While expensive cars may do it for some, everyone knows that the ultimate boys’ toys either float or fly. But there’s plenty to think about before you buy, says Kevin Hackett
Investing in boys’ toys that fly and float
Is there a more obvious sign of personal wealth than having your own aircraft? Hollywood actor John Travolta keeps a number of models outside his Florida home, which happens to be situated next to a substantial landing strip at Jumbolair, described by its developer as “America’s premier aviation community”. He must really, really like flying – but then, with a fortune amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars, he can afford to indulge.
According to Forbes, most owners of private jets change them every four or five years, since they can cost anywhere between US$700,000 and $4 million (up to Dh14.7m) a year to run. Which is probably why the late Felix Dennis, one of Britain’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, advised that if it flies or floats “always rent it. It’s cheaper in the long run.” And there is no shortage of options available should you wish to have the benefits of a private jet without the responsibility of ownership.
Emirates Executive, for instance, operates a fleet of Airbus A319s, which can carry up to 19 guests and sleep up to 15. You can choose your own menus and seat configuration – and the cabin can be converted into a luxurious boardroom if you wish. Royal Jet in Abu Dhabi offers its own bespoke services, as well as medical evacuation options, separate security and immigration, and absolute discretion. If you want to charter a private jet to get from Abu Dhabi to Manchester, for instance, Private Fly will sort that for you at a moment’s notice, with a medium-size jet costing approximately Dh190,000 each way.
While having your own private jet can be akin to setting fire to millions of dirhams each year, a helicopter might make more fiscal sense, particularly if your journeys are more regional than international. And the fact that you can land one in your back garden, if it’s sufficiently spacious, makes a chopper an attractive proposition for many, whether they are using it for business or pleasure.
Getting your pilot’s licence will cost approximately Dh100,000, and the rating of helicopter that you’ll be allowed to fly depends on what exams you pass. A luxury Bell 525 helicopter with seating for you and 19 of your friends will cost Dh55m, and you can have its interior trimmed to match that of your Rolls-Royce,
if you’re detail obsessive. If you’re tempted, it’s highly recommended to order one with floats (which allows you to land on water) and autorotation (which allows you to glide down to earth if the engine dies).
Again, though, fractional corporate leasing gives the benefits of ownership without the hassles (think Dh30,000 a month for sporadic use) and private charters can be had for relatively little outlay, if all you want to do is show your visitors the UAE’s most famous landmarks from the air.
The costs of buying and running a large yacht are almost unbelievable – some of them require 50 or 60 people to run. A captain can command Dh500,000 a year for a large yacht, and your annual diesel bill can easily reach Dh1 million as the engines often burn through 500 litres an hour.
Depending on where it’s kept, docking fees can be in the region of Dh1.2m a year, insurance is roughly a million, while an owner should budget Dh3m for maintenance and repairs, and crew costs of up to Dh5m every year, depending where your staff come from and their experience levels.
And let’s not forget the actual purchase costs. Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich’s yacht, the 162-metre Eclipse, which requires 70 crew members and was, for a time, the largest in the world, reportedly set him back nearly Dh2 billion.
It’s all very well being able to own and entertain guests on a large luxury yacht but, when it comes to maritime adventure, there’s nothing that touches being beneath the waves. So it’s hardly surprising that many yachts now sport their own personal submarines, which can accommodate between one and six guests.
The C-Researcher 2, made by U-Boat Worx, is currently the deepest diving personal sub in the world, able to reach depths of up to 3,000 metres with two people on board. Another, three-person model is available, which can dive to 1,700 metres. The cost? Even U-Boat’s smallest, shallowest diving subs start at Dh8.5 million, while pricing is “available on request” for the more serious machinery. If you have to ask…
If it’s submersible luxury and beautiful design you hanker for, Aston Martin and Triton Submarines will be launching their jointly developed Project Neptune later this year. The three-seater submersible is capable of going 5 knots (9.2kph) and diving to about 500 metres, and it’s unfortunate that anyone on land will rarely get to see one, such is its futuristic physical shape, which borrows some of the know-how Aston Martin developed with Red Bull Racing for its Valkyrie hypercar. Inside the hull, it’s trimmed with the finest hand-stitched leather upholstery and carbon fibre, and the design, should you want to customise, can be uniquely tailored to your tastes by Aston Martin’s Q division.
The US Submarines Phoenix 1000 probably won’t fit on your mega yacht, measuring as it does 65 metres from nose to tail. Its interiors total 1,500 square metres of luxury space that can be designed according to one’s wishes, and there’s even space for a small car. The deck saloon’s views through eight expansive windows can be enjoyed from the living and dining areas, while the guest cabins also have generous portholes. It’s estimated to cost north of Dh330m but, for now at least, it remains a theoretical product as nobody seems to have commissioned one yet. You just know, however, that it’s only a matter of time.
Clockwise from left, private jets can be rented and customised as per the client’s preference; Roman Abramovich’s yacht Eclipse cost nearly Dh2 billion; personal helicopters are ideal for regional transport; and Project Neptune is a luxurious submarine co-developed by Triton and Aston Martin