How Private Jet Cabins Impact Your Performance

Are you underestimating the role of your aircraft’s cabin in helping you to perform at the top of your game, whether in-flight or upon arrival at that all-important meeting? Fabrizio Poli shares some key items for you to consider…

Fabrizio Poli  |  28th July 2021
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    Fabrizio Poli
    Fabrizio Poli

    Fabrizio Poli is Senior Consultant at Orville Aviation. He is also an Airline Transport Pilot. Mr. Poli...

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    An executive deep in thought aboard a private jet

    As well as being an innovator’s tool  a private jet also helps passengers peak-perform. Ask any of the world's top golfers and they will tell you they could never win as much as they do without private jet travel.

    One of the key factors about a private jet leading its users to peak performance is the cabin environment. As Steven Kotler put it in his recent bestseller, The Art of Impossible: A Peak Performance Primer… “Peak performance is nothing more or nothing less than getting our biology to work FOR us rather than working AGAINST us.”

    So, let’s explore how your private jet cabin can work with you to achieve peak results in business.

    Cabin Pressure

    The first thing to consider is the cabin altitude and the quality of the air. Oxygen is the fuel that powers our body. In fact, one of the key elements causing jet lag isn’t necessarily the time zone changes but the cabin altitude (mostly 8,000 feet on airliners). 

    Air becomes less dense as the altitude increases. On the ground at 8,710ft people become more easily fatigued, golf balls travel 10% farther, and even food preparation requires adjustment because the air is thinner.

    Business aircraft are designed to cruise at very high altitudes, above airline traffic, in calmer air. This allows the engines to operate more efficiently, enables the aircraft to reach higher speeds, and helps provide passengers with a smoother ride above most of the weather.

    The cabin altitude of most private jets is at 6,000ft or below, enabling an improved passenger experience. The Gulfstream G600 offers an even lower cabin altitude of 3,800ft at a 45,000ft cruising altitude. 

    Because the G600 can cruise 13 hours or more, maintaining a lower cabin altitude means passengers arrive at their destination feeling better rested, more alert, and less fatigued than they would on any other aircraft, because the heart and lungs do not need to work overtime to oxygenate the blood.

    Cabin Air

    As airline travel starts to recover after the COVID-19 lockdowns, there is a renewed interest in air quality aboard aircraft. Viruses and diseases can easily circulate in a confined cabin, so offering a safe environment for passengers has long been a priority. On most aircraft, this is achieved in one of two ways:

    • Recirculated and filtered air systems, or
    • Fresh air systems.

    Larger commercial aircraft will usually make use of filtration systems, but a private jet could use either of these methods.

    Recirculated & Filtered Air Systems: The key is the use of HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters to clean the air before re-introduction to the cabin. The system will filter the current cabin air and mix it with some re-introduced fresh air before passing it back into the cabin. This can result in the entire cabin air being filtered and replaced 20 to 30 times per hour. You won’t get even close to that on the ground!

    HEPA filters are highly effective, and today manufacturers claim they can remove 99.97% of viruses, bacteria, and other harmful particles from the air.

    Fresh Air Systems: The alternative to filtering and recycling the air is to use fresh, outside air. Fresh air systems introduce air continuously through the engines.

    This is cooled, sterilized, and compressed before passing into the cabin. Old cabin air is vented out. Such a system can entirely replace the cabin air on most aircraft in around two minutes.

    The continual re-introduction of fresh air ensures a clean and virus-free cabin, so there is no need with such a system to use HEPA filters.

    Which Systems are Used by Which Jets?

    Most jets use just one of these methods, but some may offer a choice of either. Some users may have a preference for one method. It is generally easier to control temperature and humidity with a recirculated system.

    Some aircraft that use HEPA filters include the Dassault Falcon 7X and 8X (Dassault is currently looking at making them available for the Falcon 900 and 2000 models), the Citation Latitude and Longitude, Embraer Praetor 500 and 600, and Bombardier Global models.

    All Gulfstream aircraft use fresh air systems, meanwhile, as do some Bombardier models and Citation jets (excluding the Latitude and Longitude). Moreover, Gulfstream offers a plasma ionization purification system as an upgrade for several models. This further treats the incoming air supply to remove viruses and bacteria.

    Gulfstream’s plasma ionization system, which operates whenever the aircraft environmental control system is active, works by emitting positive and negative oxygen ions that actively seek out and deactivate harmful molecules in the air and on surfaces. This process neutralizes particulate matter — not just bacteria and viruses, but also unpleasant odors from organic material.

    The plasma ionization system is available for retrofit on the Gulfstream G650 and G650ER, G550, G450 and GV models, with additional installation options pending foreign certification. The system is provided as standard equipment on N-registered G650, G650ER, G500, G600 and the soon-to-be-certified G700.

    Using Essential Oils

    Being married to an herbalist/aromatherapist, my wife introduced me to this fascinating world. Here I discovered that diffusing essential oils in the cabin of your private jet can have numerous benefits for your overall well-being and performance.

    The pressurized air that is recycled through an airplane cabin can often feel stale and dry, intensifying any feelings of airsickness that may arise. To help counteract these effects, try using a small spray bottle with water and a few drops of peppermint oil to mist the air around you.

    Ginger, peppermint, and lavender essential oils can be effective at counteracting the feelings of motion sickness that can arise on flights when one or more are applied to the feet, temples, and wrists. Inhaling the scent of peppermint oil from a diffuser in the cabin can be of great benefit too. 

    Sitting in a confined place for a long time can be trying for some people. If this is your experience, you can use an oil made with 15 drops of chamomile in 2 tablespoons of a carrier oil, massaging a small amount on the legs and feet. Other oils that are good for calming include lavender, Roman chamomile, Focus Blend, ylang ylang, and Calming Blend.

    The cost of putting 2-3 essential oil diffusers in your private jet cabin is minimal, and the result noticeable. Learn more about being a healthy flyer in Health4Flyers: A Flyer’s Guide to Healthy Living, written by my wife and me.

    Cabin Management Systems (CMS)

    If you are buying a new private jet, it will have all the latest and greatest in  cabin electronics technology. However, if you're upgrading your existing jet’s CMS/In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) system to new technology, be sure to consider the following:

    1. Is your aircraft a productivity tool for your business, used for family travel, or a bit of both?
    2. Write a list of what you would like in the cabin, and understand what you need to meet your operational requirements. Most CMS/IFE system retrofits allow a wide range with respect to customization of equipment and look and feel. While some of this type of equipment seems ‘cool’, be careful. The rules governing what you can install in your aircraft are far different than the options available for your home.
    3. If you're refreshing your interior, this is the ideal time to replace old and obsolete equipment.
    4. Side-ledge woodwork is very expensive to modify or replace when adapting controllers and various media docks in the cabin. Consider all alternative options, including wireless controllers, unless the interior is due for a complete refresh.
    5. Consider a partial refresh if the existing system meets most of your current needs.
    6. Prioritize your needs and wants, and see what your budget will support.
    7. How long the upgrade will take is also key. Can you add a CMS/IFE refurbishment in coordination with other scheduled maintenance? Or would you consider bringing your airplane down for the sole purpose of a CMS/IFE installation?

    It is always best to fly the airplane for a few months before spending money on the interior. You may find that certain ideas weren’t that good after all. Realizing this after spending money is never a good thing.

    If you only have limited time available to upgrade your existing system, consider a provider that can perform a phased installation, thereby getting you back in the air as soon as possible, by enhancing your system one or two steps at a time.

    A complete CMS package upgrade can take 8-12 weeks to do. You also need to include 8-12 weeks of lead-time to allow for planning, ordering parts and integration considerations.

    The most common time to upgrade the CMS is when the cabin interior is also being replaced. A full CMS replacement will involve touching the woodwork and the panels, so it makes a lot of economic sense to do this as part of a wider cabin upgrade. If you opt for an HD overlay and cabin refresh this is less invasive and does not affect the interior as much (so doesn't need to be done with a cabin upgrade).

    Finally, comparing the cost to the value of the aircraft is a wise thing to do, as you don't want to over-upgrade your aircraft.

    Buying a Used Aircraft?

    If you're buying a used aircraft with an existing CMS, it is important to evaluate the overall condition and suitability of the installed system to meet your needs. Problems with in-service equipment can be significant, and expensive if appropriate due diligence is not performed before closing the deal. CMS/IFE equipment can be a huge source of owner dissatisfaction – to the point that the aircraft is disposed of.

    Make sure the CMS/IFE provider has a robust system, and worldwide technical support. Look at the age of the CMS and assess whether you can refresh it or will you need to replace it.

    Internet Connection

    Without jet connectivity, a passenger cannot schedule appointments, sign documents, or do any remote work until the jet reaches its destination, potentially creating stress and frustration. That means it is worth having internet access on your private jet.

    On-board Wi-Fi also helps simplify the process of in-flight entertainment. Instead of looking for things like in-flight movies, you can simply stream your favorite shows and movies for the duration of the flight. However, you will want to download most of these if you wish to avoid an expensive movie ticket…

    Many business airplane owners might find that the connectivity they want is constrained by the size of their aircraft (not enough room for equipment inside and antennas outside); the cost of the equipment; its installation and upkeep; and the subscription fees charged by the provider.

    The most important thing to the user is having a consistent internet signal. Understanding the limitations of the various systems is an important element of that. 

    How many systems can be installed within the constraints of the aircraft? How many antennas can be put in the radome on the tail? Can antennas be fitted on the fuselage?

    You can even install more than one connectivity systems into aircraft to accommodate worldwide coverage as much as possible, using the air-to-ground-based Gogo Business Aviation system, a Ku-band satellite system, and DirectTV.

    But even satellites cannot provide the desired connectivity all of the time. If you are flying into an area where there are ships and yachts also drawing from a Ku-band signal, you will be competing for that connectivity. 

    If you usually have two or three passengers on your airplane and then bring 10 more aboard, each with their carry-on devices, then that aggregate gets challenged. This is not something people tend to think about initially.

    Gogo Business Aviation is the most popular for US-based domestic operators, and is inexpensive compared with the other satellite-based Internet systems. 

    However, Gogo isn’t available until the airplane is 10,000ft above ground level, and it works only over the continental US, parts of Alaska and southern Canada, and a thin strip of the Canadian west coast. To obtain Internet coverage outside these areas one needs to use satellite-based systems.

    Gulfstream’s Ku-band, BroadBand MultiLink (BBML), which costs about $800,000 per system, is very fast, has high download speeds, and can work on VPNs for corporate networks. While it doesn’t have global coverage, it does cover areas outside the US. 

    Meanwhile, the Honeywell Swift Broadband system works off Inmarsat’s satellites. It’s not nearly as fast as BBML, but you do get global coverage. Most US-based Gulfstream operators would have an HD710 or BBML system for international use and Gogo for domestic travel.

    DirectTV is another option, but quite pricey, starting at $500k for installation.

    Moreover, technology has changed so that people can stream TV, use Apple TV, or put a server on the airplane and download hundreds of movies. This reduces the demand from many users for live television. However, there are still some customers requiring DirectTV.

    While connectivity is a must for larger corporate and private jets, it is also becoming more important for smaller jets and turboprops. 

    Wi-Fi is an expensive installation, though – especially for an older aircraft. Gogo is the most popular for small jet operations, and a subscription is usually several thousand dollars per month for the data, with installation being between $50,000 and $100,000.

    In Summary

    While many people talk about private jets as being time machines, they should instead be looked at as peak performance tools. This is why your jet’s cabin is so important. You want to get into and out of a meeting quickly, but also be at the top of your game at the meeting (not feeling drowsy after an eight-hour flight).

    Sometimes the solution can be an older pre-owned jet with a few cabin upgrades that gives you the edge you need to peak performance, leading you to win more business…

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