Just 13 friends at $3 million each….

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Posted on Sep 30 1999

Every so often something so cool springs onto the market that you just gotta’ have it. And about this time of year we start thinking about our personal relationship with a higher being–Santa Claus–hoping he’ll be generous when the season arrives. I think I’ve found the ultimate toy, something a lot of us could use to take an edge off Saipan’s isolation.

And so I present to you…ta dah!–the Gulfstream V jet airplane, known in the business as the “G- V” (“Gee Five”). It’s priced at $40 million. It’s not a big airliner, but a smaller, sporty model of jet.

If you had $40 million in the bank, earning a measly six percent annual interest, the interest alone would give you $2.4 million a year to live on. That’s a pretty tidy sum.

But if you’d rather jet around the skies at 51,000 feet, it’s Gulfstream time. Of course, to this initial $40 million you’ll have to shovel money into insurance, maintenance, repairs, fuel, crew salaries, hangars and ground facilities, and all the rest of it.

Unfortunately, $40 million doesn’t buy perfection. The Gulfstream V hit some snags, and the first production versions had some interesting characteristics (I’m sure the buyers had stronger words for that.)

Payload–how much weight you can carry–is a big deal in aircraft, and the G-V promised a 1,600 pound payload, which dictates how many bodies and baggage you can haul.

Somebody goofed in the design phase, though, and the engines for the aircraft weighed more than they had planned for. This was a double-whammy to the sacred payload. The increased engine weight not only ate into it, but so, too, did balance concerns. Since the engines are mounted on the tail area of the plane, the heavier engines made the thing tail heavy, so to balance it out they had to add 600 pounds of weight to the nose.

Goodbye, payload. But what did you expect for a mere $40 million?

The snags are supposedly being ironed out, though, and the market for this expensive toy is expected to be robust. In a typical seating configuration the G-V has seats for 13 passengers. Heck, that puts the purchase price at a mere $3,076,923 per passenger seat. You can get your buddies to all chip in, which is exactly how I bought my first car (four of us put $25 each which bought us a 1967 Chevy Bel Air). That Chevy topped out at about 105 mph, a far cry from the G-V speeds, which are measured in how close to the speed of sound (“Mach speed”) they go. The plane will cruise at .85 Mach, that is, 85 percent of the speed of sound (which would mean it flies at roughly 500 mph or so).

I once worked for a guy who owned the predecessor of the G-V, the G-IV. His plane cost a mere $26 million. He was a fisherman, who eventually bought his own boats and built an empire in the tuna industry. I always wanted a ride in his G-IV but I never got one.

There are a lot of good fishermen on Saipan, so we need one to strike it rich and get a G-V, so I can finally get my jet ride. Something tell me that Santa ain’t going to come through on this one.

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