For affluent Chinese, bigger is better when it comes to luxury jets.
Business jet sales are increasing in China, and “heavy metal jets,” large luxury planes capable of traveling long distances, are in particularly high demand. The jets can cost over $50 million.
According to Brian Foley, who runs the global aerospace industry market analysis company Brian Foley Associates, such planes are considered powerful status symbols.
“In China,” Foley said in an interview with the New York Times, “if you’re a successful business person, you generally don’t mind flaunting that and making your compatriots aware that you’re doing well. And one way to do that is to buy the biggest and best business jet, if you have the money to buy it.”
Foley also says that heavy metal jets’ longer range appeals to Chinese travelers. According to the Times, “A top-end Gulfstream G550 — price tag $56 million before cabin fittings — can fly 6,800 nautical miles nonstop, or about 7,800 miles, easily covering the distance between Shanghai and New York.”
“China is a pretty big land mass, and if you want to go to a business center outside of China, you just need the legs to get there,” Foley said.
Purchasers of luxury jets may find them difficult to use within China, however. “Strict bureaucratic rules” and “military control of national airspace” hamper business aviation in the Asia-Pacific region and make gaining flight clearance a time-consuming prospect. China also has relatively few airports that can accommodate private flights.
“In the U.S., there are about 5,000 airports that can be used by business jets,” Foley explained, adding that in China the number stood at around 200 airports. “And complicating that is the fact that there aren’t a lot of services for fuel or comfort, or any of the things you expect in a longer-established business aviation market.”
The Asian Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition, which is taking place this week in Shanghai, will examine these aviation problems in the region. Transport ministers representing 21 countries have already devised a plan to make air travel easier.
The Asia-Pacific region accounted for 11.9 percent of business jet shipments last year, a considerable increase from 4.2 percent in 2007. In the last five years, the number of business jets in Asia has increased by about 12 percent annually, and “large-cabin, long-range jets” accounted for 77 percent of sales.
Although business jet sales declined worldwide during the recent financial crisis, they are making a “slow recovery” and “will account for $250 billion in sales from 2013 to 2023.” Honeywell’s business and general aviation division also projects that the so-called “heavy metal jets” will account for 70 percent of global expenditures on business jets within the next decade.
image credit: clément alloing