additional fees. And it includes a 15 percent discount on some round-trip travel.
The card is available through the end of this year, and its hourly rate of US$8,971 ($A11,800) is locked in for 12 months from the time of purchase. By comparison, Sentient Jet’s standard 25-hour card for newer midsize aircraft costs US$249,275 ($A327,800) and doesn’t include the option of upgrading or downgrading. The 25-hour card for older (built before 2000), super-midsize jets is also pricier than the 25+ card. It costs US$227,050 ($A298,550).
With the 25+ card, you have access to a Bombardier Challenger 300, Cessna Citation X, Cessna Citation Sovereign, Dassault Falcon 50EX, Dassault Falcon 2000, or Gulfstream G200. Like all Sentient Jet cards, the 25+ also gives you access to a benefits program that includes exclusive offerings from a variety of hotels, resorts, and luxury brands.
Travel by private jet with one of the world’s best adventurers
Geoffrey Kent, founder of Abercrombie & Kent — one of the world’s top luxury travel outfitters — bleeds adventure. Born while his parents were on safari in Africa, he grew up on a farm in Kenya, and at only 16 years old, he became the first person to motorbike from Kenya to Cape Town. And yet, surprisingly, there are still places the globe-trotting adventurer is dying to go — and he’s taking just 50 lucky guests along for the ride. A roundup of places he has yet to see, the Around the World with Geoffrey Kent: An Inspiring Expedition by Private Jet (from US$150,000 ($A197,200) per person) will whisk guests to 10 destinations across the globe in a custom Boeing 757-200ER tricked out with plush Italian leather seats (complete with massage systems), a fully stocked open bar, and first-class meal service.
The 24-day trip will take guests from the lush rainforests and beautiful beaches of Nicaragua to the Swan River in Western Australia and the vibrant city of Tbilisi, capital of up-and-coming travel destination Georgia. Be prepared for countless edge-of-your-seat stories.
A plane for your pilot
Price: US$4.9 ($A6.4) million
“It’s a pilot’s plane,” explains Michimasa Fujino, Honda Aircraft president and CEO, and the creator of the HondaJet. “It’s an emotional experience, like driving a Porsche,” he says at a recent meeting in Las Vegas. The HondaJet has been a life’s work and mission for Fujino, who first sketched the design for the advanced light jet plane in 1997. You can see his passion for this project as he describes the fruit of his labour. His ultimate vision is to bring private planes to more people, not just the uber-rich — similar to the way Honda has brought good-quality cars to the masses.
Fujino’s design is a unique one: It’s the only aircraft to place the engines on pylons above the wings (Over-the-Wing Engine Mount), which reduces wave drag for better efficiency and keeps noise and vibration out of the cabin. He also created a carbon-fibre fuselage to keep the plane light, making it faster and more fuel-efficient. And, finally, he developed the Natural Laminar Flow wing and a surprising nose shape, providing passengers with a stable ride in addition to incredible speed and efficiency. The engine placement, carbon-fibre fuselage, and wing and nose shape give the HondaJet the fastest speed, the best fuel efficiency, and the most cabin and luggage space over other planes in the advanced-light-jet category. Fujino beams when discussing how he achieved higher speeds and higher fuel efficiency, not to mention the extra cabin and storage space. “No compromise,” I suggest, and he smiles and nods.
The HondaJet comes in four striking colors and seats two crew and four or five passengers (depending on configuration) in the 5.4-metre-long cabin. It sports 0.25 cubic metres of storage in the nose baggage compartment and 1.6 cubic metres aft. Unlike many aircraft of this size, the HondaJet features a private lavatory, as well. The maximum cruise speed is 782 km/h, and the maximum cruise altitude is 13,106 metres, which the Garmin G3000 avionics suite will help your pilot monitor.
The pilot in your life will love finding this plane in the driveway (or hangar) with a bow on its very special nose.
Heli-skiing in the Alps
Price: Starting at about US$70,000 ($A92,000)
Travellers are fascinated with the idea of following in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway, whether to a bullfighting arena in Pamplona, his former home in Key West, or a bar in Havana, Paris, or just about any other place where he ever pulled up a chair. Few of Papa’s fans, however, have thought to follow in his tracks on skis.
This gift from House Hannes Schneider in Stuben, Austria, includes a 1-day helicopter trip for four to Schruns, a resort in the Montafon Region where Hemingway skied with his young family in the mid-1920s, in the early days of the sport. The author wrote fondly about his Austrian skiing experiences in A Moveable Feast, and he opened The Snows of Kilimanjaro in the village of Schruns, where his family stayed in the still-operating-today Hotel Taube. The recipient of this gift (starting at about US$70,000 ($A92,000)) and his or her guests will stop for a drink at the Taube after a day spent skiing the Schruns backcountry with a private guide. The day will also include a picnic lunch prepared by House Hannes Schneider’s chef as well as massages for all following the return flight to the chalet.
Recently renovated by the owners of the Kristiania Lech hotel, House Hannes Schneider is a historic residence in the heart of the Arlberg. The recipient and as many as 15 guests have the run of the six-bedroom chalet — which includes a sauna, a 16-seat dining room, a butler, and a chef — for 7 nights. A private ski guide will be available to the group throughout their stay for excursions into the Arlberg, which, with the opening of the Flexenbahn cable car between Zürs and Stuben/Rauz last winter, became the world’s fifth-largest ski area.
At the end of each day, guests can curl up by House Hannes Schneider’s fireplace with a Grüner Veltliner and a good book — perhaps The Sun Also Rises, which Hemingway rewrote during one of his ski trips to Schruns.