If you are traveling a far distance, have a large group, or simply prefer the luxury of a larger aircraft, you have probably considered a heavy aircraft such as a Gulfstream or a Challenger. While there are multiple models with varying specifications, I will focus on two of the most popular aircraft in this class that happen to be in our fleet, the Challenger 601 and the Gulfstream IV.
While both are heavy jets from well-respected manufacturers, each offers a unique in-flight experience. They’re markedly different in terms of speed, appearance, interior size and accommodations, cost, and aircraft limitations. One is not better than the other, but your personal preferences and priorities will determine which is best for you.
I have broken down some of the main differences into the following categories.
Range and Speed
Both of these jets can easily take you from Point A to Point B, but at different speeds and altitudes. The Gulfstream is known as the “globe-hopper”, with a range of over 4,000 nautical miles (actual range will vary depending on several performance factors) and the ability to fly higher and faster than numerous other jets. The Challenger can also cover a great range, around 3000 nautical miles, but not as quickly as the Gulfstream. If you’re traveling to another continent a Challenger 601 will most likely have to make one more fuel stop than a GIV would. On the positive side, a Challenger 601 operates at a lower price point and all those flight hours can add up to some big savings. If speed is a deciding factor, the Gulfstream IV is the better choice for you. If cost savings is a big factor, the lower operating cost of a Challenger may make up for the shorter range and slower speed.
Interior and Comfort
The interiors of each of these jets are completely different. The Challenger is a large-cabin business jet, best suited for up to 9 passengers. Travelers who love the Challenger value its flexibility, comfort, and layout that allows for collaborative conversation and work. Its cabin is 10.5-11 inches wider than the Gulfstream’s, which may not sound like much but is significant in terms of cabin size.
The Gulfstream has a longer and narrower tube, with room for up to 13 passengers. Of course, it’s still comfortable with business accommodations like WiFi, but it’s not as spacious feeling as the Challenger.
Acquisition and Operating Costs
If you’re in the market to purchase an aircraft instead of chartering one, the Challenger and Gulfstream are very different investments. A Challenger 601 costs $3-5 million initially; significantly less than the $9.5 million Gulfstream IV.
The cost differential doesn’t stop there. The fixed costs of operation are much higher with the Gulfstream because its size and speed make it thirstier for fuel than the Challenger, dramatically increasing costs.
If the price tag and high quality of the Challenger are appealing to you, you’ll need to act quickly since inventory is shrinking as the economy improves. At this point, sources tell me that there are roughly only 27 Challenger 601’s left for purchase, compared with 64 two years ago.
Challenger 601 vs Gulfstream 4: The Bottom Line
The Challenger and Gulfstream are both great jets that are built for taking larger groups on longer trips, but the one that’s right for you depends on your own preferences. If speed is your priority, go with the Gulfstream. If you’ve got fewer passengers, enjoy the spacious layout and are looking for something more economical, the Challenger would be the better option. In the market to purchase an aircraft? The Challenger is the less expensive option but one that may not be available for much longer. Once you’ve made your selection, make sure you understand the benefits of our aircraft management services, including significantly decreasing the cost of ownership.
For more thoughts on choosing the right jet, take a look at our jet selector.
Still unsure? Contact our team at Schubach Aviation for a consultation if you’re in the market to buy or call our charter department at 760-929-0307. We are always here to help you find the aircraft that’s the best fit for your travel needs!