Which aircraft type is best for that next trip?
From the smallest propeller types to the largest heavy jets we demystify aircraft available for charter in Part 3 of our series detailing the world of private flying. For more information on specific aircraft types we provide a guide complete with illustrations and specs.
You can also read our previous article available here where we discuss private air charter pricing.
Throughout this article we discuss the range capabilities of various aircraft. The maximum range of an aircraft is the maximum distance an aircraft can fly between takeoff and landing, as limited by fuel capacity. This is subject to many day-of and trip-specific factors like payload (number of people and bags on board), airport capabilities, wind and weather. In real world conditions certain aircraft that may purport to show sufficient range to get you from A to B might be incapable without a stop for fuel. The best example is when flying westbound across the continent into the prevailing wind which can add up to an hour of additional flight time. Please note that discussions of aircraft range are for guidance only.
Private Aircraft Types
We describe 9 principal aircraft categories in this article loosely named based on their weight classification. In general, as one ascends by category the aircraft become larger, they hold more passengers, become more comfortable, and their maximum range increases, as does the price to charter them (read more about this in our previous article).
Propeller aircraft are categorized on the basis of their engine type, either by piston or turbine (turboprop). Pure jet-powered aircraft are categorized by size, from small entry level jets that seat 4-5 people, up to the largest VIP airliners.
Piston-Engine Aircraft Charter
Piston-engine aircraft are usually the smallest aircraft available for charter, carrying up to 5 passengers. They are well-suited to flights of around 1 hour in duration. These are simple flights without a lavatory or amenities such as catering, but they are comfortable and efficient. They are the most economical private air travel solution over short distances of up to a couple hundred miles- like a flight to a cottage, or an out of town fishing trip. When equipped with floats, aircraft such as the Cessna 182 or Cessna 206 become even more versatile enabling them to land on water.
Turboprop Aircraft Charter
A turboprop is a jet turbine powered aircraft with propellers. They typically seat 5-9 people. Turbine-powered aircraft fly higher and faster than piston-engine flights, and provide increasing degrees of cabin comfort depending on size. They offer great value on trips of up to 2 hours. These aircraft are extremely versatile as they are able to operate from short runways that many jets cannot, while still cruising fast and high above most weather. The most popular turboprop business aircraft ever produced is the venerable Beechcraft King Air. The latest variant, the King Air 350i has a range up to 2,072 miles (1,800 nautical miles/ 3,300 kilometers) and the pressurized cabin and powerful engines enable it to reach altitudes of up to 35,000 feet.
Entry Level Jet Aircraft Charter
An Entry Level or Very Light Jet (VLJ), and also known as a Personal Jet, is the smallest private jet category. These aircraft typically seat 4-5 people. They are part of a new and emerging segment of the market, incorporating the efficiencies of turbo-prop aircraft with some of the performance capabilities of jet aircraft. VLJs are typically approved for single-pilot operation. A second pilot can be confirmed upon request. These jets are perfect for short flights. Their jet speed makes them ideal when time is of the essence, and their size makes them highly economical. The newest entry into the market is the head-turning HondaJet Elite (yes, the same Honda). The small jet can quickly climb as high as 43,000 feet, fly for over 3 hours, and carry up to 6 passengers crewed by a single-pilot.
Light Jet Aircraft Charter
Light Jets are are a good choice for 4-8 people traveling short to medium range distances (usually no more than 1,500 miles or 2-3 hours flying time). These are small aircraft, with a cabin height typically between 4-5 feet, and width of around 5 feet. Don't let their size or weight class fool you - the Light Jet category includes some of the fastest private jets in the sky. The most common private jets to occupy this category include the Cessna Citation and Bombardier Learjet lines. The Learjet is particularly agile and the latest variant, the Lear 75, is able to cruise above 535 miles per hour and reach an altitude of 51,000 feet. This is more than 10,000 feet higher than the cruising altitudes of most commercial airliners. As a small aircraft, Light Jets will get you in and out of airports that commercial airlines cannot access. Their size does place restrictions on baggage capacity (you might have to leave the skis at home) but these jets are ideal for many travelers.
Midsize Jet Aircraft Charter
Midsize Jets are a good mix of comfort, performance and value for a flight of several hours. With typical seating for around 8 people, Midsize jets fly faster and afford greater comfort while still getting in and out of many small airports. They are a good choice for flights of up to 4 hours or roughly 2,000 miles. Midsize jets typically offer more head room - plus, there are generous amenities on board including a larger galley for greater food and beverage options. While they have greater range than light jets, several mid-size jets do not offer continental range with more than a couple of passengers on board. Step up to a super-mid.
Super-Mid Jet Aircraft Charter
Super-Midsize Jets have many of the traits common to larger "heavy jets" with pricing closer to that of the midsize range. Slightly roomier than midsize jets, the super-mids excel in their range capabilities. They are a solid choice for flights from one end of North America to the other. Super-mids seat 8-9 people in greater comfort. Several aircraft in this class are capable of flying for well over 5 and a half hours. This is a versatile category of aircraft, as you will find many amenities common to larger jets (a galley, phone, video screen with DVD capability). Wifi is increasingly available on these aircraft. This category of aircraft includes the very popular and extremely roomy Bombardier Challenger 300 series, and the speedy Cessna Citation X. The latter is among the fastest business jets in the sky, capable of reducing a typical flight between New York and the west coast by almost 1 hour. The latest player to this space is the new Gulfstream G280 with its 4,028 mile (3,500 nm/ 6,483 km) class-leading range. A stand-out in terms of range, it has no problem reaching well into continental Europe from North America.
Heavy Jet Aircraft Charter
Heavy Jets offer an extremely comfortable private jet experience. They typically seat 10 or more people. They fly faster and higher providing a high level of cabin comfort and amenities for longer-range flights. With a range of roughly 8-9 hours of flying time they are capable of travelling between certain continents, and performing other long over-water flights. Large chairs, wide aisles, larger baggage compartments, premium audio and video entertainment, phone and a full galley are standard, with fax and wifi increasingly available. Heavy jets often come with a flight attendant to enhance safety and assist with catering for both business and entertainment. The names Challenger and Gulfstream are common to this category. Gulfstream debuted the first large cabin business jet in the late 1960s and numerous types remain in service today including the G IV, G IV SP, G400 and G450. The Bombardier Challenger 600 series is that manufacturer’s large cabin design and the latest variant, the Challenger 650, is still in production. Both Challenger and Gulfstream jets in this category have range capabilities in excess of 4,600 miles (4,000 nm/ 7,408 km). Other players in this space include the newer Embraer Legacy 600 and 650, and the Dassault Falcon 2000 and 900. The latter’s 900LX model has a full passenger range of roughly 5,700 miles. Long a player in the light and mid-size cabins, Cessna is currently working to introduce its Citation Longitude which it says will be the first new innovation in the heavy jet category in 20 years.
Ultra-Long Range Jet Aircraft Charter
Ultra-Long Range Jets offer all the comforts of heavy jets, and more, with extended range capabilities for the longest flights. They typically seat 12 or more people. Designed for non-stop inter-continental travel, these aircraft sport flexible cabins configured with separate compartments for working, dining, or relaxing, along with top-of-the-line amenities. A flight attendant comes standard. This last major category is largely dominated by Bombardier and Gulfstream which continue to create jets with globe-spanning endurance. The top range leaders in this field include the soon to enter service Bombardier Global 7500 with a maximum range of 8,861 miles (7,700 nm/ 14,260 km), and Gulfstream’s current G650ER with its 8,631 mile range. These jets were designed to fly routes such as New York-Hong Kong, or San Francisco to Singapore.
VIP Airliner Private Charter
Business Airliners (also known as VIP Airliners or Ultra Large Business Jets) are optimal solutions for groups of between 12-20 people (or heavy cargo) on medium to long-range flights where luxury or an environment for conducting business is of prime importance. There are several different types in this category including jets worthy of VIPs or heads of state. They commonly feature ultra-luxe accommodations with private dining and sleeping facilities, numerous lavatories, a gym and/or shower and meeting rooms. The Boeing BBJ (Boeing Business Jet) was developed initially as a derivative of the highly successful Boeing 737 commercial aircraft program, while the Airbus ACJ is a converted commercial Airbus A319. These aircraft offer range in the neighborhood of 7,000-8,000 miles depending on the model- not quite as far as the ultra long range business jets but much larger in size with greater cabin comforts. Boeing and Airbus also offer VIP configurations of their large wide-bodies with a maximum range of 11,500 miles (Boeing 777-200LR). These jets will take you just about anywhere on the planet with a suitable runway.
Aircraft Range Summary
The range circle diagram below provides for slightly different values than what we describe in the text as it assumes a typical full passenger load with all seats filled. It does not take into account potential airport limitations, or variable factors such as winds, weather conditions, or other restrictions.
How Do I Charter a Private Jet?
The process is easier than you'd imagine. At ELEVATE we are connected directly to the global charter marketplace and can help match your travel needs with the right aircraft to fit your budget. We can tailor the entire experience for you including ground transportation and in-flight catering. If productivity, time, speed, convenience, flexibility, service and comfort are among the factors that really matter to you then ELEVATE is your opportunity to change the way you fly.
Next: What's it like to fly on-board a private jet?
In Part 4 of this series we'll go inside some private jets to give you a taste of the travel experience. We’ll also shine a light beyond the luxury to show you why private aviation is an important business tool for large corporations which do this frequently and own aircraft.
Read previous articles in this series:
In future articles we'll also help answer these questions:
-Where can I travel to and from on a private jet?
-What should I know when booking a trip on a private jet?
Who We Are
ELEVATE Aviation Solutions creates bespoke flying experiences for its business and leisure customers. Clients deal directly with an ELEVATE charter director: a licensed pilot with decades of experience in commercial aviation and private air charter. We deal only with top-rated aircraft operators that meet our stringent standards for safety, training, and maintenance. Book Now.