Let me start first by once again thanking Rick Lashbrook at CharterBox.com private jet charters for arranging this trip and Denielle Pintos of Fuga, Inc., the Part 135 Charter Operator of the Gulfstream IV I flew. Neither of them asked me to mention their companies or promote their services in any way, but this was a dream come true, and I can’t thank them enough for making this ridiculously awesome experience possible. I haven’t met either of you, but I owe you a parade or something. The internet is a crazy awesome place!
Yesterday I wrote about how I ended up on a 2.5 hour flight on a Gulfstream IV. I went from an ordinary Monday night, to less than 18 hours later finding myself on a 14 seat private jet. With that out of the way, here’s the story of the actual experience, starting the night before…
Calling my mom
Like most other well-adjusted guys, when I’m excited about something I call my German mother. 😉
So at around 8PM PT on Monday I called my mom, figuring she’d share my excitement.
“Mom, it looks like I’m going to be flying a private jet tomorrow down to San Diego!!!!!!!”
“Benjamin, zhis is nice, please fly safe.”
“. . .”
Okay, I failed to consider it was 11PM on the east coast and she was sound asleep when I called her, because clearly what I said didn’t register with her.
When I woke up the next morning, however, I saw a voicemail on my phone left at 4:34AM PT from my mother:
“Benjamin, zhis is Mom, I am not sure if I just have a dream or if zhou called me last night to say zhou are flying a private zjet today. If zhis is the case I am very concerned and vant to know zhe details, zhis sounds very strange. Please call me back right away.”
Ah, that’s more the reaction I was expecting from my mother! Once she actually heard the details she shared my excitement.
Taking an Uber to a private jet!
I left my apartment at around 11AM on Tuesday and ordered an Uber to take me to the airport. I got in the Uber and the driver said “to the airport?” I said “yup,” and was so caught in my excitement and thoughts that it didn’t even occur to me to tell the driver that we weren’t going to a commercial airport.
We’d been driving for five minutes before I thought to say “to clarify, we’re going to Boeing Field and not SeaTac, please.”
The driver looked at me and said “but… you have luggage?” I said “yes, I’m flying out of there today.” He said “oh, I didn’t realize airlines started flying there.” I just smirked, as my anticipation continued to build.
Arriving at Aeroflight Executive Services
We pulled up at Aeroflight Executive Services, where the jet was departing from. It’s a really basic building, and once inside I told them the tail number of the plane I was looking for.
They told me that the plane was just being refueled and invited me to take a seat. The room itself was pretty simple, and featured some snacks and a coffee machine. But of course normally a charter guest would be pulling up to the airport and immediately getting on the plane, with the door closing as soon as they get there. In this case I arrived plenty early, since I was a guest and didn’t want them waiting on me.
Really this is where the beauty of flying private starts.
I have such a post-9/11, commercial airline mentality. As the plane was being refueled I really sheepishly asked the guy working there “would it be okay if I just step a few feet outside the door to take a picture of the plane?”
I had visions in my head of my stepping on the tarmac and the entire airport shutting down and terminals evacuating, with a SWAT team sending me to Gitmo. He looked at me as if I was crazy for asking, and said “of course, you can do whatever you want.”
So I stepped outside of the building and couldn’t help but giggle at the fact that I was on the tarmac without supervision.
Flying private is just f*&$%^# awesome beyond words.
After waiting for about 10 minutes, the captain walked into the building to tell me they were ready. Captain Ted introduced himself, told me it should be a nice flight and that our flight time was 2hr24min. He insisted on carrying my bags to the plane.
I mean, seriously, I’ve flown just about every top first class airline product in the world, but I can’t even describe how jaw dropping the experience was. The captain personally picks you up and even carries your bag to the plane. I’m not worthy!
If I’d been even somewhat in possession of my senses on the tarmac, I was in complete shock once I boarded the plane. I mean, I’m still not sure how I managed to get through the first five minutes without soiling myself. The flight attendant, Shellie, was in the cabin and quickly introduced herself. She was simply incredible beyond words, in a completely different league than any commercial flight attendant I’ve had.
The Gulfstream IV is a 14 seat plane, with a variety of seating options, including forward and rear facing seats, a couch, and an “executive” table which seats four.
The cabin is just stunning. Stunning. Stunning.
I really didn’t know what to do with myself once I got a few cabin pictures. I mean, I had 14 choices of where to sit, how the hell am I supposed to decide?
I ended up sitting down at the “table,” and as soon as I was seated the door closed and we were already taxiing to the runway.
Shellie asked if I had ever been on a Gulfstream before. Now there are two ways I thought to answer this:
- Option 1: *flailing arms and making noises like a seal* “OMG NO BUT THIS IS THE COOLEST THING EVER!”
- Option 2: *look around as if I’m a private jet regular* “No, I don’t think I’ve been on this particular one before.”
I of course went with the latter — didn’t want to embarrass myself. 😉
She non-intrusively acquainted me with the emergency exits and safety features of the plane, and off we were.
Shellie continued “I made you some smoothies and homemade parfaits.” At this point we were maybe a minute from the runway, so I downed them like shots at a dive bar.
Also, I’ve had some good pre-departure service on airlines in first class, but they never came with decorative plants! You listening, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific? I expect a two foot potted plant with my next pre-departure beverage! 😉
Within three minutes we were airborne, and one of the coolest things about flying private has to be that there’s no flight deck door, so I could look all the way down the runway as we took off. I’ve flown in a jumpseat on a commercial plane once before, and this was the next best thing.
I love the shape of the Gulfstream IV windows — very panoramic!
On private jets catering is entirely at the client’s discretion. They can order what they want, all the way up to caviar and Krug (or even better, I suppose). I was just “hitching a ride” in this case, so wasn’t expecting anything.
There’s a snack basket that comes standard on the plane, along with drinks (including booze). Like I said, I felt sheepish asking for anything, but Shelley couldn’t have been nicer and insisted I help myself to the snack basket and that I have a drink.
I asked for a Diet Coke, which was served in proper glassware.
About 20 minutes after takeoff the captain made us aware that we were passing Mt. Rainier. It was a cloudy day, so the views were even more stunning than usual, with the peak of Mt. Rainier making an appearance through the high level cloud layer.
didn’t want to disappoint reader Mark had way too much to drink, so headed back to the lavatory, which was located behind the galley, and was surprisingly spacious.
Captain Ted briefly came out of the cockpit to talk to me, and was just a fascinating guy. He had been flying private jets since 1979, and that was after his military career. So unlike the pilots flying similarly sized “regional jets” commercially (that are typically around my age), this guy had been flying for 45+ years.
Of course being so used to commercial aviation I can’t describe how excited I was when he invited me to visit the flight deck. The flight deck!!
I have visions of being tackled by an air marshal and ending up in a Siberian prison for trying to go anywhere near a flight deck while in-flight, so I was simply in disbelief.
Now to be clear, I know on private planes that’s allowed, but the entire day had been so surreal, and the actual process of going to the flight deck in-flight was just so unbelievably cool.
After going back to the cabin I couldn’t sit still, so I think in the process of the 2hr24min flight I sat in all 14 seats at one point or another.
The views in-flight were stunning, so I spent much of the flight gazing out of the window. While I had loaded entertainment onto my iPad, I decided that this flight environment was just too classy for watching Shahs of Sunset or the Real Housewives of Atlanta.
I spent much of the flight speaking with Shelley, the flight attendant, and she couldn’t have been more awesome. She was truly such a professional and had such a different mentality than virtually any of the commercial flight attendants I’ve met.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met plenty of amazing commercial flight attendants, but what impressed me was how the challenges that come with the job were also what she loved about it. She used to work in real estate and explained that this is her “fun” dream job after having a kid, and she couldn’t enjoy it more.
It’s also fascinating what duties the flight attendants of private jets have. Not only is she responsible for service aboard, but she’s also responsible for catering, and often has to go to the supermarket to buy stuff herself on layovers, based on what the guest has requested. So after a 10 hour flight she might have only eight hours before her next flight, but during that time has to go shopping for the flight.
Amazing, and her positive attitude was so refreshing.
Shortly before we began our descent Shelley asked if I wanted a salad/antipasto plate. I explained I really didn’t want to inconvenience and it wasn’t necessary, but she said it wasn’t a problem at all.
I was expecting her to pull out a pre-made plate from the fridge with everything on it, but that wasn’t the case. Instead she proceeded to take each individual ingredient out of the fridge and make the salad “fresh.” She sliced the tomatoes, salami, etc. While it was a fairly simple meal, I’ve never seen something prepared with such effort on a plane. And of course it tasted as good as it looked.
Like I said, if you’re a private jet client you can order food in advance to whatever specifications you’d like, and I wasn’t expecting anything. So this was a really nice surprise, and really not necessary.
About 20 minutes out we began our descent, and eventually touched down on runway 27.
We taxied past the airline terminal, at which point the reality set in that my private jet flight was over and I’d eventually have to once again deal with the hassles of commercial aviation. 😉
We crossed the runway and taxied over to the private side of the airport, and parked near the Landmark Aviation building.
Eventually we reached our parking position, where a van was waiting to take me the Landmark Aviation facility.
I can’t even begin to describe in words how awesome this experience was. I used 2,000 words above to try and describe the experience, though it doesn’t even begin to do it justice.
I love all my blog readers, but seriously, I can’t properly express my gratitude to Rick and Denielle for their generosity in making this happen. Or maybe I shouldn’t be grateful, since they’ve ruined me forever. 😉
I mean, do you have any clue how tough it was to board this plane back to Los Angeles yesterday?