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A Brief History of Private Jets



Private Jets

Private Jets have been maligned in the press lately and the use of them harshly criticized by some politicians. This is the story of Private Jets (the short version).

The first Private Jet was the Learjet 23, which came on the market in 1964. It was modeled on the military fighter jet, the first of which was invented by the Germans and was operational in 1944: The Messerschmitt. The Learjet 23 flew at the astounding speed of 561 miles-per-hour.

Before Bill Lear invented the Private Jet, he had already invented the first car radio; the first 8-track tape player; the first aircraft autopilot; and the first automatic aircraft landing system. Bill Lear had an eighth grade education and served in the United States Navy during World War One.

The first private jets were designed to seat six to eight passengers plus a two-man crew—obviously created for wealthy individuals and substantial companies. These "private jets" later became known synonymously as "Business Jets," "Corporate Jets," or "Executive Jets."

Today, there are 11,000 of these aircraft in use and most are in, or registered in, The United States. The speed at which they fly has not improved remarkably as they are restricted by governments from approaching the sound barrier, obviously because it would wreak havoc on the world below if Private Jets were creating sonic booms all over the place.

Private Jets have the advantage not only of speed, but also of altitude. Altitude is a pilot's best friend. And a jet aircraft can cruise at altitudes of up to 49,000 feet above the Earth, where there is very little traffic—the cause of accidents in most forms of human transportation—and where the atmosphere is very thin enabling the jet to cruise using very little fuel.

To fly at this altitude the aircraft must be pressurized, due to the lack of oxygen above 10,000 feet (and the extreme cold temperature). This pressurization creates an artificial atmosphere for the people inside. So, essentially, one is hurtling through space at 600 miles per hour in a small metal tube eight miles high.



Cessna Citation

In 1971 Cessna introduced the Citation 500 jet aircraft to compete with Learjet.  Though much slower (cruise speed approximately 400 miles per hour) than the Learjet, due primarily to its straight wing versus the swept-back fighter jet wing of the Learjet, the Citation eventually became the most popular Private Jet of all, as it proved much easier to fly, thereby enabling pilots of lesser skills and experience to command it safely. 




Gulfstream entered the private jet market with its Gulfstream II, which is a much larger aircraft designed for the truly elite of the world, capable of the speed of the Learjet but with capacity for up to 19 passengers and range of 4000 miles without refueling—roughly four times the range of the Learjet or the Citation.





Private Jets

Private Jets serve many purposes today including the transportation of business executives and pleasure travelers. They also provide air ambulance services, organ transplant flights, angel flights, mapping missions, surveillance, and freight hauling.

The distinct advantages over commercial airliners include the ability to fly upon demand—on a flexible schedule determined by the client versus a strict schedule set by an airline—and the capability to land at ten times more airports—putting the client closer to their ultimate destination and enabling multiple destinations in a single day.

In addition, Private Jets provide a higher level of security (no one on the plane not invited by the client), privacy and the convenience not available with the long security lines, baggage checks, restrictions on personal items and pets, and the disrobing required to board a commercial airline.


James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 04, 2016:

The last three comments here are bafflingly silly

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on December 03, 2012:

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GmaGoldie— My three plane Hubs are among my very first efforts at writing articles. I am well pleased that enjoy my work and this piece in particular. There are some things I miss about Florida. But I am a man of the Midwest at heart.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read my article and send me this nice note. More recently I published a Hub about the History of Aviation. In case that interests you, here is a link to it:

Kelly Kline Burnett from Madison, Wisconsin on November 28, 2012:

How did I ever miss your plane hubs? Amazing - I am an avid reader and I missed these! So glad I have found them.

Always enjoy your hubs!

I cannot look at Florida but with thinking of you.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on July 30, 2012:

Emma Tameside— I am thrilled that you enjoyed my article so much. Thank you for your kind compliments. I totally agree with your assessment of the use of private jet aircraft. I appreciate the visit.

Emma Tameside on July 23, 2012:

I don't understand why politicians would criticize the use of private jets. Commercial airlines simply can't offer the same level of service that can be received from using private jets. My company, although not that large, has begun flying private to both run efficiently and impress potential clients. This has managed to actually save and even sometimes make us money in the future.

I really enjoyed this article, extremely informative and easy to read. Most certainly my favorite

thing about flying private is the flexibility it offers, I can't stand having to run my schedule around a commercial timetable. On top of that, the security and queues are a nightmare.

I mean, if anyone's interested in flying privately, especially if you're a business, don't hesitate to look further into it. I'll leave a link below to get you started;

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 14, 2011:

stars439— It is always a pleasure to hear from you, Brother. Thank you very much for visiting; and for your compliments and blessings. God Bless!

stars439 from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State. on October 13, 2011:

Wonderful hub. A wonderful way to travel in style. Great hub. God Bless You My Brother, and your precious family.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on August 30, 2009:

CharterJetService— Well, thank you and Welcome to the Hub Pages Community. I'll be sure and read your Hubs soon.

CharterJetService on August 30, 2009:

Great hub James, I wold have never guess that Bill Lear had invented the 8-track. Great information.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on July 11, 2009:

Peggy W— Thank you for your insightful comments. You added a valuable point of view.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 11, 2009:

Your comment on the cost savings and amount of work actually done by using jets says it all. Oh.....and the kidnapping threat.....something most people probably have not considered. Of course they could always pay for bodyguards and buy extra seats on commercial airplanes while they wait for hours to board...assuming there are no weather delays, etc.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on June 08, 2009:

Dolores Monet— That is a tad extravagant. :D

I cannot disagree with your comments and I welcome them. Thanks!

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on June 08, 2009:

Hi again, James. Labor creates wealth. Just pay working people a living wage. I recently saw an ad for an $18,000.00 pocketbook. Now, the high society gals sure want their fabulous stuff, and their desires for that stuff do support the people who make them. But $18,000.00 for a purse? They can't keep up with the demand! Something just seems wrong. (oh, you can pick up a cheap knock-off for $1500.00. which doesn't really seem too far fetched if yu've got the dough)

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on June 02, 2009:

Thank you, Chris. I do appreciate you for saying so.

Chris Eddy111 from Ontario, Canada on June 02, 2009:

Another good hub. Light and refreshing.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on June 01, 2009:

I do see the per capita GDP in the United States is 17 times higher than 150 years ago (adjusted of course).  So it looks as if the whole country is doing better.

A cursory look seems to indicate that most web sites do think the gap between the top 20% and the top bottom 20% is widening.  Studies show, however, that the people in this groups do not stay in the them.  The membership in these groups is fluid.  Only 2% of the population stayed in the bottom 20% for ten consectuive years.  And the top 20% aren't the same folks every year either.  Fortunes are made and fortunes are lost. 

On a different tangent—why do you suppose it is that when I see a photo of "the poor" in Africa, India, China they are like super skinny.  I mean they look really hungry.  "The poor" in America are generally big and fat.  I mean, go down to the welfare office and take a look at those stretch pants.  What do you think is going on there?


Back to the income gap—what would you propose as the solution?

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on June 01, 2009:

James, I am not rich bashing, but merely pointing out the vast economic differences of today (or maybe more like last year). JP Morgan, Rockerfeller, Louis XIV were no mere CEOs but the super rich. And Pharoah, whoah, now you're really going back to the time when the leader was thought of as a god. I am thinking more of the 1950's and the 1960's.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on May 28, 2009:

Dolores Monet— Yes, you have a good point there.  "greatly exceeded that of the past" I am not too sure about.  Could be.  I'm going to research that a bit.  I think of Vanderbilt, JP Morgan, Carnegie, Rockefeller, Pharoah, Louis XIV, Solomon . . . maybe I can find some stats on that someplace.

Thank you for reading and your insight.  You make valid points, to b sure.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on May 28, 2009:

Of course I can see the practical point of private jets. I was speaking of the particular circumstance. But one can not fail to see how resentment has built up among working people who are struggling to afford basic nessessities of life while the CEOs are making extravagant wages and bonuses. The proportion of income difference has greatly exceeded that of the past.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on May 28, 2009:

Dolores Monet— I am thinking maybe you lived near an Air Force Base, or training area?  I hear the sonic booms when the Space Shuttle comes over my house on its way to land at the Cape.  Pretty cool.

I do see the irony, yes.  eovery was including the salaries of the executives driving by car when he arrived at that number.  Also, very wealthy people worry about being kidnapped sometimes.  They could fly commercial of course.  An extensive study done a few years ago showed that companies with their own jet deliver 150% more profits to their shareholders (which could be anyone with a 401K) than did companies without one.  Many reasons for this.  They get back to work sooner; they don't have to cut an important meeting short to make their flight; they conduct strategy meetings on board both ways (still working); if a meeting ends quicker than they thought they don't have to wait for the next flight, they just go; but mostly, they can beat their competitors to close a deal if they can get there much faster.  Not to mention, image means a lot in business.  People tend to want to do business with those they perceive to be successful at what they do and nothing says we are successful that coming to town to close a deal in your company jet.  Many companies use the jet to bring clients or prospects to them, too.  "Want to come see our factory?  I'll send the company jet to pick you up." That deal will be closed for 1000 widgets! 

Lastly, going to DC is one thing but many executives need to go to say, Thomasville, Georgia for a 2 hour meeting.  Now what?  Spend 2 hours at the airport, fly to Atlanta, drive 4 hours in a rental car, get a hotel, drive 4 hours back, 2 hours in airport, fly home, missed 2 days of work.  A business jet can wrap that up in 4 or 5 hours—no rental car, no hotel, a lot less time.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on May 28, 2009:

Interesting hub, James. Those private jets are really beautiful things. I remember when I was a kid, they had not restricted air speed (or they had and nobody cared) and you could hear those sonic booms so loud, sometimes the dishes would rattle. Of course, us kids thought it was very cool.

I think the complaint about the use of private jets was in the case of the GM guys coming to DC to beg for money. And you people can't see the irony in that? There is a big difference between driving (how can driving across the country even cost $320,000 as eovery suggests, that's impossible - unless he's driving a Hummer,haha) and flyiing a private jet. There are commercial airlines as well.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on May 23, 2009:

Gin Delloway— And I thank you!

Gin Delloway on May 23, 2009:

nice hub!!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on May 23, 2009:

Yea, the fuel bill would be astronomical! :) Thanks for coming back.

Alexander Silvius from Portland, Oregon on May 23, 2009:

True, the majority of private flights are within the US. Supersonics would suck too much fuel at fast or slow speed for anyone's pocket book except B. Gates!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on May 22, 2009:

Alexander Mark— That is a good question about private supersonic jets. I believe the restriction is only for over land but that makes it somewhat impractical because few private jets make the same runs over and over again as do airliners with their designated routes. I would imagine it would be quite expensive for limited use—and I am not sure if you could even fly it over land at a slower speed or not. Those old Lears, Gulfstreams and 727s are extremely loud. I see by your profile that you are in the business. Aviation is mighty slow in Florida. Thanks for your visit, thoughful input and excellent question.

Alexander Silvius from Portland, Oregon on May 22, 2009:

Good overview of the origin of private jets. I have a question though, is private supersonic travel restricted? I thought it was a general over-land restriction, and that would make supersonic even more impractical and costly for private jet travel. I see a lot of smaller jets on our ramp, but the bigger they are, the less you see them. I would think a supersonic private jet would be even less popular than a BBJ.

I did not know that the Lear was modeled after a fighter jet, but when I see an old one, (usually medical), I am always reminded of an F16, especially at a full power take off.

One of my favorite things to do is unplug the power on an old Lear because it's so loud, I can feel the soundwaves going through my body as the plug is located right under the engine!

Fun hub, great comments.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on May 22, 2009:

Brute— Hey my old friend! It is always nice to hear from you. As always, your commentary adds what I didn't think to say and that makes it better. I have been digging your fascinating Hubs. I would like to see you do one on HG soon.

TheMindlessBrute from Orlando,Florida on May 22, 2009:

Private aviation moves at the speed of business but you hit a soft spot,to me with this hub James because private aviation moves at the speed of life.That organ that is needed to save a life can't be sitting in the cargo bay of a Fed Ex or U.P.S. flight,or get tossed around by a baggage handler on a commercial flight.Then all of the people,employed behind the scenes become part and parcel to that circle of life.

This hub is the end to the debate.Nice one James!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on May 21, 2009:

eovery— Thank you! I appreciate the fact that you get it! Driving to DC may have been good PR—or at least the avoidance of more bad PR—but it is bad economics. Thanks for reading and your wise commentary.

eovery from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa on May 21, 2009:

Nice hub,  i always wanted to fly but never learned.  Almost got into the Air Force, but did not do it.

I think it funny how people do not get the economics of the private jets.  When GM, Chrysler and Ford Presidents meet with the President, they were ridiculed for the private jet usage, which is stupid if you look at the economics.

You have Presidents of large corporations who makes millions of dollars a year, which is over 20k per hours, flying in a plane that cost them $1ok per hour.  Instead on the next meeting, they drove for over 8 hours each way, i.e. $320,000 for a the guy to sit and drive a car to his meeting.  This is stupid, where he could have flown for a total of $30,000. 

Corporate jets are a tool, that if it saves money, use them.  With GM, Ford and Chrysler in trouble, I would rather have the Corporations President working on the company solvency, instead of a driving a car to Washington D.C.

Keep on Hubbing!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on May 21, 2009:

Robert— Thanks for viewing my Page and leaving this kind comment.

Robert on May 21, 2009:


As always a very good piece and it is apparent that besides music you are passionate about a good many subjects. Keep writing.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on May 21, 2009:

lefseriver— Thank you!

I am quite familiar with the Cirrus.  Not long ago, I owned a flight school and we had a SR22 for training.  Beautiful airplane.  I saw the Cirrus jet on display at a trade show last year (NBAA).  Gorgeous!  I did not know Boeing was ever in Duluth.  That is interesting. 

I used to have a jet maintenance shop (Repair Station) and a gentleman from Duluth was my client.  During the summer he would live in Duluth but he wintered in Sanford (Orlando) and his Falcon Jet came with him, so we would maintain it for him.  Geno Palucci. 

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on May 21, 2009:

Captain Fuller— I am honored to have a famous pilot—and hero of a hostage situation—reading and commenting on my Post! Thank you very much, sir. I remember # 3 well. Old Sharkey Baz flew it over as I recall for that inspection. # 1 is in a museum and #2 crashed—or vice versa. That makes # 3 the oldest private jet in the world that is operational.

David Walli from Northern Minnesota on May 21, 2009:

Nice hub... Cirrus Design in Duluth has test flown a jet now and it looks sweet. I think it is single engine. Interesting stuff. Also did you know that Boeing used to have property in Duluth near the lift bridge, but he ended moving to Seattle..

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on May 21, 2009:

Kushal Poddar— Well sir, I very much appreciate you saying so.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on May 21, 2009:

Mr. Thorman— Thank you and you are welcome. Lear was an exceptional man with a lot more to his story but I try to keep it pithy. I appreciate your comments.

Capt.Estan Fuller EAL/SUNJET Ret. on May 21, 2009:

James; Very nice article. Lear Jet serial # 3 is still at Bartow, Fl. Where I ferried it to 8 yrs. ago after Sun Jet did an extensive check on it at Sanford,Fl. Just heard that it was recently sold. Estan Fuller

Kushal Poddar from Kolkata,India on May 21, 2009:

Excellent article

John C. Thorman on May 21, 2009:

James, very interesting background on Mr. Lear. Thanks for sharing a little of his very inspirational story.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on May 21, 2009:

Douglas— I appreciate you for reading my post and commenting.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on May 21, 2009:

Douglas— There are two very good books about Bill Lear. One is

and the other is

Douglas on May 21, 2009:

James, wonderfully informative. Can you recall the book which may have been an autobiography or biography of Bill Lear?

Douglas on May 21, 2009:

James, wonderfully informative. Can you recall the book which may have been an autobiography or biography of Bill Lear?

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on May 21, 2009:

Arch Dynamics— You are so right. This is the first in a series of three—I do everything in threes, sevens, or twelves, as I am a numerologist—but that is another subject.

I intend to get to the vast, sprawling, worldwide private jet support services industry. Perhaps I should have mentioned it here. I will get to it next!

Thank you so much for being the first to read and comment on my latest adventure.

Arch Dynamics on May 21, 2009:


Another exceptional, cogent and well-presented article - who knew that Bill Lear invented the 8-track?!

Perhaps a follow-up article relating to the irony of unemployment linked to the Left-agendized maligning of the private jet industry?

It would seem that, while most of those utilizing these corporate aircraft are certainly in the well-to-do ranks ... would it not be true that scores of others are gainfully employed due to their very success in the employe of these aircraft?

As with the yacht industry, for every well-off individual who is suddenly unable to purchase said multimillion dollar conveyance - that one yacht left unbuilt leaves behind it a multitude of unemployed skilled workers as casualties.

Detritus, if you will, of the culture wars and - ironically - hurting the very people it purports to empower.

Just food for thought - keep up your great work!

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