The aviation world is undergoing a revolution, but the battle isn’t only being fought with more powerful engines, lighter fuselages, faster speeds and longer ranges. From microlights to superjets, many manufacturers are offering options aimed at making each and every journey more comfortable than ever before.
In the never-ending quest to edge out their competitors and offer the most exquisite airborne experience possible, manufacturers are now offering high-tech avionics suites, leather seats, climate control and a host of other features in many planes. These luxurious add-ons don’t only come with expensive business jets, either, with even microlights, gyros and LSAs boasting some very refined aspects.
It just goes to show that you don’t need Richard Branson’s money to live like him – well, while you’re in the air, at least!
No matter what your budget or what you’re flying, there are options to add a bit of comfort, sophistication and flair to your aircraft. After all, what’s the point of being a pilot if you’re not going to feel like the king of the world every single time you leave the ground?
SMALL BUT SMART
Even the tiniest of aircraft are capable of offering majestic flying opportunities these days. You don’t need to spend the GDP of a small Caribbean nation in order to purchase something elegant, because the Cessna Skyhawk certainly has the ability to impress. The latest iteration of the world’s most popular aircraft is available with optional leather seats for less than $10,000, huge wraparound windows for superb viewing, and soft LED lighting to ensure a calming atmosphere.
Options include skylights and air-conditioning, proving that the Skyhawk has everything it needs to compete with the most glamorous planes on the planet. Best of all, the price for one is so low that you’ll actually be able to afford a cocktail or two after landing on a tropical island!
As by far the smallest and lightest aircraft we’ll be looking at, you could be forgiven for assuming the M3 Sport from Airborne Aviation is lacking in luxurious features. Sure, this mighty microlight is open to the elements and provides a very raw form of flying, but steps have been taken to make the experience as comfortable as possible.
The whole cockpit has been revised, and the upgrades are immediately obvious. It’s wider and more spacious than in earlier versions, meaning even larger pilots will have plenty of room. The seats have recently been redesigned for function, comfort and wear, with increased leg room and improved footrests.
The dash has been simplified for a neater finish, and there are more instrument options than ever before, allowing from the Amptronic GX2 instrument to a 8.5 inch MGL EFIS colour instrument with integrated GPS.
The team at Airborne are certainly aspirational, and the tiny M3 Sport offers a rich experience that belies its small size.
Combining power and elegance, the six-seater Cessna Citation Mustang sets the standard for excellence when it comes to very light jets. The Mustang combines the comfort of a large business jet with the freedom and ease of piloting of a light aircraft, and boasts all the speed, range and reliability you’ve come to expect from this famous brand.
The cabin is large enough to provide a comfortable flight every time, but cozy enough for a more intimate experience. Of course, it boasts the finest finishes and highest quality materials for a truly luxurious journey. The Mustang’s cabin quarters also feature six large oval windows providing spectacular views as you zoom all over the world.
Also from Cessna is the schmick new M2, which is based on the Model 525 CitationJet (CJ1), and is a brilliant aircraft in its own right. Perfect for corporate, charter or private use, the M2 features a redesigned interior with excellent in-cabin technologies, with updated touch-controlled avionics suited for a single pilot.
The extravagance also extends to a fully digital, dual-channel autopilot system equipped with many features for added safety, redundancy and reliability. Integrating data from the avionics system, the autopilot is built to ensure optimum smoothness and comfort.
The flying experience is a delight, with numerous features that set it above the competition. The six passengers can enjoy leather seats, climate control and plenty of headroom.
The Tecnam P2006T is one of the most gorgeous planes you’ll ever see, so it should come as no surprise that it offers plenty of luxurious features. As part of the standard set-up, extra care has been given to the cabin’s interiors and acoustic comfort – it really does provide a quiet experience. The ventilation system features one vent outlet for each occupant, which isn’t found in many competing planes. The state-of-the-art heating system warms the cabin to a toasty temperature, meaning every flight feels like a sunny afternoon.
That should be enough for any pilot, but if you really admire the finer things in life, the premium options ramp things up even further. Sumptuous leather seats and an improved and darker ceiling improve the flying experience, whilst making every aircraft unique. For $35,000, a full autopilot system can also be installed. The P2006T is a truly classy machine.
The Italian heartthrobs keep the hits coming with the jaw-dropping Tecnam P2012 Traveller, which also has some very sexy bits and pieces. With a cabin that’s wider and taller than any of its competitors, the P2012 is certainly impressive, and all that extra space leaves plenty of room for a suite of expertly-designed seats that are finished in the finest materials.
The avionics suite is based on the latest generation Garmin G1000 Nxi, composed of two 10-inch PFDs and a single central 12-inch MFD. It’s been designed to be both robust and relatively easy to use, easing the stress on the pilot or pilots. Yep, this baby can easily be switched over to dual-pilot mode.
With all of this and much, much more, the P2012 is the perfect aircraft for flying from an exclusive beach resort in Spain, to a business meeting in New York, to a shopping trip in Bangkok.
Rapid advances in technology mean that smaller commercial aircraft have become popular with private owners, because they’re now easier to fly and provide unparalleled comfort. Six to 10 seaters can easily be reconfigured for private use, with many manufacturers offering high quality interiors to go with the beefy performances.
These mid-range marvels are often kitted out so brilliantly that the end result is impossible to discern from the small commercial airliner versions, and in most cases they look even better. It’s not unusual for manufacturers to offer interiors that will make every passenger feel like they’ve won the lottery.
The Cessna Caravan is best known as a cargo transporter, air ambulance and regional airliner, but as a private jet it really comes into its own. It can be configured to carry nine passengers in style, with plenty of leg room and enough height in the cabin to make to make everything feel nice and open.
Cessna has gone all-out in their attempts to aim the Caravan at a more discerning clientele, with highly ergonomic seats, sturdy headrests and enhanced sight lines thanks to the impressively large cabin windows. The leather-like seats are a throwback to a more dignified time, but also provide plenty of storage space.
Wifi and entertainment systems call also be added on, meaning that it’s really up to you just how sumptuous you want the trip to be.
In the same class, but costing an impressive $7 million is the Piaggio P180 Avanti II. It also carries nine passengers and has proven popular with air forces across the globe, as well as with charter companies, who are drawn to its palatial interior.
Piaggio, a company that has long held a reputation for attention to detail, recently released the so-called Comfort Package for the Avanti II, which includes VIP seats designed and developed by Iacobucci and finished by luxury outfitters Poltrana Frau.
The Italian styling is absolutely sumptuous. Sitting in one of these pimped-out cabins is akin to basking in the glory of Mediterranean villa. With a glass of Ornellaia red in hand, every journey feels like a holiday.
Designed to be flown by the owner, without a flight crew, the Cirrus SF50 was also built with relaxation in mind. Features like side yoke controls, the innovative Cirrus Perspective Touch by Garmin avionics system, Synthetic Vision Technology and single lever FADEC engine control create a flying experience that is at once simple enough ensure a relaxing flight every time, while providing enough bells and whistles to impress even experienced pilots.
The ultra-modern cabin design is not only attractive, but is designed to provide passengers with a little more leg room, with plenty space for five adults and two children. It’s the perfect plane to sprawl out in while watching the world go by.
With Bluetooth connectivity and Garmin avionics as standard, the Cirrus SR22T is already a pretty swanky machine, but what really blows us away is the ability to customise it. That’s right, each and every plane is custom made and tailored to the desires of the new owner. Buyers are encouraged to build a strong working relationship with the designers as they map out the specifications of the aircraft working with individual preferences for materials, colors, designs and more.
This customisation is available both inside and out. Choose your own seats in your own material and colours, and then pick out designs and finishes for the outside. If you have a personal style, then this is the perfect way to display it to the world. And really, what could be more luxurious than having your own design team working on your new aircraft?
BIG AND BEAUTIFUL
At the top of the pyramid are the business jets, which provide the most majestic adventures imaginable. Anything is possible with these machines, and most come with incredible features as standard.
The stunning Embraer Phenom 300E is the world’s best-selling light business jet, and is popular with many of the most successful men and women of our time. When you see one of these dashing planes touch down, you know somebody suave and sophisticated will soon step out, so of course it boasts features sure to appeal to such a demographic.
The interior has the largest windows in its class, a surprisingly spacious toilet, and lush seats that are fully reclinable and adjustable. Pretty much everything can be personalised, with a generous selection of carpets and cabinet finishes, numerous options for the leather used in the chairs and walls, and even a huge number of choices for the window shades.
As a symbol of the successful and classy, the 300E is a radiant bizjet that’s certainly resplendent, but also has the performance to back it up.
The Embraer Legacy also offers a truly luxurious experience, boasting the largest cabin in its class, huge windows, sumptuous seating, and all the latest technology to ensure you and your passengers have the most enjoyable flight possible.
The Legacy 500’s futuristic flight deck features a remarkable design that’s focused on ergonomics and pilot comfort. The cockpit is clean, and the sidesticks allow for a clear, uninterrupted view of the large displays, while the large windshield provides improved visibility from the flight deck.
The Rockwell Collins ProLine Fusion integrated avionics system showcases some of the most advanced avionics available in business aviation today. It’s the total package.
With a cruising speed of 816km/h and a range of 3,441km with two crew and nine passengers onboard, the delightful Cessna Citation XLS+ is serious business. The opulent interior is every bit as impressive, creating a truly special package that comes highly recommended. The six different colour schemes for the interior have all been carefully crafted by expert designers, and all look wonderful. There are power points and Bluetooth, as well, so you’ll be all set for business or pleasure.
The XLS+ is a brilliant aircraft aimed squarely at those who want the very best for every facet of their plane, with a smooth and enjoyable flight guaranteed every single time. This is the aircraft sure to draw envious looks every time you step out of it.
The much larger Citation Longitude, which is being rolled out as you read this, is even more impressive. It truly sets the bar when it comes to cabin comfort, with an unbelievable amount of space for each passenger and the quietest in-flight-experience in its class.
The interior is completely customisable. Want a giant bar with a plasma screen above it to watch the footy? That’s not a problem. How about a bathroom the size of the average Sydney unit? Sure. Anything’s possible, and dreams truly do come true aboard the Longitude.
THE WORLD IS YOUR OYSTER
Imagine cruising through the clear blue skies in your personal aircraft, en route to your own private island off the coast of Fiji. With a glass of Johnnie Walker Blue Label in your hand and someone special batting her eyelids at you from across the aisle, you sink deeper into your elegant, custom-designed leather chair. You flip out the footrests for ultimate relaxation and dial up the temperature on the advanced climate control system as music starts to hum slowly from your surround sound system. As you drift off to sleep, you smile as you think about how good life is.
Alright, that scenario might be slightly out of the grasp of most of us, but as you can see many of these features are already available for more accessible aircraft, and at a price that will also put a grin on your face. Most midsized and larger jets offer advanced avionics, high quality seats, bluetooth and WiFi as standard these days, with the ability to upgrade to more advanced packages starting at less than $10,000 – peanuts in comparison to the cost of the aircraft.
Once installed, any upgrades add greatly to the value of the plane, and so are a decent investment, and are relatively cheap to run or maintain.
When it comes to microlights and LSAs, the value of adding luxury components is even greater. By adding lavish leather seating to a Cessna Skyhawk, for example – a cost of around $8000, fully installed – you can create an aircraft that feels much more extravagant than the base model. Such upgrades are an easy and cost-efficient way to feel like you’re flying something new and special, without needing to be a mining magnate to afford it.
With larger business jets such as the Legacy and Longitude, which cost serious money and are designed to be used for serious flying, it’s definitely worth going all out with extra comforts inside the cabin. If you’re going to spend $5 million on a set of wings, it’s worth chucking in an extra $50,000 for a set of integrated television screens, a beefy surround sound system or some extra arm rests and cup holders. After all, when a Hollywood starlet, pop singer or – if you’re a certain property tycoon-turned-President – adult star joins you for a flight, it’s always nice to provide them with a few extra creature comforts.
The beauty of aviation comes from many factors. The joy of flight, the magnificance of the machines, the ease of visiting new places, and the pride of being a pilot. All of these elements are being improved by the innovations of the world’s top aviation manufacturers, who are forever striving to create a more comfortable experience for their pilots.
No matter what your budget or what you have in the hangar, there’s no excuse not to add a little luxury to your life.