Today, there are over 130 private aircraft owned by Indians, scaling our skies. Industrialists Mukesh Ambani, Ratan Tata, Anil Ambani, Atul ‘Micky’ Punj, Gautam Singhania and KP Singh have their own jets. Nita Ambani got her own private number (an Airbus 319 Corporate Jet, costing Rs 242 crore) from husband Mukesh on her 44th birthday, six years ago. Steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal uses one of his many premium executive jets to get around three countries in a day. It’s not just the owners; executives of Tata Steel, GMR and Jindal Steel also use their company planes when on tight schedules.
With more and more industrialists using private jets, the country’s executive aircraft story is actually speeding the runway. According to Canadian aircraft major Bombardier, which retails small Learjets, mid-size Challengers and bigger, long-distance global business jets, the Indian market should see 1,340 private planes in next 20 years. “The demand in India will be driven by economic growth, globalization and importantly, the increase in the number of billionaires. We have the right mobility solution for busy CEO’s and businessmen,” says Nilesh Pattanayak, regional vice president, Asia Pacific, Bombardier, which showcased its wide-body Challenger 605 business jet at the recent India Aviation 2014 event in Hyderabad.
According to Frost & Sullivan, India is a fast-growing private jets market in Asia Pacific. In fact, India outnumbers China and Japan when it comes to private jets. As compared to China’s 93 and Japan’s 76 private jets, India’s 130 plus private aircraft represent 12 per cent of the global market.
“The Indian market is small but can grow further. In the next ten years, the worldwide market is set to touch $250 billion in size and the Indian market is pegged at $5 billion, which is just about 2 per cent,” says Jose Eduardo Costas, vice-president, Market Intelligence, Embraer Executive Jets, which recently delivered the $9.5-million, seven-seater Phenom 300 to Joy Jets, a subsidiary of Joyalukkas Group. Joy Jets’ Phenom 300 is now set to fly across India, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Seychelles.
Of the 130 private aircraft flying in India, the Brazilian aircraft maker Embraer delivered 20 jets in the past six years. Its other models, the $4.6-million Phenom 100, and the five-seater Legacy 450, priced at $16.9 million with a seating capacity of about eight, are the most sought-after by businessmen.
French aircraft maker Dassault Falcon is betting big on its new Falcon 5X business jet priced upwards a neat $45 million. The company, which produces military, regional and business jets, is set to debut its new large-cabin, long-haul, large-body twin-jet Falcon 5X couple of years from now after receiving necessary certifications.
“We see improving signs of the Indian market, which has been slow recently. India has a real need for expanding business aviation and we remain bullish about future market prospects,” says Gilles Gautier, vice president, Sales Europe, West Asia and Africa, Falcon. The company has 22 large-cabin, long-range private aircraft in service in India. The new orders are for the longest-range Falcon models capable for flying non-stop to London from anywhere in India, says Gautier, who has high hopes from Falcon’s 7X, priced $52 million.
The US-based aircraft maker Gulfstream flew its G650 business jet for the first time in India at the India Aviation 2014, in Hyderabad. With luxurious interiors, the aircraft can seat up to 10 and is priced at $65 million.
“As the economy improves, we anticipate that the demand for business jets will increase too,” says Jason Akovenko, regional vice president (Asia-Pacific), Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, that has 20 aircrafts in Indian skies.
An important aspect customers need to consider is the cost of parking their jets, something which can only be done at large airports like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. Besides, owners also have to count charges for ground landing, which depends on factors such as the aircraft’s weight, landing time and duration of use of parking facilities and the number of seats. Of utmost priority is getting regular inspections and maintenance to ensure the jet’s continued airworthiness, which also comes at a cost.
“Buying your own jet should make business sense. Profitability depends on how many times one will need to fly to justify the investment, and if it saves both time and costs,” says Embraer’s Jose. He points to operational expenses such as fuel costs, maintenance, airport fee, pilot fee, insurance that need to be factored in.
On the brighter side, those buying the aircraft can customize everything from noise-cancelling headphones to fully-berthable seats, touch-screen remote controls, gaming consoles, private showers and much more.