The Most Popular Business Jets -- This Is How the Elite Like to Fly

Cessna, Gulfstream, and Bombardier battle it out for jet domination.

Aug 18, 2014 at 2:02PM

Bombardier Global
The Global 6000. Photo credit: Bombardier 

At first glance, it might seem like business jets are nothing more than a luxury perk for high-profile executives. But that would be missing the much bigger picture. Business aviation contributes $150 billion annually to the U.S. economy, and employs more that 1.2 million people in the U.S -- and those aren't the only good things.

As defense spending wanes, defense companies' commercial revenue sources are becoming that much more important. So, let's take a look at the three most popular business jet manufacturers, their most popular business jets for 2013, and why they're important.  

Cessna

Cessna

Cessna 525C Citation CJ4. Photo credit: Peter Bakema via Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to business jets, Textron's (NYSE:TXT) Cessna segment is usually flying high. Unfortunately, 2013 saw Cessna fall to third place thanks to lower deliveries -- in 2013 Cessna delivered 139 business jets. Still, third place is still a pretty good ranking, so let's take a look at Cessna's most delivered jet, the 525C Citation CJ4, which had a total of 33 deliveries in 2013. 

Capable of carrying 10 passengers, the Citation CJ4 has a maximum cruise speed of 519 mph, and a max range of 2,192 nautical miles. But the best part is being able to fly in what Cessna describes as "ultimate luxury." Specifically, that includes dual-zone temperature control, LED lighting, the award-winning Venue TM HD integrated cabin management and entertainment suite, wide reclining leather seats, and advanced soundproofing. The price for this level of flying comfort? Approximately $9.05 million in 2013, according to Corporate Jet Investor. 

More importantly, because Textron is a multi-industry company that receives a fair amount of revenue from defense spending (revenues from its Bell Helicopter segment accounted for 37% of Textron's total revenues in 2013, and 14% of its total revenue come from the sale of other military equipment) its Cessna segment has, and will continue to be, an important contributor to Textron's bottom line -- in 2013, Cessna accounted for approximately 23% of Textron's total revenues. 

Gulfstream

Gulfstream

Gulfstream G550. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Unlike Cessna, 2013 was a great year for General Dynamics' (NYSE:GD) subsidiary, Gulfstream. In fact, with a total of 144 business jet deliveries, 2013 was Gulfstream's second-best year on record, according to Wichita Business Journal. What helped drive Gulfstream's deliveries? A combination of Gulfstream's large cabin business jets, the Gulfstream 450, 550, and 650 -- Gulfstream doesn't split business jet deliveries beyond large and midsize cabin aircraft -- so let's take a look at these impressive jets.

Capable of carrying up to 16 passengers, the G450 has a normal cruise speed of 528 mph, and a max range of 4,350 nautical miles. The G550, on the other hand, can carry up to 18 passengers, and has a normal cruise speed of 528 mph. Plus, it can travel 6,750 nm. Finally, the G650 can carry up to 18 people, but its normal cruise speed is 562 mph, with a range of 7,000 nm. 

All three jets come with Rolls-Royce engines, the option to choose between a number of different cabin layouts, advanced satellite communication systems, wireless local networks, large comfortable seating areas, advanced soundproofing, and comprehensive entertainment systems. The price to ride in Gulfstream style? Around $38.9 million for the G450, according to AircraftCompare.com, to around $65 million for the G650 according to Business Insider.  

More importantly for General Dynamics, as defense budgets shrink, business jet have become that much more important to General Dynamics' bottom line. In fact, Bloomberg reports that General Dynamics has been actively increasing its investment into its Gulfstream business, and in 2013, that resulted in Gulfstream delivering 20% of business jets worldwide. That's double its share in 2008.  

Bombardier

Global

Global 5000. Photo credit: Bombardier

Like Cessna, Bombardier (NASDAQOTH:BDRAF) didn't have the best year in 2013. But with 180 business jet deliveries, it still managed to come in first for highest business jet deliveries in 2013. This was thanks in no small part to 62 deliveries of its Global 5000 and 6000 jets.  

Both the Global 5000 and 6000 are considered large business jets, and have a maximum cruise speed of 581 mph. Additionally, the Global 5000 can carry up to 15 passengers, and the 6,000 can carry up to 16 passengers. Further, the Global 5000 has a range of 5,200 nm and the Global 6,000 has a range of 6,000 nm. 

Moreover, both the Global 5,000 and 6,000 have Rolls-Royce engines, high-speed satellite communication systems, the latest performance-based navigation systems, optimized comfort and superior cabin spaciousness, and impressive entertainment systems. The approximate price for a Global 5,000? $48 million, according to FindTheBest.com, while Forbes places the approximate price of a Global 6,000 at around $60 million. 

The good news for Bombardier is that while it does provide modified commercial and business aircraft to the government and other organizations, most of its aerospace revenue comes from the sale of typical business aircraft. In fact, business aircraft accounted for 54% of Bombardier's total aerospace revenue in 2013, while typical commercial aircraft revenue accounted for 13%. As such, reduced government spending is unlikely to have a large impact on Bombardier's bottom line. 

Why this matters

Business jets are an incredibly luxurious way to travel. But when compared to commercial airline travel, there are more reasons than just luxury to fly on a private jet. According to the National Business Aviation Association, some of business aviation's advantages include a small carbon footprint, improving noise and emissions, and access to more locations. Business jets can land at over 5,000 public-use facilities -- 10 times the number of U.S. airports. This often equates to a more direct route, and less time spent traveling, to a destination.

Plus, the National Business Aviation Association states: "The vast majority of [general aviation] aircraft used for business purposes worldwide are manufactured, operated, serviced and maintained in the U.S. Even the relatively small numbers of airplanes that are manufactured outside the U.S. often are 'completed' (outfitted) in the U.S. with American-made avionics, electronics, systems, engines, paint, interiors and other aircraft components." As such, business jets are an important contributor to the U.S. economy.

Moreover, business jet segments are becoming more important to companies that are experiencing a loss in revenue due to reduced government spending. 

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Katie Spence has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of General Dynamics and Textron. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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