Global 7500
Global 7500

The Best Aircraft for Your Needs

Which airplane should you charter or buy? Many factors affect the answer, so our reviewer offers multiple picks.

Which wings are best for your mission? It’s a question almost as old as powered flight itself. No one aircraft does everything well. But depending on your needs, some are better than others. 

For 17 years, I’ve covered the new and used markets for Business Jet Traveler and flown some remarkable airplanes. Here are my suggested mission-aircraft pairings. They are not all as perfect as the gastronomical equivalent of savoring a bottle of 1959 Chateau Lafite Rothschild with chateaubriand at Restaurant Paul Bocuse in Lyon, but some can get you pretty close. 


Best Aircraft for Long-distance Travelers

Bombardier Global 7500 

Bombardier has delivered more than 100 of its new $75 million flagship large-cabin, long-range jet since 2018. The aircraft can fly unrefueled for 7,700 nautical miles at speeds up to Mach 0.925 (10 passengers, four crew, average cruising speed of Mach 0.85).

The Global is the pick in this category for two main reasons: the wing and the cabin. The new-design thin wing is very efficient at cruise speeds and features a high-lift system with leading-edge slats, allowing the aircraft to have slower approach speeds and use less runway. While the cabin has the same cross section as the older Global 6000, it has been stretched by more than 11 feet, allowing for up to four distinct living zones.

Yielding 2,637 cubic feet of cabin space, the Global 7500 is designed for comfort with features including a galley that is 20 percent larger than that on the older Global 6000, with double convection/microwave and convection/steam capabilities; a mid-cabin/self-serve galley; redesigned and larger crew rest areas; panoramic passenger windows that give the cabin an airy feel; improved heating and cooling; redesigned seats; a center lounge/media room with 42- to 50-inch flat-screen monitors; adjustable color LEDs in the ceiling; a conference/dining table that seats six; a private stateroom; an optional stand-up steam shower; a robust environmental-control system; and a capacious 195-cubic-foot baggage hold.

Gulfstream G650ER
Gulfstream G650ER

Runner-Up: Gulfstream G650ER 

After its introduction in 2012, the long-haul, large-cabin Gulfstream G650 quickly became a popular ride for the world’s elite. More than 200 were delivered during its first four years of production to corporations including ExxonMobil, Bank of America, and Walmart; global potentates from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, and Kuwait; and a variety of billionaires. What sells the G650 is the trifecta appeal of speed, range, and cabin size. In 2014, Gulfstream began offering a 7,500-nautical-mile (at Mach 0.85) variant, the G650ER. The extra-range option adds a few million dollars to the price. While the G650ER shares the G650’s cabin, avionics, and systems, software for the fuel-quantity measuring and flight-management systems had to be updated to account for the extra fuel and performance gains.

Its speed and range notwithstanding, the G650’s most appealing feature is undoubtedly its super-sized and refined cabin. The aircraft features 28 percent more cabin volume than Gulfstream’s former flagship, the G550, itself a long-range 12- to 16-passenger jet; total cabin volume is 2,138 cubic feet. The G650’s cabin door is more than six feet high, and the cabin is eight feet, six inches wide; six feet, five inches tall; and nearly 47 feet long. A cavernous 195-cubic-foot baggage compartment is accessible through the rear lav. All that space means room for larger seats, windows, and monuments. The single executive seats are 28 inches wide—two inches wider than those in the G550. The signature oval windows are the industry’s largest at 28 by 20.5 inches.

Gulfstream can configure the cabin for up to 19 passengers in any of 12 standard floor plans, with forward or aft galleys and with or without a dedicated crew rest area. The conference area is expandable from four seats to six by replacing the center cabin credenza with two single seats. With forward-galley layouts, a stateroom is an option just forward of the aft lavatory. Customers can also opt for floor plans tailored to their tastes.

Best Aircraft for Flying into the Wild

Pilatus PC-6 Porter 

Yes, it’s ugly. Almost as ugly as bolting a trailer park privacy fence atop a 1986 Plymouth Voyager minivan. But few airplanes can haul as much into runways that are high, short, and often sloped as the legendary Pilatus Porter. More than 600 were produced from 1959 through 2019. More than half of those are still flying. The high-wing, turboprop single gained fame during the Vietnam War when it was used in covert missions deep in the jungle by CIA contractors. A version built for the U.S. Air Force was fitted with a 20-mm Gatling gun and named the “Peacemaker.” 

Able to take off and land on runways well under 1,500 feet long, the Porter churns along at an unimpressive 125 knots but can carry up to 10 passengers or an impressive 3,373 pounds of payload over 870 nautical miles with auxiliary underwing fuel tanks. Its fixed main landing gear was designed for abuse. It can also be mounted onto floats for amphibious operations. 

The structure is decidedly low-tech and no-frills, which makes for easy field repair. And just like a minivan, it sports a pair of giant sliding or hinged doors on both sides of the fuselage for easy loading. The pilot can also drop that microfilm canister through a trap door beneath the cockpit. 

Models produced after 1984 are known as the B2 variant and came standard with the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-27 stuffed into the airplane’s enormous nose. The aircraft has held its value remarkably well over the years. A 30-year-old model can easily fetch more than $700,000 and those made toward the end of its production run are routinely listed for close to $2 million. 

With the Porter, you’re not arriving in a fashion statement, you’re flying in a survival tool. 

Pilatus PC-6 Porter
Pilatus PC-6 Porter

Runner-Up: Viking 400 

An airplane that can go virtually anywhere, do anything, and operate in the most extreme weather—and that could sell for twice what you paid for it after 30 years—might sound like a fantasy. But the iconic DHC-6 Twin Otter turboprop twin, which de Havilland Canada produced between 1965 and 1988, is just that. 

In 2005, Viking Air of British Columbia purchased the assets of Bombardier’s Commercial Service Center, including the product-support and spare-parts business for the Twin Otter, allowing Viking to work directly with operators. In 2006, it acquired the aircraft type certificate from Bombardier; and it restarted production in 2010, rechristening the Twin Otter the “Viking 400” and incorporating more than 800 changes and improvements. They include more powerful 750-shaft-horsepower Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-34 engines, robust Honeywell Primus Apex glass-panel avionics, and a modernized electrical system. Air conditioning and full de-icing systems are options. 

The 400 can pop off a runway and clear a 50-foot-high obstacle in less than 1,500 feet, and with auxiliary fuel tanks can stay in the air for nine hours; maximum cruise speed is 182 knots at 10,000 feet. The cabin isn’t pressurized, but the airplane will climb to 25,000 feet, and supplemental oxygen is available for passengers and crew. The main cabin entry measures 50 by 56 inches, and the cabin dimensions are generous: more than 18 feet long, nearly five feet high, and more than five feet wide.

Viking 400
Viking 400

Best Aircraft for Pilots on a Budget 

Mitsubishi MU-2 Marquise

A high-performance, twin turboprop with very-light-jet speeds and room for nine passengers for as little as $500,000. That’s what you get with this stretched version of Mitsubishi’s legendary MU-2 twin turboprop. Used MU-2s also cost less than half as much as comparable used turboprops, are built like tanks, and enjoy the best product support of any used business aircraft. 

The MU-2 was in a state of constant evolution over its 20-year production run between 1966 and 1989, but it basically comes in two flavors: short-body, which seats six or seven; and long-body, which seats seven to nine. The long-body models have a six-foot-longer fuselage and give up 10 knots of airspeed (down to 305 from 315). The most recent versions of the short and long bodies are referred to as the Solitaire and Marquise, respectively, and these are the most desirable MU-2s on the market. Power comes from a pair of Honeywell/Garrett engines that are compact and incredibly durable, with long intervals (5,400 hours) between recommended overhauls. 

Mitsubishi MU-2 Marquise
Mitsubishi MU-2 Marquise

Runner-Up: Daher TBM 700B 

The TBM 700 is a single-engine turboprop from France that first flew in 1988 and was certified in 1990. The six-seat, 295-knot pressurized aircraft is mostly metal but uses some composites on the control surfaces. It zips along in the relatively less congested airspace between 20,000 and 30,000 feet, where the odds increase for more direct routing and, conversely, for running into rotten weather. Moreover, it will burn only about half as much fuel as a very light jet or twin turboprop, and it climbs like a rocket. Plus, it's a great short-runway performer. At maximum takeoff weight, the 700B will lift off from sea level in 2,133 feet.

The 700B debuted in 1999 (Serial Number 126) and Socata (now Daher) built 100 of them during the model's three-year production run. It was the first TBM to feature the oversized rear door, separate pilot door, plusher executive interior and factory air conditioning. But, aside from the Piper Merdian/M500, the TBM has the least spacious cabin of any six-passenger turbine model. Most baggage is stored behind the rearmost row of seats in a cargo net and, if you require a bathroom, you need to ask the pilot to land. That said, TBMs enjoy a deserved reputation for ruggedness and their rakish appearance oozes speed, even when they're parked on the ramp. Shop carefully and you can find a good used one for around $1 million. 

Daher TBM 700B
Daher TBM 700B Photo: Mark Wagner

Best Aircraft for Short Hops

Piper M600 

Piper’s M600 is ideal for an owner-pilot transitioning out of a piston-engine-powered aircraft or for a corporate flight department needing short-hop or short-field supplemental lift. The $3.5 million single-engine, six-seat turboprop builds on Piper’s M-series fuselage, which dates back to discontinued models of the 1960s. 

No one would call the inside of this airplane voluminous: the cabin interiors for all M Class Pipers measure 12 feet, four inches long; four feet, two inches wide; and three feet, 11 inches tall. An M600 with a full bag of gas (270 gallons) has a sparse remaining available payload of just 422 pounds, about enough for the pilot, one passenger, and a bit of luggage. With seats full, a cruise speed of 272 knots, and NBAA 45-minute IFR reserves, the M600 has a range of about 785 nautical miles. Maximum cruise speed is 274 knots. This is an airplane that can easily use runways shorter than 3,500 feet and does particularly well under high-altitude/high-temperature conditions. Fuel burn at cruise power is 39 gallons per hour. 

Piper M600
Piper M600

Runner-Up: Daher Kodiak

The $2.5 million Daher Kodiak is a niche, no-frills, single-engine turboprop designed to get in and out of tight spots under harsh conditions. The unpressurized aircraft gained certification in 2007 and since then more than 265 have been delivered. The basic aircraft features a 45-foot-long high wing mated to a rugged aluminum fuselage with a large 54-by-57-inch rear cargo door, heavy-duty and high-riding fixed landing gear, a time-tested Pratt & Whitney PT6A-34 series stuffed in the nose, and Garmin’s G1000 series glass-panel avionics in the cockpit. 

The Kodiak has a maximum cruise speed of 183 knots, seating for nine passengers and one pilot, 248 cubic feet of cargo space without the passengers, and an endurance of close to 10 hours when you pull the power back to 95 knots. At 174 knots, the airplane will get you about 1,000 nautical miles of range. It comes standard with fixed landing gear but can be mounted on aluminum or fiberglass straight or amphibious floats. You can order Kodiaks with three levels of interiors including a club-four configuration of four single executive seats bisected by a pair of foldout cabin sidewall tables as well as cabinets and ice bins. Each seat has its own charging port and overhead lights, gaspers, and oxygen hookups. A new version of the Kodiak, the 900 model, was released at the EAA AirVenture show in July. Both versions will continue to be available, but the $3.5 million 900 offers a 3.9-foot fuselage stretch and a top cruise speed of 210 knots, thanks to its PT6 engine with an additional 150 shaft horsepower.

Daher Kodiak
Daher Kodiak

Best Aircraft for Family Vacations

Embraer Legacy 650E 

When you are traveling with children, one aircraft attribute trumps all others: cabin space. And the $27 million Embraer Legacy 650E twinjet has an ample amount—1,410 cubic feet. The cabin is 43 feet long, six feet high, and just under seven feet wide with seating for up to 14. There is also a cavernous 240-cubic-foot baggage hold that can swallow up to 1,000 pounds of stuff. 

Priced like a super-midsize jet but with the roominess of a large-cabin model, the 650E builds on its predecessor, the Legacy 650, and adds the Honeywell Ovation Select cabin entertainment and management system (because children must be entertained). The typical executive cabin features a forward galley and closet; four large executive seats (for the grownups) arranged in a facing group sharing two foldout tables; four slightly smaller seats with a conference table and an opposite-facing credenza; and an aft stateroom area with two more large single seats (perfect for those time outs), a foldout table, and an opposite-facing divan or couch. The divan is available with a berthing top that slides out to create a comfortable sleeping surface. The six large executive seats recline, track forward, and aft and swivel. The lavatory contains a generous wardrobe closet, ideal for in-flight clothes changing.

Embraer Legacy 650E
Embraer Legacy 650E

Runner-Up: Pilatus PC-24

Since the first steam engine, powered motion has delighted children of all ages. So naturally they want to take these toys with them on vacation. So, if you want a light jet that can land on short grass or dirt strips, with a mammoth cargo door big enough to swallow dirt bikes and snowmobiles, this is your ride. The Pilatus PC-24 is a flying SUV with a pair of jet engines. Pilatus calls it a “Super Versatile Jet.” 

Tranches of $12 million (price new) Pilatus PC-24s, representing several years of production, sold out even before the first aircraft rolled off the assembly line. Over its first four years of production, the company delivered 250 of them. Want to order a new one? Get ready to wait. Want a used one? Get ready to pay up to 122 percent of the price of a new one, according to the aircraft valuation service Vref.

This airplane is genius on almost every level: it can be flown single pilot. The Williams International FJ44-4A engines have automatic thrust reserve and a quiet power mode in place of an auxiliary power unit to provide ground power. The engines help propel the PC-24 to 45,000 feet in less than 30 minutes and achieve a maximum cruise speed of 440 knots at 30,000 feet. Range with four passengers is 2,000 nautical miles. The 501-cubic-foot passenger cabin has a flat floor and is available with layout choices that include executive, commuter, combi, medevac, special-mission, and quick-change configurations; you can also opt for an externally serviced lavatory (forward or aft) and any of several galley setups. The executive configuration features comfortable seating for six to eight. 

Pilatus PC-24
Pilatus PC-24

Best Aircraft for Potentates

Boeing BBJ 747-8i

Production of the latest passenger variant of the venerable 747 quad engine jumbo jet began in 2011 and ended just a few years later. In total, Boeing bagged a mere 155 orders for the 747-8, and more than two-thirds of those were for the cargo-only variant. The last of those will be produced this October. Airlines and VIP customers claimed the rest. Those sold as dedicated Boeing Business Jets amounted to a scant eight. Outfitting those aircraft routinely took 36 months after the aircraft left Boeing sans paint and interior. In VIP configuration it can carry 100 passengers 9,260 nautical miles nonstop. That’s 22 hours in the air, long enough to exhaust the duty times of two flight crews and require a third. The aircraft offers a spacious 4,786-square-foot, 20-foot-wide cabin, a cruising speed of Mach 0.86, and a dash speed of Mach 0.92 or 533 knots/614 mph.

Designers looked at all the 747-8’s interior space and drooled dollar signs, imagining two-story ballrooms, dramatic open lofts, and vaulted and trayed ceilings. A few VVIP 747-8s were finished to this level of opulence. The Qatari royal family took two to add into its livery of a dozen converted airliners. But both were placed onto the resale market before long. One airplane had flown only a little over 400 hours. Finding a buyer at market price—around $567 million—for such a flying palace is nearly impossible, so one of the airplanes was gifted to Turkish President Recep Erdogan. 

Boeing BBJ 747-8i
Boeing BBJ 747-8i

Runner-Up: Airbus A340-500 

The Airbus A340 quad-engine jets come in four main variants—the Dash 200, 300, 500, and 600 models—starting with footprints that are nearly 200 feet long and a wingspan of almost 200 feet and proceeding to 247 feet long and a wingspan of 208 feet, with maximum takeoff weights of 606,000 to 840,000 pounds. The larger A340-500 and 600 variants are powered by the Rolls-Royce Trent series 500 engines, with 54,000 pounds of thrust each. The 500 was the world’s longest-range commercial aircraft at its introduction in 2002, able to carry 313 passengers 8,650 nautical miles; in VVIP configuration, that range can be increased to 9,900 nautical miles. 

This is an airplane so large that you can bring along your spouse, lots of friends and relations, dozens of children, their nannies, tutors, your butler, cooks, valets, stewards, footmen, personal aides, security staff, translators, deputy ministers, a dozen pesky reporters, and all their truckloads of stuff. There’s room inside for an elevator, three kitchens with ovens big enough to roast a whole goat, a fully equipped operating room, and a secure communications suite in the cargo hold. What’s not to like? 

Airbus A340-500
Airbus A340-500

Best Aircraft for Bargain-hunters

Hawker 4000 

The super-midsize Hawker 4000 represents an opportunity to purchase a relatively new aircraft for under $4 million, but there are some caveats in terms of aircraft condition, maintenance, and parts availability. Hawker Beechcraft produced 76 of these jets until it declared bankruptcy in 2012. Textron Aviation, which acquired the company’s assets two years later, did not resume production, and support for the aircraft is something less than robust. Many parts for the 4000 can be hard to come by and generally need to be made to order by Textron. Approximately 67 of the airplanes are still in service. 

The 4000’s stand-up, flat-floor cabin features seating for eight or nine passengers in double- or single-club configuration plus a half club opposite a three-place berthing divan. A forward cabin galley, two forward closets, and a rear cabin lavatory with walk-in baggage compartment with external access complete the layout. The 100-cubic-foot baggage compartment can be accessed when the aircraft is flying below 41,000 feet. The 4000 was the first business jet designed around Honeywell’s Primus Epic integrated electronic flight deck and Honeywell's cabin-management system. The aircraft features some fly-by-wire controls, including those for the rudder and spoilerons. It needs 5,088 feet of runway at its maximum takeoff weight of 37,500 pounds. The range is 3,393 nautical miles. 

Hawker 4000
Hawker 4000

Runner-Up: Learjet 35A 

Learjet produced more than 600 model 35A light jets between 1976 and 1993, and used ones trade today for $400,000 to $1 million. More than 400 are still in service and the aircraft continues to be supported by parent Bombardier, which shuttered the Learjet brand earlier this year. 

The aircraft requires a two-pilot crew and offers seating for up to eight passengers. This is an airplane built for speed. The cabin measures a tight 12.9 feet long by 4.9 feet wide by 4.3 feet tall and volume is just 268 cubic feet. The sparse 40-cubic-foot baggage hold is something of an afterthought. There is no lav per se in this airplane. Rather, a privacy curtain in the front of the aircraft can be undone and a cushion on one of the regular seats folds up to reveal a pool of blue water below. If you are shy, this is not the airplane for you. Two Honeywell TFE731-2-2B engines power the 35A, which can fly at speeds up to 464 knots and has a brisk climb rate of 3,500 feet per minute, a service ceiling of 45,000 feet, and a range of 2,400 nautical miles. But bring your gas card. The 35A burns up to 200 gallons per hour and has a fuel capacity of 931 U.S. gallons. 

Numerous modification kits were fitted to the aircraft from both the factory and third-party providers that can increase gross weight, improve range and handling, reduce approach speeds and runway requirements, and add baggage capacity via wing lockers. Similarly, a variety of instrument panel modernizations are available. 

Learjet 35A
Learjet 35A

Best Aircraft for Environmentalists 

Dassault Falcon 8X 

The 8X long-range trijet builds on the features and flight characteristics that have made the Dassault Falcon 7X popular, adding increased utility and luxury and a 43-inch fuselage stretch. The aircraft has a fast cruising speed of Mach 0.9, a range of 6,450 nautical miles (with eight passengers and three crew, at Mach 0.8), 500 more than the 7X. The extra range—courtesy of an additional center-fuselage fuel tank and a lighter, redesigned wing—enables the 8X to fly nonstop from Hong Kong to London, Paris to Singapore, and Beijing to Los Angeles. The reworked wing also keeps the 8X competitive on short runways; it needs 6,000 feet to take off fully loaded but can stop in 2,150 feet. The Pratt & Whitney Canada PW307D engines have been optimized to offer 6,725 pounds of thrust each, with a 5 percent thrust increase and lower emissions. Dassault claims the 8X is up to one-third more fuel-efficient than other offerings in this class.

Falcon 8X
Falcon 8X

Runner Up: Eclipse 550 

Eclipse manufactured nearly 300 of its very light, six-seat twinjets between 2006 and 2017. The airplane offers 1,125-nautical-mile range, 370-knot top speed and low direct operating costs. Pilots routinely see fuel burns at maximum cruise altitude of less than 60 gallons an hour and can easily use runways shorter than 3,000 feet. 

Production of the Model 550 began in 2013. Some of these are remanufactured Model 500s and these updated models host a variety of improvements and sell used for between $1.8 million and $2.3 million. Like the original model 500, the 550 is certified for single-pilot operation. Cockpit avionics upgrades include synthetic and enhanced vision; sharper, more powerful display screens; a separate avionics standby display unit; dual integrated flight-management systems; and autothrottles for smoother, more efficient engine operation. The aircraft also adds new electronic antilock brakes.

An upgraded cabin features higher-grade, piped leathers; finished carpets; more robust table and cup-holder attachments; better handrails; a one-piece headliner that improves aesthetics; a portable server; iPad and Bluetooth connectivity; and an intercom system for pilot-passenger communications. Still, the passenger cabin is somewhat tight, the luggage compartment is little better than a shelf, and there is no lavatory.

Eclipse 550
Eclipse 550

Best Aircraft for Travelers in a Hurry

Cessna Citation X+ 

Cessna manufactured 29 Citation X+ aircraft between 2014 and 2018. It is an updated version of the original Citation X that was made between 1996 and 2012 and sold 313 copies. Both the X and X+ are rockets. The X+ was the fastest production business jet you could buy with a top speed of Mach 0.935 and a cruising speed of 528 knots, seating for eight to 12, and a range of 3,460 nautical miles. 

A near-supersonic top speed isn’t the Citation X+’s only standout feature. It also boasts a new Garmin G5000 avionics glass cockpit; an updated, mood-lit, and uber-connected cabin; elliptical winglets; and more powerful Rolls-Royce engines, a tad more speed and range, and better brakes than its predecessor offers. But it could not overcome the birth defects that it inherited from the airplane’s first generation, the original Citation X, which hit the market in 1996. Those include a narrow, stoop-over cabin replete with a 1960s-style trenched center aisle, complex hydraulics, and direct operating costs that are 25 to 33 percent higher than those of a stable of competing super-midsized aircraft—business jets that have wider, taller cabins and burn a lot less fuel.

The Citation X+, posting economic numbers that were increasingly hard to defend, never found a sustainable audience. You can purchase a good used one for less than $12 million. Ten of the 29 buyers were upgrading from old Citation Xs. Like the supersonic airliner Concorde and the Mach 3 plus SR-71 U.S. spy airplane, the X+ fell victim to the actuary’s knife. The X and X+ are one-trick ponies that were built for speed. And the trick got old.

Cessna Citation X+
Cessna Citation X+

Runner-Up: Gulfstream G500

In October 2014, Gulfstream Aerospace formally launched two large-cabin jets designed to replace its G450 and G550 models: the G500 and the G600. The top speed for both aircraft is Mach 0.925, the same as for Gulfstream’s G650ER. With the introduction of the G500 and G600, all the company’s large-cabin models will pay homage to the need for speed. 

Gulfstream G500
Gulfstream G500

Possible nonstop city pairs for the G500 include Istanbul to Cape Town, South Africa; Los Angeles to London; and San Francisco to Tokyo. The aircraft has a range of 5,300 nautical miles at Mach 0.85. The spacious 1,715-cubic-foot cabin can seat up to 13 across three li

THANK YOU TO OUR BJTONLINE SPONSORS