Nothing, it seems, can ground private aviation. Despite the high costs for planes and fuel, the waiting lists for recent and yet-to-be-released planes are growing, and nearly every major general aviation company has put a new model on the market in the past year or so, or plans to. "Thirty years ago, there were more people getting into flying for the pleasure side of things," says Scott Fank, VP of sales at Illinois-based JA Air Center, which sells private aircraft, as well as providing training and maintenance. "Nowadays, we're seeing more people fed up with airlines and fed up with security. So they're looking to private aviation."
RELATED: 'Driven,' Episode Two: The Solar Wright Brothers (Video)
Buying a plane is, in effect, buying a time machine that enables you to accelerate domestic or international travel by hours, or turn a four-hour stop-and-go drive into a 20-minute hop. That's why, even as companies like NetJets and Wheels Up try to convince fliers to buy fractional shares of planes, the wholly owned private aircraft remains a viable product. Here are the most exciting, appealing, or flat-out audacious models – available now or soon enough to place a preorder.
Beechcraft King Air 350i
Price: $7.5 million
Available: Since 2009
Range: 1,714 nautical miles (with four passengers)
There's no more fuel-efficient way to fly 10 people to their destination than with the Beechcraft King Air 350i twin-turboprop plane. A similar size jet usually burns at least a fifth more fuel. The 350i has other merits, such as a ludicrously strong airframe and landing gear, making it one of the only aircraft that can take off with both a full passenger load and a full fuel load (providing for extremely long ranges) in virtually any temperature, and on runways too short for similar turboprops or jets. But the emphasis is on bulk travel. Corporations choose King Airs in the name of thrift, but private buyers are more interested in ferrying entire clans to distant climes. [beechcraft.com]