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Private jet industry takes off in India
Alisha Patel, CNN • Published 12th July 2017
(CNN) — The Indian private jet industry is the latest playground for the country's wealthiest.
Billions of dollars worth of new private aircraft have entered India over the past 10 years -- making it the ninth largest in the world, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). By 2026, it's expected to overtake the UK to become the third largest in the world.
"The surge will take India from 18th globally (in terms of private jet numbers) to fourth. Intriguingly, the country boasts almost double (111) the amount of private jets than China, even though China has many more billionaires," writes William Stolerman at Luxury Insider, Asia's leading online luxury magazine.
"Leading the private aviation revolution are the likes of the Ambani brothers, the Tatas, the Ruias' Essar Group, TVS, KP Singh's DLF, Gautam Thapar, the Jindals and Cyrus Poonawala."
Meeting with Gulfstream
We meet Gulfstream, North American manufacturers of some of the world's most technologically advanced business-jet aircrafts, on their recent visit to Mumbai. We imagine they know their game, since the United States accounts for over 50% of the global market at the moment and they have a 200-order backlog for the G650, Gulfstream's new flagship aircraft.
In their briefcases, they're carrying information on eight models for sale in India.
They begin with the mid-size, wide-cabin, high-speed Gulfstream G150, at approximately $1.1 million (Rs 71 crore), and go all the way to the ultra-large-cabin, ultra-long-range Gulfstream G650 -- the fastest, longest-range and largest purpose-built private aircraft in the world.
Base price tag? Around $45 million (Rs 298 crore).
Big deal. Those are digits Shah Rukh can generate in two films. Reliance Big Pictures is rumored to have bought the rights to SRK's "Don 2" for around $19.5 millon (Rs 125 crore), and there's talk that Eros International is buying Khan's home-production "Ra.One" for $27 million (Rs 175 crore). Add that together.
$46.6 million (Rs 300 crore) is also about the amount telecaster Doordarshan will earn from ad sales in the 12 days of the Commonwealth Games telecast next week.
There's money in India, and Gulfstream's fleet of business jets hopes to cater to every price point and mission requirement from 2,950 to 7,000 nautical miles.
The G650 is the only traditional business jet capable of flying 7,000 nautical miles nonstop at a speed of Mach 0.995. The G550 is also a favorite with the "I'm kind of a big deal" corporate sorts, because it can accommodate 14 to 18 passengers, depending on the configuration.
Design choices, contrary to what you would imagine, are various. Leather, fabrics, wood veneers, metallic finishes, as well as crystal, china and flatware -- at no extra cost.
Customers have a lot of flexibility when it comes to the cabin layout as well. For example, they can choose whether to have the galley placed forward or aft; or whether to have a private stateroom in the back. Stateroom, did you say?
What more could you ask for?
A high-definition flat-screen television? Yes. Fully berthable seats? Yes. Internet access? Yes. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP)? Yes. Noise-cancelling headphones for each passenger seat? Yes. Touch-screen remote controls? Yes. A fully-functioning galley where you can make hot food? Yes, yes, yes.
I could get used to this.
Easy now, buying your own jet isn't all glamor. As well as asking yourself a couple of serious questions such as whether you'll use the aircraft enough to justify the investment, how many people will be traveling with you on most occasions and what the operational expenses will be (insurance, fuel costs, maintenance, airport fees and pilot fees, for example), you need to think about a couple of caveats too, advises Gulfstream.
If you want a shower, you'll have to sacrifice some range and speed because your aircraft will be carrying gallons of water (which weigh a lot). Also, as a rule of thumb, all the materials selected have to be certified as both smoke- and fire-retardant, a critical safety must.
Finally, private jets must receive regular inspections and maintenance to ensure their continued airworthiness. Unlike an automobile, where much of the maintenance is optional, an aircraft operator must adhere to the outlined maintenance schedule in order to maintain the aircraft's certificate of airworthiness.
Yeah, yeah ... where do I sign?
You're interested. Now how do you go about sealing the deal?
You need not have the full payment ready right away but you will have to demonstrate commitment with a deposit when you initially sign the purchase agreement. This is where things get serious: the agreement outlines the model of aircraft you purchased, the equipment you want, the delivery time frame and the terms of prepayment.
For Gulfstream customers, delivery is generally taken at the headquarters in Savannah, Georgia, or one of their other completion centers, such as Appleton, Wisconsin or Long Beach, California. The company will get your plane where it needs to be and give you all the support you need.
You'll be connected with the worldwide Product Support network to help you wherever you may fly. Gulfstream will even send a captain and technician along with the customer during his first few days of operation to ensure a seamless transition.
Gulfstream Regional Vice President Jason Akovenko, who is responsible for the Asia-Pacific region, has seen sales shift from 60% North American to 60% international in the last few years, with much of the shift toward Asian markets.
The growth of private aviation in India, Akovenko thinks, can be linked to various trends including "India's dynamic business culture, increasing global business linkages including Indian acquisitions abroad, and recognition in government and industry that aviation helps foster economic growth."
This is symbolic of a huge shift in the mindset of corporate India. What was once seen as an aspirational luxury of the highest kind will increasingly be viewed simply as the cost of doing business at an international level.
Editor's note: This article was previously published in 2010. It was reformatted, updated and republished in 2017.