Identified VIP-Flying Object: Private Aviation

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 The VIP-configured 787-8 offers 2,404 square feet of cabin space and a range of 9,590 nautical miles, while the VIP-configured 787-9 offers 2,762 square feet of space and a range of 9,950 nautical miles.

There are extravagances that scream “I’m better than you”-items that remind the average Joe of a socio-economic divide that cannot be crossed. At the starter level, for the merely rich, there is the $500 bottle of wine, the Porsche, the real Rolex, first-class on a flight. Then there are the really rich, with the Pétrus, the Phantom, the Audemars Piguet, and the Bombardier. And then there is the whole other level, the fabulously filthy rich, with the wine cellar full of cases of ’45 Pétrus, the Bugatti, the Corum Billionaire Tourbillon, and the private airliner-size jet.

This is not about the presumed colossi of the private jet galaxy like the mighty Gulfstream G5’s or Global Expresses, whose occupants can whistle-stop continents and oceans at high speed and in plush comfort, bypassing the stress of commercial airports, airline schedules, and, well, strangers. This is about big, long-haul airliners that are converted into private jets and can carry not only pampered passengers and their entourages, but also, in some cases, their Bugattis and Arabian horses. These are specially equipped, privately owned jumbo jets-the kind that normally carry 300 passengers-but are reconfigured with interiors designed for the enjoyment of a couple dozen. And in a market in which many owners progressively upgrade-starting out, for example, with a Boeing 737 and eventually moving up-the shiniest new toy is the Boeing 787 VIP Dreamliner, which starts at about $150 million.

The 787 is the company’s first all-new jet since the 777 in the early 1990s. It’s not so easy building an airplane, and harder still to develop a new one from scratch and then build it in various pieces around the world (an international production line that includes 43 suppliers in 135 different sites) to be shipped to one place for final assembly. Yet Boeing’s Business Jet division is producing one of the most elegant, sophisticated, and efficient planes in the world, making the Dreamliner an extremely attractive jet for tycoons. The 787 has it all-long-range capability, advanced technology, and a spacious, comfortable cabin-superb capabilities that are needed to conduct non-stop business around the world. The VIP-configured 787-8 offers 2,404 square feet of cabin space and a range of 9,590 nautical miles, while the VIP-configured 787-9 offers 2,762 square feet of space and a range of 9,950 nautical miles.

In terms of technology, the Dreamliner’s engineering advances push the envelope. For example, the structure is nearly half composite (instead of the similarly strong, yet heavier, aluminum and titanium). That allows the wingspan to be longer and narrower than a conventional wing, resulting in more flex during flight. It also translates into 20 percent greater fuel-efficiency when compared to other aircrafts of similar size and range (read: smaller carbon footprint). In the cockpit, a groundbreaking flight deck features much larger display screens than previously seen in airplanes, helping pilots to access more information. Additional new information formats include an airport moving map for safer ground taxi operations, as well as a vertical situation display to give a graphic rendering of approaching terrain profiles. And wind-detecting technology will predict upcoming turbulence and then adjust the aircraft accordingly.

So what about the cabin? Well, the stratosphere’s the limit. Boeing does not design or install interiors in VIP airplanes. Boeing delivers them in so-called “green” condition, meaning the airplane does not have interior furnishings or exterior paint. Customers then work with certified designers and interior completion centers to exactly match individual preference and need. Typical interiors could include staterooms with ensuite bathrooms, dining areas, lounge areas, meeting rooms, and private offices. “A Boeing 787 VIP affords its owner complete accommodation,” says Steven Hill, president of Boeing Business Jets. “The spacious cabin and the technology of the 787 enable an owner to design a beautiful environment that exactly meets preferences and needs. Whether you are looking for a flying palace or a business office in the sky-or both-the possibilities are endless.”

Even though the first deliveries of the Dreamliner are not expected until 2009, industry experts say that marketing interior design plans now is a good route, because there is always great interest in the next big thing at the highest end of the luxury private jet market. Ordering now ensures getting into the front of the line for a private 787, fully loaded -like Henry Lau, the Hong Kong real estate magnate, who ordered the seventh one, at a $153 million price tag. So if you want to kick the tires of your very own cruising palace in the sky, you better get crackin’.

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