2nd January 2015

The history of private planes

learjet70

The first private jet

The first private jet was developed by the Swiss American Aircraft Corporation, later to be come known as the Learjet Corporation, and was based on Swiss military ground attack fighter aircraft. The aircraft featured the distinctive wingtip fuel tanks and tricycle landing gear common to many of the fighter jet designs of the period. Instead of the turbojet engines usually found on military aircraft however, the aircraft’s designer, Bill Lear, substituted the more efficient, and quieter, ducted fan engines that are still used on today’s commercial airliners.

The Learjet23, as it come to be known, first flew on October 7 1963, with the first production model delivered the following year. The aircraft was a massive success and suddenly anyone who could afford it could travel as fast as an airliner, but with the privacy, comfort and convenience of a private jet. Stars of the time such as Frank Sinatra and Danny Kaye were among the first to buy the new aircraft. The Learjet 23 was truly revolutionary and many of the the modern private jets flying today are direct descendants of that first aircraft.

Larger, faster, more luxurious

Throughout the 1960s and 70s private jet aircraft continued to develop. Aircraft from companies such as Gulfstream, Dassault and Embraer, names synonymous with some of today’s most popular and cutting edge aircraft, flew for the first time. 1980 saw Paris Le Bourget airfield be dedicated solely to private and business aviation and it is now the busiest private airfield in Europe, with close to 50,000 flights a year.

It wasn’t until the 1990s however that the industry truly took off, in some part due to the new concept of fractionalised ownership. Under this scheme companies could share the cost of maintenance, hangarage and operating costs associated with owning a private jet, whilst still benefitting from the convenience and flexibility that they offer.

In the last 20 years the variety and capability of private and executive jet aircraft has expanded considerably. In the last few years the development of the Very Light Jet segment of the market has brought the reality of flying in a private jet within the reach of a far greater number of people. Whilst at the top of the industry the development of the ultra long range, luxurious and spacious heavy jets continues apace. Private jets are flying people further, faster and in more comfort than ever before.

The future of private jet travel

As to the future, supersonic prototype aircraft have already been designed that will reduce the flight time from London to New York to under 2 hours. Aircraft are being developed where the windows are replaced by screens covering the entire interior of the cabin, giving the passengers a truly immersive experience of flying amongst the clouds. Companies are striving to developer ever quieter and more efficient engines and the use of biofuels is now being looked at.

Private planes have come a long way since that first flight over 50 years ago. As the lower end of the market becomes ever more accessible and the top end ever more luxurious it is an exciting time for the industry and we are looking forward to the introduction of new aircraft and technologies in the coming years.