All of these small drag reduction changes were tested in the wind tunnel, and again on the prototype G550, and they worked. Rolls-Royce kicked in with a fuel efficiency improvement at cruise from the BR710 engines, and the result was a new tanks-full range of 6,750 nm with full reserves while cruising at Mach .80, which equals 460 knots true airspeed. Push the power up to cruise at Mach .85 and the G550's max range is up from 5,750 nm to 6,000 nm. Even more remarkable, at the maximum cruise speed of Mach .87-which equals 499 knots true airspeed-the G550 flies 5,000 nm compared to 4,700 nm for the GV. As cruise speed goes up, drag reduction becomes more complicated and demanding, so you can see how successful Gulfstream's Pres Henne and his engineering team were.
The G550 proved its range capability last October when it set the all-time distance record for a business jet flying 7,301 nm from Seoul, South Korea, to Orlando. The previous record had been 6,132 nm set by a GV in 1997. The G550 also showed its speed over distance in December when it flew from Tokyo to West Palm Beach, a distance of 6,619 nm, with an average cruise speed of Mach .83 with elapsed time of 12 hours and 32 minutes. Because of the international dateline, the G550 actually landed before it took off. It departed Tokyo at 11:58 p.m. and landed in Florida at 10:30 p.m. on the same day.
Gulfstream didn't stretch the fuselage of the GV to make the 550, but it did enlarge the usable space in the cabin and baggage compartment with several changes. The biggest change was moving the cabin entry door two feet forward, allowing space for one more of Gulfstream's lovely trademark oval windows on each side. The move was made possible because the PlaneView avionics are smaller and a radio rack could be eliminated. That, and other changes, adds 58 more cubic feet of usable space to the cabin, providing the room to have four separate seating and living areas in the cabin.
The G550 was certified on schedule last fall and entered service before the end of the year. Not long before the airplane was certified, Gulfstream offered me a chance to fly it on an actual test flight. The cockpit was complete, but the cabin space was unfinished and stuffed with flight test engineers and their monitoring and recording equipment.
You have to be a Gulfstream expert to tell the difference between a GV and G550 on the ramp. Counting seven windows is the surest way to know that you are looking at the flagship of the fleet. The redesigned trailing edges of the wing, recontoured engine pylons, and many other drag reduction changes take a close look and trained eye to spot.
But when you step into the cockpit, there is no mistaking the G550 for any other airplane. The PlaneView system is unique to Gulfstream and is the product of years of expert pilot input and testing to establish what the company believes is the optimum way to present a wealth of information to the flight crew.