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People and Events that Shaped the History of Private Aviation

Private aviation is making waves in the travel industry thanks to its advantages over its commercial flight counterparts. People are turning en masse to private flights for their travel needs, both business and personal, for the convenience, luxury, and safety.

While the recent migration from commercial aviation to private is profound and contributes to a massive shift in not only how people travel but also how they perceive flight, the impact of private aviation is nothing new.

Throughout the history of private aviation, there have been some specific people and events that have shaped the industry. We want to celebrate those individuals and moments by giving them the recognition they deserve for helping private aviation develop and thrive. Check out their stories below.

A close-up view of a jet propeller.

Jet propulsion was one of the major engineering achievements in recent human history, occurring in the 1930s, and it worked wonders for the private aviation industry in particular. The two most prominent names behind this innovation are Dr. Hans von Ohain and Sir Francis Whittle.

Whittle was first to receive a patent for a jet propulsion design, but Ohain completed the first successful takeoff. When the first private jets were made available, wealthy families were the most common purchasers.

The First Business Jet

While the origins of private jets are rooted in personal use—a purpose that persists today—business jets were not far behind. Lockheed was the first to debut a private jet intended for business use. Named “JetStar,” this 10-passenger plane made its first appearance in 1950.

After Lockheed’s foray into the private jet business, several other manufacturers decided to get in on the action. Companies like Learjet continued to innovate and improve private jet design, making faster and lighter models.

Interior of a private jet featuring leather seats, wood trims, and a bottle of champagne.

Big Cabins Hit the Market

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, two more big names threw their hat into the private aviation ring. First was Gulfstream, which set the standard for large-cabin private jets with the Gulfstream II. This entry into the world of private aviation changed the game by offering seating for 19 passengers and having a range of 4,000 miles Boeing, perhaps seeing the success of Gulfstream, quickly joined the party by debuting their 747 VIP Private Jet. This entry into the private aviation market once again redefined what kind of cabin space private flyers could expect by providing them with one of the largest cabins in the industry.

The First Private Airport

In 1980, the first airport designed for and dedicated to private jets, named Le Bourget Airport, was opened in Paris, France. This idea has since taken the private aviation sphere by storm, with thousands of small airports popping up around the globe to facilitate private flight.

The advent of the private airport also contributed to one of the primary advantages of private flight today—the ability to travel to more locations, including remote ones.

Fractionalized Ownership

In the 1990s, fractionalized jet ownership created the opportunity for more people to experience the wonders of private flight. This not only made the sector more accessible to more people but also led to a major boom in the industry itself to meet the increased demand.

A pilot adjusting his face mask in the cockpit.

COVID-19 Pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, travel changed dramatically. Suddenly, commercial flight was less reliable than ever, regulations were in constant flux, and concerns over health and safety reached a fever pitch. To alleviate the burden of flying commercial, stay as safe as possible, and exert more control over their schedules, people turned in droves to private aviation.

The momentum of this movement has only continued, generating more private flight opportunities than ever and once again revolutionizing how people perceive travel. With budget-friendly options like empty leg flights and jet sharing, private aviation is more accessible and popular than ever before.

The history of private aviation is fascinating, and we have no doubt that the stories we are writing today will one day find their place among those on this list. At Abeona, we strive to provide private aviation experiences worth remembering to every client we have the pleasure of servicing. If you would like more information about how you can enjoy the benefits of private flight, please feel free to contact us.

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