For our test flight, 16,000 out of a capacity of 41,300 pounds of fuel were loaded in the wings. With pilots and flight test engineers and their equipment, gross weight for takeoff was 62,383 pounds. Maximum takeoff weight in the G550 is 91,000 pounds, and with the tanks full a typical G550 will have 1,800 pounds of payload available for passengers and their baggage. That is considerably more payload than in a typical GV, thanks to a lower empty weight in the G550 before the interior is installed.
The G550 requires very little runway for an airplane of such size and range. At maximum takeoff weight on a standard day, only 5,910 feet of pavement are required, and remember, that is fueled for a trip from say, New York to Bahrain, or London to Buenos Aires. Fueled for a short hop of say New York to Los Angeles, runway requirements can be less than 3,500 feet.
Climb performance is equally impressive, as the G550 will climb directly to 41,000 feet after a maximum weight takeoff, and can be at its ceiling of 51,000 feet with fuel for mere transcontinental trips. A maximum cabin pressure differential of 10.2 psi keeps the cabin altitude at or below 6,000 feet while most other jet cabins can climb as high at 8,000 feet. On trips over 10 hours you can really feel the difference a lower cabin makes.
The first item on the flight test card was to fly the G550 to the stall barrier stick pusher in various configurations to make sure the pusher was firing at the proper angle of attack. The big jet is mild mannered in all configurations. Another test point was to turn off one of the Honeywell laser gyro inertial navigation systems and make sure it could re-align itself in flight. The unit was back up to attitude and heading reference quality in a short time and in just a few minutes had found itself and was back producing accurate and independent navigation guidance.
There were thunderstorms to dodge, and it was revealing to see the weather radar returns overlaid on such a variety of maps and other nav information on the PlaneView displays. We weaved our way between the storms to Asheville, North Carolina, for an approach using only the EVS infrared picture on the HUD. The high terrain, airport environment, and details of the runway are all clearly shown in that green glowing image on the HUD, and it's a piece of cake to land without ever seeing the actual runway, but that would be illegal. The HUD and EVS are approved to continue down to 100 feet below normal Category I ILS minimums, at which point you must see the actual approach or runway lights to continue.
Flying around the North Carolina mountains emphasized the layers of protection the PlaneView system offers pilots and passengers in a G550. First, the terrain warning system is comparing our position and flight path to the known elevation of terrain stored in its memory. You can see an artificial topographical map on the PlaneView showing the height of terrain relative to your flight path. Get too close and a voice calls out a warning and shows you the best escape route on the display. And if you somehow fail to notice that warning, EVS looks through darkness and clouds to show you a picture of the terrain on the HUD. And if cabin pressure were ever lost, the autopilot system retards the power and automatically rolls the G550 into an emergency descent and levels off at a breathable altitude, giving an incapacitated crew time to recover.