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A defense of business jets

By the editor-in-chief of the magazine Business and Commercial Aviation (NY Times, Sunday):

Perhaps a reality check would help: Envision a rectangle 11 feet long by 4 feet 9 inches wide. Now, stand in the center, scrunching down so the top of your head is no more than 57 ½ inches from the bottom of your heels. That’s the cabin area of those riding in a Cessna Citation CJ1, which together with its predecessors, comprise the most populous model — by far — of business jet in the world.

The oval cabin has seats for five passengers. Up front is a mini-pantry with a coffee dispenser; in back, a compact lavatory. The space is roughly equivalent to a large family van, and while quite comfortable, the jet is short on glamour and luxury.

Rather, the Cessna’s popularity, along with that of its close competitors, centers on another data point: 3,250. That’s the number of feet of runway required for the aircraft to accelerate to flying speed and take off or, should something catastrophic occur, slam on the brakes and still have pavement remaining.

That figure — 3,250 feet — means business aircraft can alight on any of the 5,000 or so public-use airports scattered throughout the nation’s suburbs, small towns and back country, as well as land at small city airports abandoned by airlines decades ago. By contrast, the airlines fly to only about 500 airports, and of those, fewer than 70 get about three-quarters of all traffic.

If two companies are competing for business, the one using a business aircraft can fly directly to one of those smaller airports and get to lunch with the client before the other guys taking the commercial airlines show up.

And the business people with the corporate jet won’t just arrive faster; they’ll also show up better prepared. After all, most companies send teams of people, and in their own airplane they’re free to discuss confidential information or polish up that PowerPoint presentation. What’s more, they can use the phones, their BlackBerrys and the Internet en route. In other words, these jets are offices that move.