Designing a Perfect Corporate Jet
Capt. W. Patrick Gordon, M.Sc.
The perfect woman, the perfect man, the perfect pet, or the perfect airplane. All dreams. However, we should remember that present day reality is based on someone’s earlier dreams.
I have the perfect woman and I once had a pet rock that I’ve long since lost. That just leaves the perfect man and the perfect airplane, and only a woman knows what the perfect man is.
The perfect corporate airplane to operate from a base here in the Middle East would have to meet pretty specific parameters.
Perfect range would be Muscat to London with a shade more than minimum fuel reserves. Too much can go wrong enroute (like air traffic control strikes) to be comfortable with bare minimums, and London to Muscat doesn’t count because one almost always gets a tail wind push on the way south.
Climb performance would be a major requirement with a minimum initial altitude of FL410 within 22 to 25 minutes. Air traffic control from the Middle East to Europe is excellent but trips in other directions encounter ATC of varying characteristics. A quick climb to FL410 gets one out of the way and into a kinder, gentler environment. It also greatly improves the chances for further climb without picking through layers of less fortunate aircraft stuck in FL30-somethings.
While we’re on climb performance, remember that most aircraft salesmen base their pitch for climb performance on a standard temperature or ISA of zero degrees Celsius, or at most, ISA+10deg C. Here in the Middle East temperatures can climb completely off most aircraft performance charts rising to a level of +50deg C at sea level or a scorching ISA+35.
The perfect airplane should also be able to carry 20 passengers in better than airline first class comfort and have plenty, repeat, plenty of luggage space with both external and in-flight access. For the non-ambulatory, it would be nice to have a door that a litter could be passed through even it is the luggage door. Additionally, the passengers would require all the comforts they have become used to such as office and communications capability, entertainment systems, and so forth.
With 20 passengers, a VIP operation would probably want two stewardesses, and a flying engineer/mechanic would be required for support at those destinations where they look at you as though you came from the back side of the moon.
Forward and aft lavs would be required as would be ample storage in the galley so catering doesn’t have to be cached in one of the lavs, putting it out of service until dinner is served – normally an annoying test of crew long-range capability; a real test when the passengers decide they aren’t hungry.
As long as we’re in the galley, how about a trash compactor? Most nine-hour airplanes have half-hour trash containers. The catering in the lav is usually replaced with garbage bags after dinner, leaving a window of opportunity for the crew to visit the lav based entirely on the speed with which the passengers eat.
Now that the passengers are well taken care of, let’s look at the crew - quite minimum requirements actually. Reasonably comfortable jump seats for the two stewardesses and one engineer should be available somewhere out of sight of the passengers. The cockpit should be equipped with all the modern acronyms – EFIS, AFIS, etc., and have enough room for storing coats, hats, Jepps, and other required reading, and space for a flight bag beside, not behind, each of the two seats.
Getting back to women – and pilots normally do – a good airplane is a lot like a good woman and this is not meant in a chauvinistic way. Some women are wonderful to take to the opera and some are great for a hike in the mountains. A rare few of them can do both. Potential market aside, perhaps aircraft manufacturers could look at their products in the same way.
No business jet presently built can comfortably provide my sought-after performance along with passenger and luggage space. Perhaps only Gulfstream comes close. Although quite spacious, converted airliners fall short on the performance requirement to get you quickly through the heavy traffic altitudes and above, or at least around, the tops of weather. I could use this kind of performance much more often than I could use 6,000nmi nonstop, which is evidently the coming generation.
Granted, a business jet built to these performance requirements would be a rocket in more temperate latitudes, but what’s the problem with that? We are, after all, talking about the perfect airplane. Note: After this article was written Boeing came out with the Boeing Business Jet BBJ which was based on a conversion of the 737 airframe. It meets and surpasses nearly every one of the requirement wish list. Go Boeing! Airbus followed Boeing thereafter with their Airbus Corporate Jet ACJ.