I have been to dozens of new airplane rollouts in the last 30-plus years, and I was amazed when the all-new Gulfstream G650 taxied into view at a rollout ceremony in late September under its own power. That just doesn't happen. Rollout ceremonies are usually a party to show that the airplane is getting close, not that it has all the necessary parts and can move under its own power.
The G650, which was announced in March 2008, is the biggest, fastest and longest-range business jet yet. It is also the first entirely new design from the company since the Gulfstream II. The G650 features a cabin with 6-foot-5-inch headroom that is 8½ feet wide, the largest purpose-built business jet by far. Top speed is expected to be Mach .925 (525 knots), squeezing it past the speedy Citation X to claim the top speed for a civilian jet. And the G650 can cover 5,000 nm at Mach .90 (516 knots), or 7,000 nm at Mach .85 (488 knots), also far ahead of the competition.
When it announced the program, Gulfstream said the G650 would fly before the end of 2009, and the powered rollout makes that prediction seem to be a certainty, though no exact date can be predicted.
The G650 wing with a span of nearly 100 feet is spectacular in its exotic shape and smoothness. As is traditional with Gulfstreams, the flap tracks and other wing appendages are internal, so both the upper and lower surfaces are perfectly smooth. The airfoil, designed by Gulfstream, changes constantly across the span of the wing, which sweeps back at 33 degrees and ends with tall winglets. The wing swoops up with more dihedral at the root than the outer sections. The wing is so large that, even with a full load of 44,200 pounds of fuel inside, there is room for more.
Though the G650 fuselage is significantly larger than other Gulfstreams, the airplane sits a little lower on its landing gear. The impression of being lower is enhanced by a long sweeping belly fairing that will help delay formation of a Mach shock wave as the slipstream rushes past the wing and fuselage intersection.
Even the horizontal tail is exotic with a depression along its span that, along with a sharp sweep angle, will help manage the near supersonic airflow at high-speed cruise.
The windshields and canopy resemble the traditional Gulfstream but with more sweep and a smoother intersection of the glass and metal. The trademark oval windows have been increased in size by more than half, and there are eight of them on each side of the cabin. Most of the fuselage is made using metal bonding instead of rivets so the skin is very smooth. The unprecedented 10.7 psi cabin pressurization will keep the cabin altitude below 5,000 feet when the G650 is cruising at its ceiling of 51,000 feet, and below 3,000 feet up to 45,000 feet cruise altitude.
Gulfstream received a frenzy of orders after the G650 was announced and has already booked more than 200, which stretches deliveries beyond 2016. The first delivery is expected in early 2012 with certification in 2011. Five airplanes will be used in the flight test program, which is expected to amass more than 1,800 flight hours. The price in today's dollars is $64.5 million, and the company has seen no erosion in the order book for the G650 despite the economic downturn. In fact, three more G650s had been sold in the week before the rollout.