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The Jet Set

CEOs and Entrepreneurs Queue Up To Buy the Ultimate in Private UltraLong- Distance Jet Travel
Barry Rosenberg
From the Print Edition:
Ernest Hemingway, Jul/Aug 99

Traditionally, anyone who needed to fly nonstop between New York and Tokyo had to use a commercial airline. Even if he had business jets at his disposal, none of his multimillion-dollar aircraft would have had the range to fly 6,000 miles nonstop.

That is, until now. Four of the world's major aerospace manufacturers--Gulfstream, Bombardier, Boeing and Airbus--have introduced a class of business jet designed to fly up to 6,500 miles without needing to refuel. The risks inherent in developing these new aircraft have led to an all-out war between manufacturers in a market already known for its cutthroat pricing and vitriolic, pull-no-punches marketing campaigns.

To get their point across, the manufacturers have hired a variety of pitchmen who they hope will appeal to their respective markets. For a time, Boeing used Australian golfer Greg Norman to appeal to potential customers that it calls "high-net-worth individuals and global business leaders." Gulfstream is appealing to the intellectual side of its customers by hiring Microsoft chief technology officer Nathan Myhrvold as its spokesman in the print media.

Fortunately for manufacturers, the popularity and sales of these aircraft have greatly surpassed expectations. More than 230 have already been sold at about $35 million each. That's for a "green" aircraft without a finished interior or exterior paint. The complete outfitting of the interior--from galleys and showers to the latest in electronic office equipment and satellite-based communications systems--costs $4 million to $5 million more.

Las Vegas-based Marnell Corrao Associates is typical of the type of company lining up for one of the new long-range business jets. As one of the world's premier hotel-casino architects and contractors--Marnell Corrao designed and built Steve Wynn's Mirage and Bellagio casinos in Las Vegas, as well as many others in Vegas and elsewhere--the company makes numerous trips that are short in duration, but long in distance.

Many of those trips are to remote locations with small airports not suitable for large commercial jets. One week its employees are in Asia buying carpet and tile; the next they are in Europe purchasing crystal chandeliers and marble. Marnell Corrao also regularly provides international transportation for the many highly specialized consultants build state-of it relies on for lighting, sound, hydraulics and other disciplines used to build state-of-the-art casino-hotel resorts.

"A lot of our projects are under a time and money constraint," says Marnell Corrao chairman and CEO Anthony Marnell. "If we're working with special showroom rigging or pumps for a water feature, then we go right to the factories, which are accessible to shorter fields. We don't fly into JFK or Heathrow. If we're going from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, a 40-minute flight, we want to go into Santa Monica, not LAX; then have a two-hour meeting and continue on to Hong Kong."

At 6,500 nautical miles, the range of the new aircraft is typically twice that of regular business jets and gives their users unprecedented nonstop reach across the continents. Typically, this new jet can fly eight passengers and a crew of four nonstop from New York to Tokyo, London to Singapore, or San Francisco to Moscow, for example. Anywhere in the world can be reached with only one stop for refueling.

Even though these "bizjets" are thought of primarily as a business tool to whisk CEOs to far-flung boardrooms around the world, delivering them fresh and ready to negotiate on arrival, the demographics of the buyers of these aircraft have somewhat surprised manufacturers.

Boeing Business Jets, for example, expected half of all sales to come from Fortune 200 corporations instead of the present 25 percent of sales, according to Boeing Business Jets president Borge Boeskov. He believes, however, that they will eventually account for half, as executives adapt to seeing a privately owned 737 on the tarmac and overcome what he calls the "perception problem" among stockholders.

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