You attain a certain stature in the aviation pecking order when you find yourself looking down on an Airbus A380 in majestic full flight. When such a behemoth of commercial aviation looks tiny as it passes some 900 metres below somewhere over the Tasman Sea, you know you're the top dog in the sky. That's a perspective that owners of a Dassault Falcon 8X - one of the world's most opulent and capable private jets - can expect on a regular basis.
There's only a moment to bask in smugness before the Airbus flashes beneath us, headed for Melbourne while we press on to Auckland. There's much that will be beneath the fortunate few able to afford this $82 million extravagance. Airport queues, for one thing. Crowds, for another.
When you purchase a jet like the Falcon 8X, you also buy into a VIP ecosystem that smooths all the maddening elements of air travel. You're never late for a flight, because your private jet will never depart without you. The terminals that service the business jet market, such as the opulent Melbourne Jet Base from which we depart, are more like six-star hotels, complete with restaurants, lounges, and even hotel-style 'layover' rooms for passengers' exclusive use.
Meanwhile, back at a towering 12,500 metres above the Tasman in the Falcon 8X, life looks about as rosy as the perfectly chilled glass of Ruinart Rosé served minutes after the most balletic take-off I've ever experienced. Gently we roll forward as thrust inexorably builds; then, like a catapult unleashed, we surge forward with the nose gracefully lifting skywards mere seconds later. Ascending on a spectacularly steep trajectory, it's easy to grasp one of the 8X's key selling points – with its fast take-off and steep entry/exit angles, it can access shorter, less-accessible runways than many other similar jets.
Onboard, we meet a new owner of an 8X who explains this fact is key, enabling him direct and expedient access to his business interests across the Asia/Pacific region.
Personally, I'm more taken with the sumptuous electrically adjustable armchairs in cream leather, the polished timber veneers, and an outstanding sense of light and spaciousness in the main cabin, which has been fitted out in a configuration of just 12 seats. The noise suppression in the cabin is extraordinary; even under full take-off thrust, you can chat from one side of the aircraft to the other as comfortably as if you were back in the departure lounge. For anyone accustomed to the noise and harshness of commercial aviation, it's a spectacular revelation.
The three Pratt & Whitney engines developing all that delicious thrust are out of sight – tucked up on the tail where they don't spoil the gorgeous wing curvature – and out of mind once we reach our cruising altitude. The Falcon 8X can fly higher than any commercial airliner at up to 15,500 metres, where it can attain higher speeds and use less fuel due to the thinner air. Turbulence is also conspicuously absent – maybe it's a lucky day in weather terms, but it's just as likely that the 8X's lithe profile and excellent power-to-weight ratio are punching a hole in any small lumps on our flight path.
Either way, there's barely a ripple in my glass of Ruinart where it now sits on a glossy timber veneer fold-out table adorned with a white tablecloth and set with crockery and cutlery emblazoned with 'by Falcon'. (Yes, you can tick an option box to inscribe all the onboard chattels with your own branding. Very sleek.)
One military-inspired innovation is the brand-new Falcon Eye system, which utilises six forward-facing cameras to piece together an accurate image of the terrain ahead during night-time landings, or any low-visibility event such as fog.
The cabin is customisable to a number of configurations – it's even possible to install a shower on board, although our particular Falcon 8X isn't so equipped. Still, the bathroom at the rear is the size of most airliner galleys, including a basin fitted out in spectacular stone veneer with gold-plated fixtures. The only thing missing is a window, for the world's best view from a loo.
The middle section of the plane can be partitioned for privacy, and contains a pair of plush facing sofas perfect for business meetings, but which also convert into a king-size, fully flat bed. If there's one rub with the cabin – literally – it's a ceiling that is 180cm high, forcing anyone taller to stoop as they move around the cabin. It's a minor quibble when every other aspect of the journey oozes an overwhelming sense of luxury. Yes, it would be very easy to get used to this.
As we touch down in Auckland as gracefully as a swan and taxi to a gentle halt in front of yet another private terminal, it's time to step out of the bubble of privilege that only the select few who purchase a Dassault Falcon 8X or a similar business jet will ever get to experience.