G650 Enters Service As Production Ramps Up
Gulfstream Aerospace is working to step up the pace of deliveries of the new G650, taking account of time lost due to the need for retrofit work on early models. By the end of last year, the airframer had delivered six completed G650s to customers. The tally since then is unknown because Gulfstream has yet to release G650 delivery numbers for this year.
Gulfstream had earlier stated that it expected to deliver 17 G650s by the end of last year. The reason that it was able to deliver only six of the jets was because, according to a Gulfstream spokeswoman (repeating the word “disequilibrium” used by General Dynamics CEO Phebe Novakovic at an earnings conference earlier this year), “There is a disequilibrium between initial and final phase on the G650. This was the result of a delay in the FAA certification process and our decision to continue manufacturing G650 aircraft during certification. As a result, we have some retrofit work we have to do on green G650s to bring them up to the FAA-approved configuration. We expect initial and final phase manufacturing to be rebalanced within the year.” This “disequilibrium” stems from Gulfstream’s beginning production of the G650 before the type and production certification processes had run their course.
Gulfstream received the G650’s FAA type certificate on September 7 and its production certificate on Dec. 20, 2012. All G650s built after issuance of production certification “comply with the FAA configuration and do not require retrofit,” the spokeswoman told AIN. Gulfstream declined to comment on the specifics of what items required retrofitting, except to say: “The retrofits consist of system upgrades to bring the pre-certification aircraft up to final [type certificate] configuration.” While Gulfstream won’t reveal how many G650s were affected, it did acknowledge that more than the six delivered last year were built before receipt of the production certificate.
Of the six G650 deliveries last year, FAA registry records indicate deliveries to: Walmart; Swap Shop founder Preston Henn; Contrail Aviation in Philadelphia; Exxon Mobil; and the final two (N524EA and N711SW) to bank trustees. N711SW reportedly was purchased by Wynn Resorts chairman and CEO Steve Wynn but Gulfstream has not confirmed this.
James Johnson, manager of aviation services for Exxon Mobil, wrote in an email to AIN, “The aircraft has been operating as well as or better than we expected and the crewmembers and passengers are pleased with the early performance. Gulfstream is dedicated to ensuring it addresses any issue we experience and has continued to reinforce the reputation it has for product support.”
Preston Henn, 82, is a pilot, racecar driver and boater who likes to go fast. He also owns a GIV but doesn’t fly his jets himself. The first flight in his new G650–N650PH–took place early last month. Gulfstream brought the jet to Florida, where Swap Shop is headquartered, to give Henn a ride before the jet went into demo service. “It’s extremely quiet when they throttle back and very comfortable inside,” he said. When the G650 returns after flying demos, Henn plans to lease the jet instead of selling it so he doesn’t have to recapture tax depreciation that he has already taken. He said that during the demo period, Gulfstream plans to try to break a round-the-world speed record with his G650.
When Gulfstream first opened the order book for the G650 in 2008, Henn was racing a car in China and, he said, to be fair to customers Gulfstream was taking orders only on April 15. But Henn emailed then-president Joe Lombardo on April 15 from China, which was April 14 in the U.S., hoping that Gulfstream would allow that date to count. “I ended up with the first position,” he said. Henn added that he was supposed to get G650 serial number two, which was destroyed in a flight-test crash on April 2, 2011.
Of the G650s that aren’t blocked from viewing on flight-tracking services, Henn’s jet and N711SW can be observed. The longest flight in Henn’s G650 was 13 hours and three minutes on January 25, from Doha to Teterboro. The demo flights appear to consist of many short trips as well as long ones that include flights from Washington, D.C., to Doha and Moscow to Savannah. The G650 thought to belong to Steve Wynn has been flying mostly short-duration flights, with the longest a five-hour, 14-minute trip from Boston to Las Vegas on January 15.