U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry was in the headlines over the weekend after it was reported he had flown via private jet to attend former President Barrack Obama’s 60th birthday party on Martha’s Vineyard. The State Department denied the claim, telling The Washington Examiner, “Secretary Kerry lives on Martha’s Vineyard, he did not travel there for a party. He took a ferry to Martha’s Vineyard; he did not fly commercial or private.”
Kerry’s use of private aviation is a focus of conservative media and commentators who accuse him of hypocrisy. The former secretary of state previously defended his private flying, saying, “If you offset your carbon, it’s the only choice for somebody like me, who is traveling the world to win this battle.”
A Fox News report last week noted 16 flights by N57HJ, the 1995 Gulfstream GIVSP owned by a company related to Teresa Heinz Kerry, the former senator’s wife.
Data from FlightAware shows the most recent flight by N57HJ was Friday Aug. 6, from Martha’s Vineyard to Pittsburgh, departing at 1:34 pm EDT. Earlier in the day, it had flown from Logan International Airport in Boston to the island resort, arriving at 12:29 pm, a hop that took just 19 minutes. Google Maps indicates driving can take up to three hours. Prior to that, it had flown from Sun Valley to Boston on Aug. 4.
Of the most recent 16 flights tracked by FlightAware, which date back to May 13, the Gulfstream jet landed or took off from Friedman Memorial Airport in Idaho 10 times, eight more times from Logan and Hanscom Field, an airport serving private jets near Boston, and five times in Boise. It also visited Los Angeles, San Francisco and Trenton, New Jersey.
Like the Boeing Business Jet President Joseph Biden used to get to his inauguration in Washington D.C., the Kerry family’s private jet is available for hire.
FlightAware shows it being operated by Executive Jet Management, a division of NetJets, Inc., which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway. While NetJets sells shares, leases and jet cards on a fleet of look-alike private jets, EJM, as it is known in the industry, manages airplanes for wealthy individuals and companies that don’t want to have their own flight department.
When owners aren’t using their aircraft, they can earn rental income by making them available on the charter market. Last year, EJM ranked as the third-largest charter operator in North America, according to Argus TraqPak.
EJM doesn’t list specific aircraft on its website, but when chartering a private aircraft via a management company the contract is often specific to an aircraft, so it’s possible to request a certain aircraft.
While the interior configuration of large cabin jets like the GIVSP can vary, a typical layout would have 13 to 14 seats. Layouts vary with four club seats facing each other, divided by the aisle, three-seat couches, and a table with two-seat couches on each side, a bit like a booth you favorite diner.
Business Jet Traveler lists the range as 3,880 nautical miles, enough to fly to Europe nonstop. Gulfstream stopped manufacturing this model in 2002, but when new, the list price was $33 million. Controller lists a same-year model with 8,558 flight hours for sale at $4.5 million.
In terms of the charter market, Denver-based OneFlight International offers the GIVSP in its jet card program at $15,417 per hour, including tax and membership fees, if you buy 25 hours. That includes repositioning flights, so the rate is based on only the time you are flying. When you charter on a flight-by-flight basis, your quote factors in getting the airplane to wherever you are leaving from and returning it to base after you get off.
EJM also offers a jet card program, and for its “heavy” category, the hourly rate is $13,491, although you wouldn’t be assured of flying aboard a specific aircraft.
If you did want to charter Kerry’s jet, just having the money isn’t enough. Most private jet owners, particularly of large-cabin aircraft, approve each charter request on a trip-by-trip basis. It’s not uncommon for owners to turn down guys groups heading to Vegas or trips with lots of short hops. Each landing and takeoff bring the aircraft closer to expensive maintenance the owner must pay.
The State Department told Fox the former Democratic presidential candidate wasn’t on any of the recent flights, which could mean some of the flights were for charter customers.