Billionaire pitches supersonic business jets at Paris Air Show


Bass is bankrolling an effort to build the world’s first supersonic private business jet. He was at the Paris Air Show this week, pitching his project, known as Aerion, to aircraft manufacturers and potential customers.

“With this plane, you can have breakfast in New York, fly to London, stay for four hours, and fly back to New York for dinner,” said Bass, who makes do with a Falcon jet that flies below the speed of sound – too slow to make it to that Manhattan dinner.

Even with a minimum price of $80 million, Bass said, his needle-nose jet had drawn keen interest, which said something about the “Can-you-top-this?” exuberance of the market for private aircraft.

I saw this literally upon the finishing of the Futureshock documentary, which closed with discussion that peak oil, and the fact that oil (particularly the cheap stuff) is running out, and there won’t be any more – but ordinary citizens aren’t aware of it. Despite the catastrophic economic consequences of entering real peak oil (by which I mean the acknowledged state in which we wake up every day with less oil to use than the day before), governments clearly are not acting, and probably will not act in time.

Then of course, I see this. A billionaire at the Paris Air Show, shopping supersonic jets for other billionaires. At any point in the following timeline:

  • Peak oil hits. Oil supplies decline permanently. Oil prices escalate dramatically.
  • Costs of production follow suit. Wage demands follow that, sending inflation up dramatically.
  • Central banks (and, indeed, governments), irrespective of the state of their economy, increase interest rates in order to cope.
  • Economies dry up, particularly (i) economies dependent upon oil, trade or both, (ii) economies expanding on cheap credit (the UK and Europe, the US, Australia, et al).
  • Transport is priced out of the hands of most households, food and household necessities begin to be rationed along with oil.

you may stop and marvel that we ever carried on like this. Air Shows, of all things.

Among the interesting points in the documentary was near-casual mention that, although we’ve seen oil shocks before, as devastating as those were, they were temporary. This is permanent. As many allusions as we can make to the Great Depression, it too was temporary. Moreover, it was based on decimation of the public’s confidence in stocks and lending. This will be an actual decimation of the value of those things.

Business, meanwhile, continues to do, at the top, exactly what consumers do at the bottom (what is this, if not the elite equivalent of driving one-per-car on the highway to and from work?) – exactly the opposite of what we should be doing right now.

During the next decade, Teal projects, manufacturers will turn out 12,000 business jets, worth a cumulative $173.2 billion. While analysts expect a temporary plateau in sales after 2009, few predict a recurrence of the boom-and-bust cycle that used to haunt the market.

In part, that has to do with the increasingly global nature of wealth. The United States used to be the dominant market for these jets, making the industry hostage to the U.S. economy.


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