Is capitalism cramping your style?

Thought you had it made when you started flying private? Think again. The joys of being the lead passenger can be short-lived and a little on the cramped side.

“The Problem With Private Jets” is a high-flying corporate story. It’s what you won’t find in the glossy brochures.

Do you have any idea what jet fuel costs these days?

Rated PG-13 / 1,200 words / 5 minutes of high-flying reading pleasure

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‘Wouldn’t you commit a crime to avoid waiting in another Southwest check-in line?’ Slate



Copyright 2011 Stefano Boscutti
All Rights Reserved

It’s not always plain sailing.

Take private jets. Cool, right? Until you get the bill. Forty-six thousand dollars for a cross-country flight with a couple of pals doesn’t seem so bad until you get hit with the fuel levy.

A private jet flies on Jet-A kerosene-based fuel. You probably don’t know this but the price per gallon has quadrupled in the past eight years. It’s always more expensive on the coasts and always cheaper in the Midwest. But who flies to the Midwest?

How much fuel do you need? Depends on the model you’re flying. The bigger the private jet, the bigger the load. The forty-eight thousand pound Gulfstream G550 burns through four hundred gallons of fuel every hour. More if you’re flying hot and high to get wherever you want to go faster. It can take you from Chicago to Rome in record time except you need to top it up with six thousand gallons when you get there.

Then there’s the insurance levy, hangar fee, two pilots, one attendant and catering. Gluten-free sandwiches? You’ll pay double for those.

You’ve probably noticed there’s a lot of private jets on the market. After everything that happened they’ve become the symbol of excess. For a struggling company an obvious way to save money is to sell the odd jet. It looks good for the shareholders.

It’s mainly window dressing. Usually the jet is put up for sale at a price so high nobody will buy. The company appears frugal. The boss flies as usual. Everyone’s happy.

A private jet is great for getting work done. You can use your laptop throughout the entire flight. You can keep your phone switched on during take-off and landing. There’s broadband multilink on board and satellite communications. There’s even a fax machine. Which can be handy if you like signing and sending contracts the old-fashioned way.

Having your own private jet has some solid tax advantages. You can register your private jet as your principal domicile like _______ _______ did so you never have to pay income tax to any particular government. You’ll be flying all the way to the bank.

Buying a new private jet will set you back between ten and fifty million dollars. Your broker will tell you to budget two thousand dollars per hour to fly. Your accountant will tell you to double it. Your financier will triple it.

Sure you can save money by buying pre-owned. A Falcon 2000 will give you wide-body cabin comfort with unmatched fuel efficiency. Dassault built two hundred and thirty Falcon 2000 aircraft between 1995 and 2006. So there’s a few to choose from. Resale values have fallen forty-five per cent in the past two years to around ten million dollars. A record low.

But before you reach for your checkbook you need to factor in maintenance costs. Maintenance on the Honeywell CFW738 engines costs almost six hundred dollars per hour. Six-hundred and fifty dollars per hour for those with more than five thousand hours. A, B and C series inspections can cost up to one hundred and sixty-thousand dollars to complete. You don’t want an engine exploding mid-flight.

Then there’s the interior to factor in. You need to set aside at least half a million dollars to refurbish. Even without the 24-karat gold-plated cup holders, ashtrays, seatbelts and faucets. I’m not sure what it is about private jets and gold-plated taps. It’s like an unwritten law.

The timber tends to Brazilian mahogany. The more highly polished the better. (All the better to catch your reflection.)

They don’t really understand understated. Even the bird’s-eye maple and walnut burl ends up glitzy. You can have your decorator come in but they usually get swamped with all the technical details and you end up with an interior that looks like a flying brothel. Without the bar.

Everything that goes into a jet has to carry the Federal Aviation Administration seal of approval. Like the bronze eagle _____ _____ fastened onto the cabin wall. Cost thirty-eight thousand dollars to fabricate a special mount that met with FAA regulations.

An eagle? Who wants an eagle in their private jet? Just look out the window.

I know what you’re thinking. When you’re flying a lightsize or midsize private jet you always have to crane down to look out the window. It’s a pain in the neck.

The problem with private jets is there’s never enough headroom. You can’t stand up without smacking your head. It’s hard to feel on top of the world when you’re all hunched over. It’s embarrassing.

Ever been in a Learjet? It’s like flying in a coffin. (Quick joke. What’s the difference between an A320 and a beaver? Four thousand trees per hour.)

Sure you can get to smaller airports with a private jet. That’s probably the main reason you fly them. You drive right onto the tarmac, step out of the car and step in. You don’t see anyone. Except maybe some head of state.

Teterboro Airport is just twelve miles from midtown Manhattan. There’s no lineups, no security hassles, no delays. You drive up, you hop on, you fly off.

It’s kind of beautiful when you think about it. I fly private therefore I am.

If you don’t want to splurge on a whole private jet you can always chip in for fractional ownership. You basically buy a share of a private jet. Which sounds swell until you want to fly on a holiday. Christmas? You’re kidding, right? You’ve got to book Christmas five years out and they’ll change the schedule at the last minute.

You’re sharing a private jet which is not really that private. It’s like timeshare in the air.

Charter flights offer more options than part ownership because you can book a jet anytime to anywhere. Hire a whole aircraft and it’s yours to do with what you want. Just don’t be surprised if the seats are covered in avion blonde leather and the attendant is called Nicole.

Private jet services are essentially glorified taxis. They fly businessmen in bad suits between small airports with excess runway capacity.

They use entry-level private jets. Very light and very, very small. (The Russian spare parts? Don’t ask about the Russian spare parts.)

Cabins on entry level private jets are very cramped. So take painkillers and book a masseur at the other end. Also don’t be surprised if you find chicken bones wedged in the seat cushion.

So much for plain sailing. You may as well spread your wings and fly first class.

At least the extra headroom is free.

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Copyright 2011 Stefano Boscutti

All Rights Reserved

No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing.

Stefano Boscutti acknowledges the trademark owners of various products referenced in this work. The publication or use of these trademarks is not authorised or sponsored by the trademark owner.

This is a work of fiction. While many of the characters portrayed here have counterparts in the life and times of owners of private jets and others, the characterisations and incidents presented are totally the products of the author’s sly imagination. This work is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. It should not be resold or given away. Thank you for your support. (Couldn’t do it without you.)

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