Evolution of Business Aircraft Manufacturing

September 15, 2017 |  Business

Currently, the major players in business aviation are Gulfstream, Bombardier, Dassault, Textron and Embraer. There was a time when the leaders in general/business aviation were Cessna, Beechcraft and Piper.

While smaller jets such as the North American Rockwell Sabreliner and the Lockheed Jetstar have been around for some time, it was not until Bill Lear introduced the Learjet in 1963 that the use of jets for business gained popularity. As business Aviation is a very cynical industry, there have been a lot of mergers and acquisitions over the years. Here is a brief history:


Gulfstream was started by Grumman in 1958 in Bethpage, NY. Grumman merged with American Aviation Corporation in 1972 and was acquired by American Jet Industries (Allen Paulson) in 1973. Chrysler bought Gulfstream in 1985 and sold it back to Allen Paulson and Forstmann Little & Co. in 1989. General Dynamics acquired Gulfstream in 1999 and purchased Galaxy Aerospace in 2001. Today, Gulfstream is offering the full range of business jets from the G280 to the G650ER.


The Canadian train and snowmobile manufacturer entered business aviation by acquiring Canadair Challenger in 1986 and adding Learjet to its portfolio in 1990. It is interesting to note that Bill Lear was behind two of the Bombardier brands.

Bill Lear modified the FFA-P-16 Swiss fighter into the into the Learjet 23 in 1964. This iconic business jet manufacturer changed hands to Gates Learjet Corporation in 1969, was acquired by Integrated Resources prior to being purchased by Bombardier in 1990 for $75 million. In the interim, Bill Lear moved on to develop the LearStar 600 that he sold to Canadair as the Challenger 600.

Today, Bombardier Business Aircraft offers a range of jets from Learjet 70 / 75, the Challenger 350 /650 and Global 5000, 6000, 7000 and 8000 series


The French manufacturer started with the Mystere business jet in 1961 but gained success only after by teaming with PanAm and establishing Falcon Jet Corporation in 1972. Falcon currently offers a range of six business jets from the twin-engine Falcon 2000S to the triple-engine, ultra-long-range Falcon 8X.

Textron Aviation

Textron is the owner of three iconic brands: Cessna, Beechcraft and Hawker.

A general aviation company, Cessna Aircraft started in 1927 and entered business jet market with the launch of the Cessna Citation in 1971. Cessna was acquired by General Dynamics in 1985 and later by Textron in 1992. Over the years, Cessna has developed the very successful series of Citation jets from the M2, CJ3, CJ4, XLS, Latitude, Sovereign, Citation X and Longitude.

Beechcraft, the other Wichita based General Aviation Company established in 1932, was acquired by Raytheon Company in 1980. Beechcraft got into business jets by acquiring the manufacturing rights to the Mitsubishi MU-300 Diamond in 1986 and modifying it into the Beechjet 400. In 1993 Raytheon acquired the Hawker 800 from British Aerospace, merged it with Beechcraft and established Raytheon Aircraft Company in 1994.

Later, in 2006, Raytheon aircraft was acquired by Goldman Sachs and Hawker Beechcraft was formed.  Following bankruptcy, it reemerged as Beechcraft Corporation in 2013 and was eventually acquired by Textron Aviation in 2014. Unfortunately, all Beechcraft and Hawker jet products are out of production and today, Textron Aviation only produces the Citation Series of Business Jet.


The Brazilian Aerospace and Defense company was formed in 1969. Following success in commercial aviation, Embraer entered executive aviation in 2000. Today, it produces a full line of business jets from entry-level Phenom, the Legacy series to the ultra-large cabin Lineage 1000E.

The use of corporate jets as a business tool has been promoted by NBAA and GAMA under the slogan “NO PLANE/NO GAIN” for many years and is slowly gaining worldwide recognition in today’s global economy. However, in my opinion, the key to the growth of business aviation has been the introduction of Fractional Ownership.

Richard Santulli started it in 1984 by purchasing EJA and launching NetJets. After a shaky start, the concept of fractional ownership gained acceptance allowing businesses and individuals access to business aircraft at affordable costs. Other player such as Flight Options, Flexjet, PlaneSense, Executive AirShare, etc. entered the market creating the largest demand for business jets.

All of the above companies have created brokerage opportunities for JetHQ and others.

-by Ted Farid, Chairman – JetHQ