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Challenger 300 on the runway

Sammy Hagar & his Challenger 300

For American rock legend and entrepreneur Sammy Hagar, owning a Challenger 300 aircraft keeps his demanding schedule perfectly in tune.

Sammy Hagar on his Challenger 300
Sammy Hagar aboard his Challenger 300.

As the midday sun hangs above the Jalisco Highlands, a Challenger 300 aircraft begins its descent over the sprawling agave fields. On board, Sammy Hagar prepares for the familiar landing in Guadalajara. He’s joined by fellow musician and entrepreneur Adam Levine. The two make regular trips to Cabo San Lucas to check up on their newly launched Santo Mezquila, a joint venture with famed distillery El Viejito. “It’s moments like this when I can’t say exactly what I do for a living,” says Hagar, laughing. One thing is certain: Between his music, businesses, books and charities, Sammy Hagar does a lot for a living – all thanks in no small part to his business jet. 

Eagles Fly

Since those early days, his love for flying has grown exponentially. In the late 1980s, he briefly owned a small twin turboprop aircraft, though he rarely used it because it couldn’t fit the rest of his Van Halen bandmates. Hagar later went on to co-own a twin-engine business jet: “That changed the game for me,” he says. “The more I traveled cross-country in it, the deeper I fell in love with the experience.”

After seven years, Hagar made the leap towards full ownership. “I realized that, long term, owning the aircraft would cost roughly a fifth of what I was spending to charter one.” It was around this time that Hagar was introduced to the Challenger 300 aircraft.

He hitched a ride with a pilot friend who had put 10,000 hours on his Challenger 300 jet for business trips to Norway. “After that ride, I was hooked,” he says.

In 2012, Hagar linked up with Bombardier to begin shopping for a like-new Challenger 300 jet. His heart was set on a fully customized 2008 model that had only 220 hours on it: “The cabin was soundproof and had a custom black-and-white interior, which was damn rock ’n’ roll,” he says, grinning. “I was trying to play hard to get, but in my head I was thinking: Sold.”

“If I’m in songwriting mode, my plane’s the best place for me to concentrate… I’m in a space where nobody’s going to interrupt my creativity.”

When It’s Love

It’s been six years since Hagar took delivery of his Challenger 300 aircraft. Now in his 70s, one could forgive the Red Rocker for slowing down, but he remains at the top of his game thanks to a wide range of successful endeavors, including multiple restaurant franchises, world-renowned rum and tequila brands, a New York Times bestselling autobiography, a music-themed travel TV series, and charities supporting everything from food banks to children’s hospitals.

He also continues to write and release music with his bands, Chickenfoot, the Waboritas and the Circle, and regularly performs both new and classic material at major venues, like his annual star-studded birthday bash in Cabo San Lucas. “The plane really allows it all to happen,” he says, crediting its ability to not only simplify his demanding schedule but also accommodate a sanctuary space for creativity and downtime.

“If I’m in songwriting mode, my plane’s the best place for me to concentrate,” he says. “I’m in a space where nobody’s going to interrupt my creativity.” In 2013, Hagar developed “All We Need Is an Island” on flights to and from Hawaii, and “Father Sun” came to be during a flight back from Tahiti.

Sammy Hagar with his guitar
Sammy Hagar always has a guitar aboard his private jet.

From a logistics standpoint, Hagar concedes that if it wasn’t for his jet, his music career would look very different. “At my age and with my schedule, I don’t have the bandwidth to tour, but my plane allows me to do two shows at a time – anywhere in the country – and then come home to recharge and work on other stuff.”

With this approach, Hagar can do just enough shows to stay sharp and connected to his fans (not to mention keep his band and crew engaged and working) without losing focus on other demanding projects. Take Santo Mezquila, for example, whose producers, distributors and spokespeople are scattered all over California and Mexico. “Adam Levine and I are in Mexico for a photo shoot,” says Hagar. “This morning I jumped in my plane in San Francisco, where I live, picked up Adam in L.A., flew to Mexico for this shoot, and we’ll be back home in time for dinner. I could never do something like this without the jet.”

Hagar also stresses that it’s about more than the jet itself – it’s the relationship. “I’ve purchased other luxury items in my day. Some brands will make you feel like they’re doing you a huge favor, but Bombardier wanted to work with me.” Of course, working with Hagar’s busy schedule is no small feat – but with a little effort, it’s easy to keep him on track.

Cabin Q&A

Sammy Hagar

  • What are your travel essentials?

    I always have a guitar on board. My cabin is a great place to play completely uninterrupted.

  • Where do you like to fly for pleasure?

    We use the plane for a family trip every year: Costa Rica, Virgin Islands.

    We use the plane for a family trip every year: Costa Rica, Virgin Islands.

  • Any advice for purchasing a jet?

    Full ownership is worth the price of admission. My friend Kenny Chesney told me this: “If it came down to it, I would sell all my homes and my boats and live out of my plane.” You and me both!

  • Who are your aviation role models?

    This is going to sound like I’m name-dropping, but Warren Buffett. Back in 2012, just after my book came out, he invited me to speak at a corporate event. We got to talking about travel and he told me that his jet was his greatest luxury indulgence. That really inspired me.

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A version of this article appeared in Issue 29 of Experience magazine published on October 9, 2017.

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