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Dragon: Inside Jackie Chan's private jet fleet

BEAM Staff
February 3, 2018

Most famous for his award-winning action movies, Jackie Chan has become almost synonymous with martial arts. Embraer's brand ambassador since 2012, the kung-fu artist has also built one of the most recognizable private jet fleets in existence.

Chan's first Embraer aircraft became a Legacy 650 private jet. Customized with a red and yellow color scheme, the airplane had a dragon painted on its fuselage with Chan's logo on its tail. "My Legacy 650 has brought me fantastic traveling experiences and great convenience." Chan stated in 2016. "It has allowed me to do more acting and philanthropic works around the world."

Forbes' 39th highest earning celebrity, Chan is estimated to have racked in $49 million in 2017 alone. Most of this comes from Chinese movies aimed at the local, mainland market. In 2015, the magazine estimated his net worth at $350 million. "Jackie Chan is basically the Mickey Mouse of Chinese culture, a celebrity who is so omnipresent that his name has become a shorthand" Grady Hendry, co-founder of the NY Asian Film Festival told the Independent.

The Legacy 650 has a range of 7,223 kilometers and can fly nonstop from Beijing to Dubai or from Hong Kong (China) to Adelaide (Australia). With its catalog prices varying between $25-30 million depending on interior design and configuration, the aircraft has been in production since 2002 with 263 units built by the end of 2015.

Jackie Chan jet’s interior is modest: neutral colors, pure functionality. The aircraft is divided into three distinct cabin zones for him to work, play and rest. Thanks to high tech features such as wi-fi, busy business or movie moguls can get straight to work once aboard. Traditional layouts also make it easier to turn private jets into more efficient assets on the charter market, an increasingly important part for owners.

Despite now being one of the most popular private jet manufacturers worldwide, Brazil-based Embraer has only entered the space in 2001 with the Legacy 600. Their decision had come at a time when the sector was at an all time high, which led to them developing the Phenom series. The Phenom 300 became the best-selling business jet in the world four years in a row, in part due to the product employing brand ambassadors, such as Chan to promote their aircrafts.

In 2016, Chan took delivery of an upgraded airliner from Embraer, its improved Legacy 500 model. Announced back in 2013, Chan was the first customer to purchase a Legacy 500 in China. "Jackie's Legacy 650 has been supporting his demanding intercontinental travel schedule." said Embraer Executive Jets' President, Ernest Edwards at the time. "We are honored that he has chosen the Legacy 500 to serve him in the shorter range requirements of his business development."

“My Legacy 650 is perfect for long trips, and it has everything I need on board,” Chan said. “The Legacy 500 is futuristic and I’m anxious to fly in the real aircraft.” With a range of 3,125 nautical miles, his Legacy 500 has indeed a smaller range than his flagship Dragon with its 3,900nm range. Yet, it's also faster, flying at 0.83 of the speed of sound.

"The Legacy 500 features our best-to-date technologies and it incorporates designs that maximize passenger comfort and fuel efficiency." commented Marco Tulio Pellegrini, Embraer Executive Jets' CEO at the time of the delivery. The Brazilian manufacturer said Chan expected to his former aircraft for transoceanic flights, keeping the new one for shorter trips.

Starting at a base price of $20 million, Embraer Legacy 500 aircrafts are the first in their size-range to have side-stick flight controls. Their cockpit is also equipped with a Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics suite, significantly improving its visual displays. Reaching a flight altitude of up to 45,000 feet, it can transport up to 12 passengers. 8 seats can be transformed into 4 flat beds for night time flights.

From an infotainement side, Chan's new Legacy 500 features surround sound, multiple audio and video options as well as a cabin management system for lights and blinds. "I believe Jackie Chan's choice reflects the changing mindset among Chinese customers that midsize executive jets can fulfill most of their business missions with higher efficiency and greater flexibility." commented Embraer's Senior VP, Guan Dongyuan.

With its first delivery in October 2014, the Legacy 500 was a large bet for the Brazilian manufacturer who invested over $750 million in its development. Nearly 70% of the first 50 units were sold to Fortune 1000 companies and high net worth, US-based individuals, which made Chan's purchase such a high profile event. In 2016, Embraer opened an assembly line in Florida with the capacity to produce up to 72 Legacy aircrafts every year.

Known as 'Big Brother' in China, Jackie Chan was the world's 5th highest paid actor in 2017 according to Forbes with 2017 in earnings. His total net worth was estimated in 2015 at $350 million. A year prior, the martial arts star had racked in $61 million. Whereas Chan has mostly kept quite in the Western world recently, his recent career in mainland China saw him act in hits such as Dragon Blade that alone netted him an estimated $10 million.

The 63 year-old Hong Kong native picked up martial arts whilst at school in China. His film career started before that as a child actor at the age of five, primarily taking parts as extras in Chinese movies. His first major breakthrough came with the 1978 film Snake in the Eagle's Shadow, during which he established his comedic kung-fu genre that has since made him world famous.

His first Hollywood film, The Big Brawl, came in 1980, which later spurred a desire to break into the US market, which eventually came with Rumble in the Bronx in 1995. In 1998, he starred in Rush Hour, which grossed $130 million in the US alone, cementing his career in North America. Throughout his ascent to fame, Chan also launched entrepreneurial ventures such as a cinema chain in China and a clothing line under the initials JC that are found on his first private jet.