My Most Memorable Business Jet Flight

Business jet travelers recall unforgettable trips, including one that helped save a baby’s life and one to a Star Trek convention

What was your most memorable flight? We posed that question to some business jet travelers, including several of our past interview subjects. Here are their responses.

They Went Boldly—to Vegas
“We rewarded a group of staff by flying them to a Star Trek convention in Las Vegas. Everyone had to dress up on the plane in Star Trek garb. I was the pilot, wearing a green lizard suit from a memorable episode. You don’t know what hot is until you’ve been on the ramp at McCarran in a green lizard suit. We had 12 people going into the FBO in various Star Trek outfits. You can’t imagine the looks on the faces of passengers and crew in the lounge at Signature in Las Vegas as we all trooped in there. A Canadian air force crew insisted on having their pictures taken with us. Everyone called out ‘Live long and prosper!’ and we were greeted at the desk with the Vulcan salute.”  
—John Jordan, CEO, Jordan Vineyard & Winery

Making Two Lives Easier
“We were scheduled for a meeting in Ohio and, through Corporate Angel Network, had committed to picking up a woman in Kalamazoo, Michigan who needed a surgical procedure in Rochester, Minnesota. Our Ohio meeting was cancelled, but we had already committed to bringing the patient to Rochester. I said to my copilot when we departed for Kalamazoo, ‘This is going to be fun.’ My freed-up schedule opened the door to helping another woman, a friend whose husband had recently died. Since she was nearby, we offered her a ride to visit her family. The two women, each with a history of cancer, could sit on the plane and comfort each other. It wasn’t the flying that made this trip memorable, but the ability to make two women’s lives a little bit easier during a difficult time for each of them.”  
—Bruce Hanson, owner, Hanson Communications

“...we had a brilliant evening with a full moon and not a cloud in the sky. These snow-capped peaks were 4,000 or 5,000 feet above us as we wound our way through the Rockies. It was the most fabulous experience of flying I’ve ever had.”     —Herbert V. Kohler, Jr.

Ice Cream in Atlanta
“For years, a friend of mine had schlepped around the world on commercial flights with uncomfortable seats, so I was thrilled to see him buy his first private jet. To celebrate the purchase, we decided to fly to Atlanta and eat ice cream at the first ice cream parlor he’d opened quite a while back, after he’d bought a milk company. The ice cream wasn’t that good, but the experience was great.”  
—Shelly Fireman, owner, Fireman Hospitality Group

A Daughter in Distress
“My daughter was sick, and I had to get her to the Mayo Clinic as quickly as possible. She'd just been diagnosed with laryngomalacia, a disorder in which you’re born with a really small opening in your throat, and she was not doing well. We called the pilot, set up the flight, and took off. My daughter was sick the entire flight, and if we’d had to go through the whole commercial experience, it would have made it harder than it already was. When we arrived, the doctor booked her for surgery immediately, and we spent the next few days at Mayo, where they took care of her. To have your family ride with you and to be able to use private aviation to help save your child’s life was a big deal. I’ll never forget it.”  
Brad Keselowski, race-car driver

No Piña Colada Necessary
“My most memorable private jet experience was flying from Orlando to Hawaii for a golf tournament. I took my kids with me. Between them, strollers, diapers, and formula, you can get stressed out, but I wasn’t. I didn’t have to wait in a long line with impatient kids. The car just pulled right up to the plane, and the kids got to choose their seats and were given snacks. And they got to go up and say hello to the pilot. We landed in San Francisco to refuel and the kids loved watching the fueling. Traveling was like having a coffee break, and all of a sudden, we landed in Hawaii. Normally, it’s ‘Can I have a piña colada?’ but I didn’t feel I needed one. A private jet is like a time machine because you get there and you’re ready to work. I didn’t feel I needed a good night’s sleep or a massage. It was terrific. When you’re there to play golf, you can’t have a sore back or a kinked neck and I was able to go out and practice right after de-boarding.”  
Annika Sorenstam, champion golfer and businesswoman

Rocky Mountain High
“I’ll never forget my first trip. In 1969, my first airplane was a Piper Navajo, and we were going to a distributor in Reno. We left Wisconsin around 6 p.m. and approached the Rockies as it was getting dark. The plane could go up to only about 12,000 feet, and the Rockies are about 18,000 feet, and we had to keep flying because we had an appointment at 8 the next morning. Fortunately, we had a brilliant evening with a full moon and not a cloud in the sky. These snow-capped peaks were 4,000 or 5,000 feet above us as we wound our way through the Rockies. It was the most fabulous experience of flying I’ve ever had.”  
Herbert V. Kohler, Jr., chairman, Kohler Co.

A Scary Email
“Having just arrived in California, I received an email from my husband. The subject line was ‘Heart Attack.’ He wrote that he was in an ambulance on his way to the regional medical center in Missoula, Montana. I quickly phoned him and heard sirens blaring. He spoke with eerie calm. I was over 1,300 miles from Missoula, in a relatively remote stretch of California’s coast. The closest commercial airport was almost 60 miles and an hour’s drive away. It was just before the Fourth of July holiday. Flying commercially would have required two connections, and all the flights were full. It would have taken days to reach my husband’s bedside. Only private lift could get me to him that day. The closest option was the small, regional airport in Santa Ynez. A charter company dispatched a Pilatus PC-12 within minutes, miraculously. I arrived at the hospital only a few hours after receiving the email from my husband, who subsequently made a full recovery.”  
—Barbara Barrett, former ambassador to Finland

Saying Yes at 25,000 Feet
“I met my girlfriend seven years ago at 25,000 feet, when we were cabin crew on the same flight. We fell in love. I was looking for a memorable way to propose to her, so I spoke with Paramount Business Jets CEO and founder Richard Zaher, who offered me a variety of charter options tailored to my budget. At Christmas, we were in Canada with my family, and we stopped by Calgary International Airport. Richard had suggested renting an Embraer Phenom 100 from the company that had given me my first job in aviation. I told my girlfriend we should take a picture with the aircraft, in keeping with our connection to how we met. Then I said, ‘You won’t believe this, but they want to take us on a tour of the Rockies.’ I popped the question at 25,000 feet, the same altitude at which we had met. When I proposed, she couldn’t speak but had a huge smile on her face and held out her hand. It was perfect.”  
—Marcel Rosetto, manager, HIA Lounges (Hamad International Airport)

A Career Takes Off
“My most memorable flight was the first time Bob De Niro and I flew to Paris on his jet. We flew at night and the flight attendant made our beds. I went to sleep but woke up in the middle of the night. Here I was, an unknown actor who had just busted out big in Bronx Tale, and now I’m on this private plane and I wake up and see De Niro there sleeping. The flight attendant was sitting there reading a book and I asked, ‘Do you have any finger food?’ He pulled out a table, set it with a tablecloth and a vase with a rose, and served me this beautiful breakfast. I was happy and humbled and grateful for the way my life had turned around. It was a great moment. I’d gone from being an actor on stage to suddenly starring in movies with De Niro; I had nothing in between. And I went from flying coach to flying by private jet with De Niro.”  
—Chazz Palminteri, actor/producer/director/entrepreneur

From Beans to a Boeing
“I got all the way from picking beans [as a sharecropper] in 100-degree weather to owning a 737. That was unbelievable, man. That big 737 took off out of Stuart [Air Force Base in Florida on the day I took possession of it], and we circled out around the ocean. And then we came back inland and we flew right over the orange groves, the fields that I used to work in. And I was looking out the window and I saw the fields and I said, ‘My God!’ I had to pinch myself. I mean, tears were coming down. I said, ‘Lord, I thank you!’ I thought about my daddy and working in those fields together and insects biting us and 100-degree temperatures. And there I was in my Boeing 737.”  
—Willie Gary, billionaire lawyer (as told to editor Jeff Burger in a 2005 BJT interview)