Boeing Business Jet Review
When the term “Boeing Business Jet” is used, most people think of the Boeing 737 in an executive configuration. It is true that most BBJ’s are 737’s, but the term “Boeing Business Jets” includes much bigger aircraft in the inventory, like the 777, 787, and 747.
The right amount of money and intent can result in any kind of Boeing being outfitted for executive use, but this review will be about the Boeing 737. It outnumbers the other models by a huge amount and is the lowest cost, smallest BBJ and is the aircraft most likely to be chartered and operated by corporate flight departments. To save time and to keep things simple, lets agree for the rest of this review that the “BBJ” refers to the BBJ Boeing 737.
Costs are a relative thing…
High cost may be the first thing you think of when considering the BBJ, but like many other things in business travel, cost is a relative thing. The ability of the BBJ to carry huge loads over very long international distances offsets a lot of the concern about expenses versus travel. The acquisition cost of the BBJ is around $30 million for a bare-bones jet. By the time the aircraft comes out fully outfitted from a completion center its cost usually rises in to the $80 million dollar range.
Boeing airliners have a very long history of service going all the way back to the beginning of aviation. This long background and deep reservoir of Boeing trained maintenance personnel along with easy availability of parts around the globe make the BBJ a very good choice for companies heading for places like Russia, China and India. Many executive teams fully believe in the saying: “if it’s not Boeing, I’m not going.”
When designing this most opulent of executive air barges, Boeing combined the 737-700 fuselage with the -800 wing and landing gear and extra fuel tanks, They developed the combination that would become the BBJ, officially titled the Boeing 737-700 IGW (increased gross weight), offering a 6,200 nautical mile, or 7200 statute mile range. The engines on this aircraft were well thought out by designers. It has two 27,300-lb-thrust CFM56-7 engines, produced by CFM International.
Boeing began accepting deposits for the Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) in 1997 with production starting shortly after that. There are currently one hundred and forty seven BBJs in operation worldwide with many more on order.
The BBJ offers a tremendous amount of cabin space. The passenger cabin is huge with roughly 807 sq. ft. It is a very livable and comfortable space with a passenger cabin ceiling more than seven feet high. There is a larger version of the BBJ, called the BBJ2 and based on the 737-800 cabin and it offers 1,000 sq. ft. passenger space.
Various interiors are available that include seating for 14 to 27 people, conference tables, additional conference rooms, sleeping quarters, bathrooms with showers and gourmet galleys. This is one of the few executive transports in which the passengers are better rested at the end of a long flight than when they began their journey.
Most BBJs today are operated by governments for chief executive travel or by the very rich. This trend may change as charter companies and fractional owners realize that Boeing pays for almost everything the first five years and that these aircraft don’t cost much more to operate than a GV or a Global. For example, you can lease the GV for $8,000 a flight hour and the Boeing for $9,500 per hour.
Not a lot in common with the Airline 737
The BBJ is not a 737 that is repainted and fixed up to look like an executive barge, Only about ten percent of the BBJ’s structure and design is in common to the 737 Next Generation, a recent airline iteration. There have been many changes in design for its new role away from the airline world. The BBJ uses much of the same safety architecture as the original Boeings, but with changes to bring it up to snuff for its role as a non-airline aircraft.
Because of its airline heritage and tough design, the BBJ can be operated independent of most ground support anywhere it travels. It has a stairway that folds neatly into the fuselage and an APU (auxiliary power unit) and air conditioning packs that can cool the aircraft even in the hottest parts of the world.
The aircraft has a tremendous amount of baggage capacity. Storage for luggage and cargo is beneath the passenger cabin and is easily accessible for ramp workers to load and unload without having to use ground support equipment to get the job done. Some operators of the BBJ opt for an in-cabin closet that offers passengers in-flight access to their suitcases.
This capacity is a huge advantage for international flight operations because it allows for the carriage of spare parts and support gear you might need at arrival.
The max gross weight of 171,000 pounds this aircraft has can be a concern at some airports because of runway and ramp weight restrictions, but these holdbacks won’t be found at most destinations. At some airports its large wingspan is a concern. For example, the BBJ has had trouble getting permission to operate in and out of Aspen Colorado where ramp space is at a premium.
A Pilot’s Airplane
The BBJ is a comfortable place for pilot to work.
The flight deck instrument panel layout includes five 8 by 8-in. Honeywell LCD flat-panel displays–the same as those used in Boeing’s 777–connected through dual Smiths FMS units. The BBJ comes standard with a Honeywell Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System, a Flight Dynamics HGS 4000 Head-Up Guidance system, dual ADIRUs, 120-min cockpit voice recorder, triple VHF, dual HF and TCAS II. The airplane is also certified for RVSM airspace, 8.33-kHz spacing and required navigation performance (RNP) 0.5 nm. The BBJ also uses a Smiths auto-throttle system.
The room in cabin behind the cockpit door would quickly spoil any corporate pilot, once you pass the galley and the crew rest quarters. Five people could easily walk abreast in the cabin and never interfere with each other, which is easily one of the largest selling points to the Boeing.
The aircraft flies with the reliability and steady performance that its airline background implies, yet has the strength to take daily use with multiple flight legs in any region of the world. Pilots are easily found for this aircraft because of the huge pool of flight crews who have trained on and flown the airline version of the 737. Boeing says that many pilots who already hold a type rating on the aircraft would only need a few days of training to get up to speed as opposed to the weeks and weeks needed if the pilot was starting from scratch.
The Boeing BBJ is the most attractive and compelling aircraft on any ramp that it graces. Kings and presidents travel in it and the aircraft never fails to make an impression everywhere it goes.
It is cost effective and efficient than people first sense. Given its huge capacity to carry people and materials all over the world along with its long range, easy availability for maintenance and parts, the BBJ is a true world traveler.
The BBJ has been accepted slowly in the world of charters and executive travel. Until recently, the aircraft has mostly be purchased and used by the one percent of the one percent of the rich and famous in the past. This perception is already changing and you will see the aircraft being used more and more in other roles. It is a beautiful aircraft that shouts to the world that you are a major player every time you arrive at your destination.