Despite the lingering recession, in late November, Gulfstream reached yet another 2009 milestone when company test pilots made the successful first flight of the newest Gulfstream business jet, the ultralong-range G650.
The flight was unusually short, just 12 minutes, as the pilots, Jake Howard and Tom Horne, along with flight engineer Bill Osborne, returned for a precautionary landing shortly after noticing on departure what Gulfstream said was a "slight vibration" in a gear door. Gulfstream did not expect the issue to cause any delay in its ambitious flight-test schedule.
During the short flight, the G650 reached an altitude of just 6,600 feet and an airspeed of just 170 knots, and the pilots reported that the controls and systems performed "as expected," though the abbreviated flight did not allow the test crew to perform all of the checks it had planned.
Launched during headier times in 2008, the G650 is the flagship of the Gulfstream lineup. With its trademark huge, oval windows and expansive cabin, the airplane is the largest purpose-built business jet and the fastest civil airplane in the world. It also has, without much argument, the most advanced cabin in the business. At its ceiling of 51,000 feet, the cabin altitude is adjusted to just 4,850 feet; at 41,000 feet, that figure is just 3,300 feet. The airplane can seat up to 18 passengers in a variety of cabin configurations, all of which provide more room, more light and more comfort than any previous Gulfstream. It also features a first for Gulfstream (or any other manufacturer, for that matter) — a cabin designed to continue functioning, from toilet to Wi-Fi, even after a single-point failure.
The G650 has phenomenal range, 7,000 nm with eight passengers and a crew of four, which will enable it to link, Gulfstream says, Dubai with New York and London with Buenos Aires, all of that at the airplane's long-range cruise speed of Mach .85, an airspeed that is faster than the high-speed cruise figure for many large business jets. Its Rolls-Royce BR725 engines feature more thrust (16,100 pounds per side), quieter operation and lower emissions than any comparable engine in service today. With the Rolls-Royce power coupled with a new, cutting-edge wing design, the G650 will boast a top speed of Mach 0.925, making it slightly faster than the Citation X and earning it the title of fastest civilian jet in the world. At the same time, it will be able to take off on runways as short as 6,000 feet at its max takeoff weight, giving it unprecedented flexibility. And it does all this while keeping its max takeoff weight a hair below 100,000 pounds.
As part of its newly announced PlaneView II cockpit, the G650 will come standard with Enhanced Vision System, a new, improved head-up display system, and Synthetic Vision-Primary Flight Display as part of its wide array of technologically advanced safety features. Also standard are fly-by-wire flight controls with emergency descent mode, a triple-redundant flight management system and 3-D weather radar.
Gulfstream expects to earn type certification for the G650 by 2011, with first deliveries taking place the following year. It has not announced a number of orders for the $59.5 million (without paint and interior) jet, but it has characterized the number of orders as "very healthy."