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As Louis Sullivan so aptly said- form follows function. Some missions call for more than a Light or Medium jet. Sometimes it takes a larger jet to handle a large job - hence the ongoing appeal of the Large Cabin jet.

Dave Higdon   |   1st December 2010
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Dave Higdon Dave Higdon

Dave Higdon writes about aviation from his base in Wichita Kansas. During three decades in...
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The Large Cabin Equation
As Louis Sullivan so aptly said- form follows function. Some missions call for more than a Light or Medium jet. Sometimes it takes a larger jet to handle a large job - hence the ongoing appeal of the Large Cabin jet.

Size often is used as a measure of quality or desirability. While the saying goes- “good things come in small packages”- the pragmatic view would be that some big things need equally big packages - and so it is with Business Aviation.

Some days- the mission commands an aircraft of larger capacity. In respect to that- this month our value examination focuses on Large Cabin business jets.

People deal with the concept of size on a fairly routine basis - usually with little thought to the relativity of the concept. What constitutes small to one may appear large to another; what amounts to huge on my scale might only tip the scales toward medium for you.

In aviation- one usually deals in such relativities with reference to weights. For the purpose of this month’s focus on Large Cabin jets we categorize aircraft weighing roughly between 40-000 pounds and 80-000 pounds (the latter figure once constituting the upper limits of business turbojet and turbofan jet airplanes). The advent of the additional- more niche-focused Ultra-Long-Range airplanes and the Bizliner segments have since stretched those limits.

Note: In some cases- aircraft in our Bluebook Value Analysis may weigh marginally more than the 80-000 lbs limit for this category but are included as derivatives of an airplane that is firmly established as a part of our Large Cabin category. In such cases- they are likely to have gained some weight through adaptations and modifications over time.

Large Cabin jets offer plenty in their favor. First- however- if there’s one defining negative element of the Large Cabin jet and its upsize kin- it is in the runway lengths they typically require. Runways longer than 6-000 ft (ideally longer than 7-000 ft) make access comfortable- particularly when the airport elevation is high or on days when the temperature is warm. As density altitude increases- so do runway requirements – but that’s not unique to the larger jets.

Many paybacks counter-weigh the runway numbers. The key elements of this category’s appeal include speed- cabin size and range.

Speed & Range: The main differentiator between Large Cabin jets and their purpose-built Ultra-Long- Range counterparts generally stem from the larger fuel capacities and the higher gross weights the latter category needs to go huge distances. Otherwise- the average Large Cabin and Ultra-Long-Range airplanes share more in common than they differ- with similar cabin sizes and comparable cruise speeds.

Speeds ranging between Mach 0.75 and Mach 0.85 are the overall trend for the Large Cabin segment. Range capabilities typically up to- and into the 4-000-nautical mile range make Large Cabin jets effective non-stop continent- and ocean-crossing machines: and the fewer the stops- the shorter the overall trip time.

Size: Where the Large Cabin airplanes really excel (as the name would suggest) is in their cabin capacities. A cabin for this category of jet typically will stretch into 30- even 40 feet (or slightly more)- enabling operators to enjoy a wider array of finishing options and office-like features than jets in the smaller segments.

Perhaps the nature of your business requires a couple of distinct- mostly private spaces where different groups can work independently en route. A Large Cabin business jet would definitely be a solution. Dedicated office spaces and a flying conference room are all possible on board this category of aircraft. Alternatively- the length of travel may require a sleeping section walled off from the rest of the cabin. At this size- if you can imagine it- interior designers and completion shops can likely fulfill your vision.

Naturally- the size and range capabilities don’t come cheaply; you’ll need a larger fuel budget- more hangar space- a larger maintenance budget and - for safety and utility - a crew of three: two on the flight deck- and a professionally trained Flight Attendant for the cabin.

Essentially- for the company with the need and budget- the Large Cabin business jet will rarely- if ever prove too small – and will only occasionally be too large for an airport you’d prefer. For cases like those- you can always charter – just as the small aircraft operators do when they need to up-size for the occasional trip.

The Large Cabin Jet Retail Price Guide overleaf represents current value published in the Aircraft Bluebook - Price Digest. The study spans model years from 1991 through 2010. Values reported are in US$ millions.

Each reporting point represents the current retail value as published in the Aircraft Bluebook by its corresponding calendar year. For example- the Falcon 900EX EASy values reported in the Fall 2010 edition of Bluebook show $31m for a 2008 model and $26m for a 2003 model- and so forth. Aircraft are listed alphabetically. With the reader’s knowledge of aircraft- equipment- range and performance- the following guide allows the reader to determine the best value for consideration.

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