The Royal Family of Private Jet Manufacturers
The aviation industry is dominated by a handful of top private jet manufacturers, but who are they and how did they reach the pinnacle of engineering?
With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of the top aircraft manufacturers who produce private jets, with a look into their history, major achievements and key aircraft.
Boeing is certainly one of the biggest names in the industry commercially but they’re also fierce competitors for the private sector through their Boeing Business Jets (BBJ) line. The company was founded in Seattle, USA in 1916 by William Boeing who had made his fortune in the timber industry. Constructing structures from wood had given him an edge when it came to the assembly of airplanes.
In a twist of fate which changed the industry forever, William Boeing crashed his first plane, which he had just purchased, and was informed that replacement parts would not be available for some time. Inspired rather than frustrated, he realised that he could construct a better plane himself in the time it would have taken the parts to arrive – and so he did. His new designs caught on quickly with the US Navy and the Boeing Airplane Company – took off.
The Boeing 737 is a short- to medium-range twinjet narrow-body airliner and remains one of the most iconic and talked about jets today – despite its maiden flight taking place back in 1967. It remains the best-selling jet commercial airliner.
Embraer was founded in 1969 by entrepreneur Ozires Silva and the Brazilian government, but only began producing private planes in 2002. Ozires Silva himself faced great challenges during his first eight years attempting to convince local Brazilian companies to buy into his vision of the domestic production of airliners. They never really did however, but when all seemed lost he was invited to meet the president and the government itself funded the endeavour which was later privatised.
Here's what Tim Harlow of Blue Sky News had to say about this aerospace conglomerate:
“The Brazilian aircraft manufacturer’s Very Light Jet (VLJ), the Phenom 100, is an example of the engineering expertise of the company. Perhaps because it was their first featured aircraft, the Phenom 100 quickly became a firm favourite.
The clean, sophisticated, Oval Lite cabin offers generous leg and head room, largest-in-class windows, a baggage capacity of 70 cu. ft. and a fully enclosed rear private lavatory – the only one in the category featuring large windows for additional natural light. In addition, the aircraft's signature 'air stair' leads to the largest entrance door area in its class. In December 2015, Embraer announced that over 320 Phenom 100s are operating in 26 countries."
You may not consider Aerion a member of royal family yet but, if their upcoming product does what they believe it will, they may dramatically alter the playing field overnight. When we asked David Foxx of Airscape Mag to tell us a little more about Aerion Corporation, he had one key word for us: "supersonic."
“In my opinion, if you think forward five years we’ll only be talking about one aviation manufacturer…
Theirs may not be the most versatile, flexible or economical fleet, but none of that will matter because they’ll hold an unassailable trump card – they’re fastest. Even faster than the Cessna Citation X series.
Of course I’m talking about Aerion, who now seem certain of fielding their supersonic AS2 business jet within six years. Founded in the 1990s in Reno, Nevada, the company hasn’t produced a single airframe. Yet. Now a $3 billion injection from Airbus in September 2014 will see the prototype fly. Add 20 firm orders so far, and its arrival seems assured.
Big, bold and beautiful, the luxurious AS2 will be packed with cutting-edge technology – from a supersonic natural laminar flow (SNLF) aerofoil to boom-suppressing aerodynamics and a new fly-by-wire control system. Its relatively modest Mach 1.4 cruise speed sidesteps all the toughest friction, acoustic and propulsion issues. But you can bet the 4,750 nm supersonic range, saving three hours across the Atlantic or six over the Pacific, will drive ongoing improvements.
Shirtsleeve supersonic flight is a phenomenal achievement by any standard. No matter who joins them beyond the sound barrier later, Aerion will have redefined the private jet forever."
"I would place Bombardier Aerospace as one of the top private jet manufacturers," says Miquel Ros from All Plane. "But, it is important to take into account that the market for private jets is divided into different categories and segments depending, mainly, on the reach and capacity of the aircraft, and that not all manufacturers have an exactly overlapping range of products, and some are stronger in some categories."
Bombardier has come a long way, from producer of snowmobiles in the 1940s to third largest aircraft manufacturer in the world – a position only surpassed by Airbus and Boeing. After making their mark in rail transportation, Bombardier ventured into the aerospace industry in 1986. In 1990, they acquired the Learjet Company and carved out a piece of the business jet manufacturing market with the Bombardier Learjet private jet range. Their Global Express series became the first business jet to travel between any two locations with just one fuel break.
Today, Bombardier competes in the large (10 to 19 passengers), long-range business jet category, with their Global 6000 series. This smoothly-designed model combines elegance and speed to give you the ultimate passenger convenience. With a maximum high speed of 560 mph, you can jet off on a business trip from London to Paris within 10 hours, whilst enjoying the on-board luxuries that 7228sm cabin has to offer.
Gulfstream Aerospace was really formed into what we know today when Grumman Aircraft Engineering Co, founded by Roy Grumman, merged with light-aircraft manufacturer American Aviation Corp – and was ultimately sold to American Jet Industries. Entrepreneur Allen Paulson became the president and CEO of the new company, renaming it Gulfstream American. His leadership lead to the famed GIII.
Allen Paulson himself had an impressive history. With no support from the age of 13 he took various jobs to put himself through school, including janitorial work, selling newspapers and labouring on a dairy farm. To get support in obtaining his pilot’s licence he joined the US Army Air Corps and studied engineering. Step by step he built his own companies, displaying tenacity and great entrepreneurial skill – which gave Gulfstream major early advantages that it never surrendered.
Gulfstream has developed some of the most beautiful aircraft around today and is perhaps especially known for building large business jets. The Gulfstream G650 travels at speeds of up to 0.925 Mach which is currently faster than anything outside of the military, including commercial airliners. Cabin designs focus on luxury and absolute comfort. To date, the company has constructed over 2000 aircraft and has provided jets to almost 40 countries.
Cessna has a truly inspiring back story. It was originally started by Kansas farmer Clyde Cessna who constructed his own aircraft in 1911. Unfortunately for him, (or possibly them as it worked out) money lenders in the city of Enid didn’t consider his rather unique hobby as a good investment. He moved to Wichita (where the company HQ remains today) and found a short-term partner but was hit by the Great Depression.
Despite winning awards Clyde’s poor run of luck saw him sell the company to his nephews, Dwane and Dwight, who would ultimately establish it as the Cessna Aircraft Company that we know and love today. Cessna is renowned for its lightly built business class jets and the incredibly popular Citation Series. The series consists of six distinct families of turbofan-powered aircraft. The first Citation was put into service in 1972, and has attained 31 million flight hours since that time.
In recent years Cessna has suffered some controversy for their plans to ultimately move all production to China.