The vagaries of the economy is making it difficult for businesses to forge their plans, but Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation believes that when its upcoming ultra-large cabin and ultra-long range G650 business jet launches in 2012, it will have a ready supply of firm orders on hand.
That’s good news as Gulfstream, a subsidiary of the General Dynamics Company, has been finding its own business model tested time and again. In 2009, WTOC11 reported that Gulfstream laid off 1200 of its workers across the US and furloughed an additional 1500 for five weeks. Those moves were made as the company cut production of its mid- and large-cabin aircraft in response to sharply reduced demand.
Gulfstream is pressing ahead with the G650 and is also planning to bring its large cabin G250 to the market at about the same time. The aircraft manufacturer has already performed a pair of test flights with the G650 and is expecting concurrent FAA and EASA approval in 2011.
The G650 program was announced by Gulfstream in March 2008 with the first test flight conducted in September 2009. In February 2010, a second test flight was held with both test flight aircraft in the air at the same time.
Following the second flight test Pres Henne, senior vice president, Programs, Engineering and Test, Gulfstream said, “We plan to make half a dozen flights to assess basic system functionality before proceeding to more intensive testing.”
The G650 testing will eventually involve five aircraft and approximately 1800 hours of flight time. Each aircraft will be put through a specific series of tests with one aircraft tested for avionics, another for systems and yet another for performance and flight controls. The two production aircraft in the test program — P1 and P2 — will be used to evaluate the interior systems and reduced vertical separation minimums (RVSMs), respectively.
Gulfstream is calling its G650 “the new world standard” for business jets. The company says that the G650 will boast the longest, widest and tallest interior in its class and the most comfortable cabin. Gulfstream has opted to go with larger windows, some 16 percent bigger than those in the G550, its current flag bearer model. 16 cabin windows will help make the interior brighter while increasing passenger exterior perception.
The G650 will offer seating for 11-18 passengers and feature a full galley and bar as well as the latest entertainment features. The seats will be larger and the aisles wider thanks to a cabin that is 102 inches wide. With 77 inches of height, even the tallest cabin crewmember will find that headroom is no longer an issue. Gulfstream is offering 12 different cabin layouts for customers with significant customization from jet to jet.
Gulfstream says that the G650 will have a range of 7000 nautical miles when traveling at 0.85 Mach or 5000 nautical miles when traveling at 0.90 Mach. Top speed is slated as 0.925 Mach. Pilots will enjoy cutting edge vision systems including the Gulfstream Enhanced Vision System (EVS II), the Synthetic Vision-Primary Flight Display (SV-PFD) system and Head-Up Display (HUD II).
Moreover, the G650 will enjoy a similar flight deck layout as the G550 which means that the type rating for the two aircraft will be the same. Customers will only see minimal differences in training between the two designs, something that should help contain training costs.
The Gulfstream G650 will be produced in Savannah, Georgia. Following its 2009 layoffs, Gulfstream hasn’t indicated how the new model might impact future job growth there as well as its other locations across the United States.
One of Gulfstream’s chief rivals, Bombardier, is likely to respond with a similar aircraft. Bombardier Chief Executive Officer Pierre Beaudoin told Bloomberg News in November 2009 that they would “absolutely not” leave space to the Gulfstream 650 by failing to counter with a new jet of its own.
That’s good news for an industry that thrives on healthy competition.
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