It is a matter of serious debate.
Or at least serious conviction.
Should you buy a brand-new top-of-the-line jet?
Or an older, more stylish one that you then refurbish?
At a party in Davos last night, a hedge-fund mogul and a tech mogul got to talking about their new planes. Or, more accurately, about the planes that are going to be their new planes, as soon as they finally get them.
The hedge-fund mogul doesn’t have his plane yet because he has been waiting for delivery of “the 650,” which is what folks intimate with the world of personal aviation call the Gulfstream 650, the latest top-of-the-line jet from the makers of the “G-Five” and “G-Four” (roman numerals).
Until now, the G-V and G-IV have been the absolute state-of the-art in personal aviation–capable of carrying a dozen or so people and a boatload of stuff above the weather, across countries and oceans, and internationally.
(I’ve ridden on G-Vs and G-IVs over the years, courtesy of a couple of companies kind enough to give me lifts. They’re awesome. If I had a couple billion dollars in my checking account and traveled all the time, I’d probably want one.)
Only folks who are really serious about their personal aircraft buy Gulfstreams. Poorer people, meanwhile, or people who just don’t need so much space, buy Hawkers and other puny personal jets that make you stoop over to move around in the cabin, can’t fly across oceans, and have to detour around weather.
Well, okay, there is another echelon of private aviation above the Gulfstream level. That’s the “private 767,” “private 747,” and “private A-380” echelon. Some of the folks who own Gulfstreams, presumably, gaze at these customized jumbos with feelings of longing and inferiority. But there are actually not all that many individuals for whom buying, maintaining, and operating massive $375 million planes–base price, before interior design–really makes practical sense.
Anyway, at the party last night, the conversation turned to planes, and the hedge-fund mogul announced to a small group that he was “waiting for my 650”–referring to the fact that the new Gulfstream planes haven’t even hit the market yet.
This produced a surprisingly vehement response from the tech mogul, who pronounced the 650 the height of gauche conspicuous consumption, and said that he himself would be buying an older, more stylish jet for ~$30 million and then spend $6-$7 million refurbishing it.
I’ll have an awesome plane for half the price of your massive mass-produced McMansion plane, the tech mogul said, smiling and poking his finger at the hedge-fund mogul’s chest.
To which the hedge-fund manager replied:
“It’s absurd to spend $7 million refurbishing a plane.”
The tech mogul had a ready answer to this: I want a great plane. And he observed again that spending a total of ~$35 million on the final product was better than spending $65 million. He added that the reason he didn’t have his plane yet was that it had taken him more than a year to find the right one.
This led to a discussion of the merits of new planes versus old planes and bigger planes versus smaller planes–key questions to which a third member of the group, also a tech mogul of a sort, had ready answers. New planes are better, the quasi-tech mogul said, because…
- They fly above the weather
- They are more efficient
- They have the latest avionics
- They’re safer
But then the quasi-tech mogul added that one of the proto-650s had crashed in testing (last spring, in Roswell, New Mexico, near the secret UFO place, killing four people.)
His conclusion: You don’t really want to own the first model of anything.
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