Airliner As Corporate Jet Is Not That Unusual
Computer-company moguls and corporate jets just seem to go
together; for instance, Apple's board once presented CEO Steve Jobs
with a Gulfstream V as a little token of gratitude for saving the
company from what seemed to be impending doom. But just in time for
the National Business Aviation Association convention in Orlando,
FL we learned that Jobs's Gulfstream is an also-ran in the
corporate-jet-measuring contest: Google founders Sergey Brin and
Larry Page are adding a second Gulfstream to the Google fleet.
Oh yeah, and a Boeing 767-200.
The Google 767 is actually not the property of the company
(where its use might get a hairy eyeball from shareholders), but a
private asset of Brin and Page. The wide-body 767 is used by a
number of other corporate high-rollers; the retired airliners are
the largest members of the United States GA fleet.
The word that the Google guys were becoming 767 operators
surprised many Americans, including a lot of the newsmen writing
about it. But judging from the reaction at NBAA, there's nothing
unusual about airliners repurposed as executive jets.
Perhaps as many as 15 individuals and corporations own the
roomy, long-ranging 767 as personal or executive transports, and
more enter the fleet all the time. There are other ex-airline jets
in the fleet as well: most people know about avid pilot and
occasional actor John Travolta's 707, and most people don't know
about Microsoft founder and SpaceShipOne sponsor Paul Allen's 757.
Er, make that two 757s. And a fleet of other planes.
Ah, but Allen doesn't have a 767.
Larry Ellison of Oracle
doesn't have one either, but he does have an order in for an ATG
Javelin. He must figure that velocity trumps mass.
And Bill Gates hasn't weighed in, in the heavy-jet stakes. Would
he spring for a 767? (Probably not. He's a NetJets fractional
A press release from Lufthansa Technik mentions that their
completion center is prepared to outfit a private Airbus A380. It
didn't say anybody was actually doing it, but if someone does,
they're ready to attack the job with Teutonic efficiency.
The 767-200 was purchased by Google founders Page (above) and
Brin earlier this year. It has reportedly been at a San Antonio
completion center since May, being fitted with a comfortable
interior for up to fifty. The keystone of the interior fitment is a
pair of staterooms with private restrooms and shower.
Here at NBAA, several vendors have mentioned systems fitted on
"a privately owned 767." The latest avionics. Enhanced night vision
for the pilots. Wireless broadband throughout the passenger
That has to be the Google plane! Doesn't it?
Maybe, but maybe not. No one will confirm or deny who his actual
customer is. "A customer who values privacy," one outfitter said
archly. And broadband is even less unusual than a private 767; a
day spent in press conferences, undergoing Slow Death By
PowerPoint, makes it clear that one of the big coming things is
broadband on bizjets.
Returning to the Google bird, broadband or no, the mention of
"up to fifty seats" is suggestive. It would be impossible to fit
more than fifty seats without tangling with FAA regulations. But
the aircraft only needs to have about 25 to 30 passengers on board
to be as efficient per seat-mile as the much smaller Gulfstream V.
It costs about twice as much per hour to operate as the G-V
Google's Page defended the purchase to the Wall Street Journal
as "fact-based." The used 767, a veteran of airline service, was
likely a fraction of the nearly $50 million cost of a new
The VIP interior almost certainly cost more than acquiring the
basic plane did. While there is literally no limit to what
high-rollers can spend on a custom interior, the Brin/Page bird's
arrangement is relatively modest. Comparatively speaking.
Last week, Wall Street Journal reporters Kevin Delaney, Lynn
Lunsford, and Mark Maremont traced an ex-Qantas 767 to Google's
headquarters through FAA and telephone records, and then spoke to
Google's Larry Page, after existence of the plane was revealed by
blogger Jeffrey Nolan.
The final question remaining, of course, is what the jet will be
called. Search-Engine Twin-Engine? Google One? The Plane a Simple
Search Page Built? Most likely, it will be known simply by its
N-number as it makes its way through the world's airways -- Page
suggests that Africa may be a port of call.
But Google One has a certain resonance. Er, make that, Google
Here at NBAA, one wonders how many jet brokers have been leaving
voicemail for Steve Jobs.