Gulfstream ‘doing well’ relatively
Gulfstream Aerospace (Booth No. 2043) has been able to “proactively manage our business to respond to market realities,” said company president Joe Lombardo. “When you consider today’s market realities, we’re doing relatively well.”
At a press conference here yesterday, Lombardo said that he expected the company to produce 97 aircraft this year; 76 large-cabin and 21 mid-cabin aircraft. He cited “renewed interest” in the mid-cabin sector and said that Gulfstream’s new aircraft development program for that market, the G250, and its new large cabin market offering, the G650, “are on track.” He said orders for the 650 are holding at approximately 200.
Through October 12, the four-aircraft G650 test fleet had amassed 700 hours over 200 flights, on its way to projected certification in 2011, and individual aircraft had achieved important milestones. A fifth aircraft is expected to join the program shortly. The first test aircraft, S/N 6001, had logged 415 flight hours. During flutter testing this aircraft achieved a dive speed of Mach 0.995 and demonstrated acceptable damping responses.
The FAA issued a type inspection authorization (TIA) for the G650 in August. The first three production aircraft are on the line and the first G650 training simulators will be delivered to FlightSafety International’s Savannah learning center in November. Individual fleet aircraft have successfully conducted testing for flammable fluid drainage and ingestion, water ingestion, ram-air turbine testing, anti-skid brake tuning, component cooling and systems operation, aerodynamic stall testing and parameter identification testing for fly-by-wire control law development. The G650s have confirmed a wide-range of operating data including minimum control airspeeds, initial cruise performance and flight-control system/flight-control law performance. Testing has also been conducted to measure in-flight loads and validate initial PlaneView avionics, autopilot and flight management systems.
Gulfstream also began testing aircraft S/N 6004 with a fully fitted interior over the summer and flew a test aircraft ballasted for a crew of four and eight passengers over a 5,000–nm closed course at Mach 0.90 in 9 hours and 45 minutes. Pres Henne, Gulfstream vice president of engineering, certification and test, said he believes this sets a new speed/distance record for civil aircraft. The aircraft reached its initial cruise altitude of FL390 in 23 minutes.
Gulfstream’s other new product in development, a super-midsize G250, outfitted with a full interior, arrived here Sunday from its manufacturer, Israel Aircraft Industries, and is on static display at DeKalb Peachtree airport. Like its larger G650 sibling, the G250 will have a Gulfstream-designed cabin management system that can be controlled by an iPod or iPhone.
The G250 has a balanced field length of 5,000 feet and takes less than 20 minutes to reach FL410 at maximum gross weight. Three aircraft are in the test program and key systems, including the brake-by-wire system and the Honeywell HTF7250G engines have been successfully tested. Load testing of key structural components is complete and the aircraft has received RVSM approval.
Gulfstream declined to reveal the number of G250s on order, but did admit that deliveries of its mid-cabin offerings, the G150 and the G200, had plunged since 2008 from 69 to 19 in 2009. This year the company expects to deliver 21.
Lombardo said that large-cabin production rates were “stable” due to strong demand outside the U.S. and Europe, and that the company’s product support business “is experiencing healthy growth.” He said that over the last decade the share of the Gulfstream fleet outside the U.S. has grown by 90 percent, from 17 to 29 percent of the total fleet of 1,900 over the last decade, and matched by a concomitant growth in the company’s product support. “The BRIC countries [Brazil, Russia, India, and China] are driving a lot of demand and it will continue to grow,” Lombardo said.
Lombardo declined to reveal the company’s plan for a follow-on aircraft to take the place of either the G450 or G550.
Gulfstream did announce a gross weight and 700-pound payload increase on the G450. Payload increases from 1,800 to 2,500 pounds, allowing the aircraft to take off with 12 passengers and full fuel.