“"Many years ago, our company founder, Al Conklin, sold a new twin-engine business aircraft to a very successful entrepreneur. He had established a bit of a rapport with the individual and, after the sale, asked him straight out, 'How can you justify the cost of this airplane?' His reply? 'What is the cost of a divorce?'"–David Wyndham, president, Conklin & de Decker”
To Asia and Back
Where is your business taking you today? Markets are emerging and growing all over the globe, particularly in the Middle East, China and India. It doesn't matter whether you run a bank, a factory or a chain of stores-sooner or later, you may find yourself trading goods or services with people halfway around the world.
An unusual confluence of aviation-related conferences and exhibitions in Asia this winter (see box on page 64) got us thinking. While we don't expect many readers of this magazine to fly to these particular events, we recognize that many of you now do business in these areas of the world or may be doing so soon. So we thought it would be interesting to give you a sense of what life would be like on a one-week journey from New York to Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Hong Kong; Nagoya, Japan; Bangalore, India; and back home.
Our initial idea was to compare the performance on this trip of four long-range business jets-the Airbus Corporate Jetliner (ACJ), Boeing Business Jet (BBJ), Bombardier Global Express XRS and Gulfstream G550. We asked the International Trip Planning services department at Jeppesen to create flight plans for three of the aircraft using standard (Bracknell historical) winds. (Our thanks to Nancy Pierce at Jeppesen, for coordinating this effort.) We received data on the fourth-the ACJ-directly from Airbus. (Jeppesen, a Boeing subsidiary, wasn't able to provide information for the ACJ.)
The flight plans assumed that each aircraft would have maximum allowable fuel and would carry two pilots and one flight attendant. The ACJ and BBJ (which typically accommodate eight to 12 passengers in a long-haul stateroom configuration) would make the trip with six passengers, while the G550 and Global Express XRS (which typically carry six to eight passengers) would have four. We wanted everyone onboard to be comfortable and have plenty of room for the spoils of their exotic shopping trips, without having to worry about putting the jets over gross weight limits.
While the ACJ and BBJ, which were derived from the A319 and 737 airliners, respectively, are larger than the Global Express and G550, and therefore can carry more passengers, the Global Express and G550 can cruise higher and slightly faster, giving them more options for avoiding rough weather. Jeppesen estimated that the BBJ and ACJ would each reach a cruising altitude of 41,000 feet on this trip, while the other two would climb as high as 49,000 feet.
Such differences notwithstanding, we found remarkably few differences in flight time among the four aircraft on our proposed journey. Each of them boasts a range in excess of 6,000 nm, and their total flight times for our proposed trip were within 30 minutes of one another. So the numbers that follow for each leg of the journey apply to all four aircraft, plus or minus some knots and minutes.
A key advantage of making a trip of this magnitude in a private jet instead of by airline is that you'll spend significantly less time traveling and more time attending to business and enjoying yourself at the destination. Each of these jets can fly nonstop from New York to Dubai in about 12 hours. A search on Expedia.com revealed that Emirates is the only airline offering a nonstop flight from JFK to Dubai, on a Boeing 777 with a flight time of 12 and a half hours. This, of course, doesn't include the hours you'd spend waiting in security lines and airport lounges.
Sure, the flight would cost more on a private jet. But as a consumer of business aviation, you know that the primary reasons why you choose to travel on a private aircraft are to maximize your time and to experience superior comfort.
Sunday morning: departing for Dubai
The streets are quiet as we leave Manhattan on a cold winter morning, and our driver delivers us to nearby Westchester County Airport in well under an hour. We had decided to meet at the office at 7 a.m. to go over some last-minute details of the presentation we're showing to potential customers in Dubai tomorrow. I woke up at 4 a.m. to get in a quick workout before we left, but it was too early to eat breakfast. By the time we arrive at the airport at 10 a.m. for our departure, I'm famished.
Thankfully, as soon as we board the airplane, our flight attendant Jenny brings out a satisfying assembly of scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, warm banana-nut muffins and fresh-squeezed orange juice. After breakfast, we hold a teleconference by satphone with European colleagues who will join us in Dubai.
Traveling on this business jet, which feels more spacious than my first apartment, is a new experience for all of us. Our company doesn't own this or any other aircraft. We're a small startup and don't have large expense accounts. But the more we learned about this enormous business opportunity in Asia-which, if all goes well, could launch our company toward the Fortune 500 virtually overnight-we realized that too much was at stake to risk losing precious hours of productivity, at a critical time, shuffling through crowded airline terminals. We had to take advantage of every minute, and so chartering this big office in the sky made perfect sense.
Since we need to get to sleep early to be rested by the time we arrive in Dubai, which is nine hours ahead of New York, we eat dinner at 3 p.m. Jenny surprises me by serving one of my favorite dishes-homemade meat lasagna from a hole-in-the-wall place that we go to all the time, a basket of warm garlic bread, a salad and a velvety glass of pinot noir. Our charter representative had asked us all sorts of questions about our tastes and habits, so Jenny was well prepared to please. I'm just finishing dinner when she closes the window shades and dims the lights. By 4 p.m., we passengers are tucked into our horizontally reclined seats, side divans or beds and drifting off to sleep.
Monday morning: arriving in Dubai
Flight time from New York: 12 hours
Average ground speed: 500 knots
Distance traveled: 6,113 nm
The sun is rising over the Persian Gulf as we begin our approach to Dubai International Airport. We're right on schedule to arrive at 7 a.m. local time. Despite a solid six hours of sleep, we feel a bit groggy. It's 10 p.m. in New York and our bodies are insisting it's time to hit the sack. But it's Monday morning here and we have a long day ahead of us. Now is a great time for a cup of strong Arabian coffee.
We eat a quick breakfast as the airplane descends through cloudless skies. We'll shower and dress at Jet Aviation's FBO. Jenny and our pilots, Mike and Anne, head off to a hotel to sleep while we ride downtown in a Mercedes-Benz limo for our presentation.
The meeting in Dubai is a success. Though delighted about having just earned enough business to pay for this trip, we are all feeling a little wiped out after the presentation (and still fighting jet lag), so we treat ourselves to a tour of the new Palm Island resort. I'll have to come back here for a vacation sometime-this place looks as if it could be the set of a James Bond movie.
At 6 p.m., we gather for dinner at an authentic Middle East restaurant before returning to the airport. By nine, we're enjoying drinks and a movie as we slide through the black, starry sky on our way to Hong Kong, which is four hours ahead of Dubai. We have a meeting with another potential client at 10 a.m. local time tomorrow, and Anne, our first officer, tells us we should arrive just in time to eat, change, shower and do it all over again.
Tuesday morning: arriving in Hong Kong
Flight time from Dubai: 6 hours 30 minutes
Average ground speed: 535 knots
Distance traveled: 3,447 nm
The flight from Dubai is mostly pleasant-just a little turbulence over the Himalayas-and our jet lag is beginning to fade. We have several meetings planned today, culminating in a casual business dinner with our Asia Pacific sales representatives.
After that, I think I'll try out the hotel gym and pool before hitting the sack. Although sleeping on this airplane is definitely more comfortable than even first class on a 747, we're all relieved that tonight we'll get to stretch out in king-size beds in the solitude of our own hotel rooms.
Wednesday evening: arriving in Nagoya
Flight time from Hong Kong: 2 hours 50 minutes
Average ground speed: 535 knots
Distance traveled: 1,540 nm
We departed Hong Kong at 1 p.m. local time today for the relatively short flight to Nagoya, which is another two hours ahead of us here. One of these days, we'll catch up with the clock.
Due to local noise-abatement regulations, Nagoya's Kenei Nagoya/Komaki International Airport closes from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m., so it's important that we arrive on time. Parking is extremely limited there, but our ground handlers have arranged a spot for us well in advance.
As we settle in for a cup of coffee and a debriefing of the day's activities, Anne chimes in from the flight deck to tell us that the weather in Nagoya upon our arrival will be cloudy and 40 degrees with blustery winds. I'm glad I brought along my wool dress coat. Packing for this trip was a challenge, because of all the climates we would experience throughout the week. It was 15 degrees when we left New York, and it's forecast to be a balmy 75 when we arrive in Bangalore tomorrow.
We'll spend tonight and all day tomorrow in Nagoya, and depart for Bangalore at noon on Friday. This week is passing by almost as fast as the snow-covered mountains below us.
I wonder whether the sushi in Nagoya is as good as it is in New York.
Friday evening: arriving in Bangalore
Flight time from Nagoya: 9 hours
Average ground speed: 430 knots
Distance traveled: 3,833 nm
Our tour of the historic Nagoya Castle this morning was amazing. By noon, we were back on the airplane and headed to Bangalore, our last stop before flying home. So far, we've traveled more than 11,000 miles and secured more than $20 million in new business. Not bad for a bunch of computer geeks.
The sushi in Japan did not disappoint, so we brought some back in a cooler for lunch. As we climbed out over the Pacific Ocean-the likely source of the sushi-we reviewed the strategy for our all-day meetings in India tomorrow. Bangalore has rapidly become one of the country's most westernized cities and almost feels like home. When I visited the city last year, I ate pepperoni pizza at a fast-food restaurant overlooking a shopping center named Manhattan Mall, and drank a beer at a bar that had Guns 'n' Roses blaring from the jukebox. We expect our meetings in Bangalore to go relatively easily.
Sunday morning: departing for New York
Flight time from Bangalore: 10 hours
Average ground speed: 440 knots
Distance traveled: 4,504 nm
Our meetings yesterday went better than expected and finished earlier, too. I had time for some afternoon shopping in the Indian street markets, where delicately embroidered tops can be had for the price of a vente skim latte. The guys squeezed in 18 holes at Eagleton, one of the country's finest golf resorts, and returned to our dinner meeting with tales of impossibly long shots. The food was excellent-I really love Indian cuisine.
When I awoke in the hotel this morning, I was both relieved and disappointed. Though we accomplished everything we wanted to do on this trip from a business perspective, I wish we had more time to stick around and be tourists.
By 9 a.m., we are back at the airport in t-shirts and shorts, watching as the ground crew loads our things back onto the airplane. Captain Mike tells us we'll have stiff headwinds on this leg, but we should be touching down in New York in plenty of time to have dinner at home with our families. Sounds good to me!