We Fly the Bombardier Global 6000

How do you improve upon a $50 million bizjet? Like this.

When I saw the it on the ramp at Bradley International Airport (BDL) in Connecticut, my first impression of the Bombardier Global 6000, the company’s latest ultra-long-range wonder, was simply that it is a staggeringly beautiful airplane. The one I was looking at, and which I’d shortly get to fly, was the very picture of elegance, stark white with gold, like a great model made of porcelain but built to fly at velocities approaching the speed of sound — a wonder.

But the Global 6000 is a machine nonetheless, and a remarkably capable one at that. If there’s anything we’ve learned from the economic downturn of the past several years, it’s that the market for ultra-long-range business jets is doing fine. Just look at the success of the Gulfstream G650, the Falcon 7X and the Bombardier Global 6000, all of which have seen steady business at a time when segments for other, smaller bizjets are suffering. If there is a lesson here, it’s that if we need one word to describe what buyers are seeking in a global jet, that word is “range.”

This makes shopping for one of Bombardier’s cutting-edge ultra-long-range bizjets easy: The range of the machine is part of its name. The Global 6000, for example, has an IFR range of 6,000 nm, which is enough to, well, take you to some spectacular places. (The company dropped the “Express” part of the Global Express name; new airplanes are simply “Global” and a number that approximates the range in nautical miles.)

Range Wars

When Bombardier launched the Global Express back in 1993, it was a revolutionary move to create an airplane that would extend the range of the purpose-built bizjet in an attempt to keep pace with its rival Gulfstream. Over the next couple of decades, the companies have played leapfrog, with innovative airplanes that enjoyed remarkable sales success while pushing the state of the art ever higher.

The innovations have included new avionics capabilities, integrating large flat-panel display systems and a variety of cutting-edge safety systems, including head-up displays, enhanced-vision system, airborne datalink, advanced systems monitoring and increasingly capable and smart autoflight systems, all things flight department chiefs (and pilots in general) look to when evaluating new designs. Such innovation, according to Honeywell’s annual state of the turbine industry report, is a major factor in driving buying decisions.

By some measures, an even more critical factor is simply the range of the airplane. Additional range means additional utility. With longer legs, the airplane can obviously travel farther, but in terms of ultra-long-range logic, it more importantly means it can link important city pairs. With the world’s financial centers separated by vast distances, the ability to link, say, London and Mumbai is a major selling point. Because the very largest and most comfortable bizjets can do this while giving their passengers all the comforts of home, the commodity being sold is the ability to shrink the globe and make time stand still. A 14-hour flight, if it involves a few hours of productive work connected to digital networks, a fine meal, a restful night’s sleep and a quick shower en route before a change of clothes and a delightful breakfast, isn’t an ordeal; it’s just part of the day. This is what ultra-long-range jets promise — and deliver.

Quest for Global Domination

When Bombardier launched its Global Express in the early 1990s, it was taking up the considerable challenge rival Gulfstream threw down in the form of its long-range, wide-body Gulfstream G5, which was widely believed to be the ultimate expression of the purpose-built bizjet. The Global Express, while featuring the same generous fuselage cross section as Bombardier’s Canadair Regional Jets, boasted a new highly swept (35 degrees) supercritical wing and, of course, a luxurious interior designed for a small contingent of VIP passengers. Like its prime competitor, the Global Express (frequently referred to simply as the “Global”) was outfitted with BMW/Rolls-Royce BR710 engines, putting out about 15,000 pounds of thrust apiece with unprecedented fuel efficiency.

The combination gave the Global Express a range of nearly 6,500 nm, which meant the airplane theoretically could go anywhere on the planet with a single stop for fuel.

Since its first delivery nearly 15 years ago, the Global Express has evolved. Today there are two models, the slightly smaller, less rangy Global 5000 and the Global 6000, which entered service just last year. Bombardier has delivered more than 400 Global aircraft.

Flying the Global 6000

One thing that’s gratifying to me is that the makers of airplanes like the Global 6000 have not relegated the pilot to the servants’ quarters. Instead, as the quality of life for the folks in back has improved — and has it ever — so has it for the folks at the reins. The cockpit of the Global 6000 is a splendid place to do ­business, with wide, comfortable seating, leather-wrapped yokes, effective and easily controlled multizone environmental control and a comfortable spot for that relief pilot for those maximum-­duration flights. I’ll forgive you for not believing it, but this near-100,000-pound machine felt a bit sporty even.

We’ve written about the avionics in the Global 6000 before, and they are well worth another mention. The Global Vision Flight Deck is based on the award-winning Rockwell Collins Fusion flight deck, one of the most advanced avionics systems in the world. The system, says Bombardier, will be the avionics backbone of every Global model going forward, including the emerging Global 7000 and 8000 ultra-long-range jets. (One wonders if another “ultra” is called for in the case of the 7000, which will boast 7,000-plus nm range.)

The author at the controls of the Global 6000. The Global Vision Flight Deck is a straightforward platform to learn, and flying the airplane is, as you'd guess, great fun. There's no mistaking it's a large jet, but it handles honestly and smoothly.|

With four 15.1-inch (diagonal) displays arranged smartly across the panel, the level of information pilots have at their fingertips is unprecedented. The displays are arranged three across — PFDs left and right and an MFD in the center. Below the MFD is a shared FMS/radio tuner display; every display can do reversionary duty if called upon to do so. There is redundancy upon redundancy. The displays are customizable and, like the seats in a Lexus, have memory settings, so after someone else flies your airplane (heaven forbid), you can reset everything to just how you like it. For such a remarkably capable airplane, the cockpit is relatively simple, with switches, knobs and buttons arrayed sensibly and grouped logically, making it easy to find what you’re looking for, even for a newcomer to the cockpit. This also saves the time, trouble and potential for mistakes caused by having to go back and forth from one location in the cockpit to another to do routine chores. With the layout of the Global Vision Flight Deck, you’ll typically find what you’re looking for in the most logical and convenient spot.

Unlike older-generation systems in the Global-series airplanes, the Global Vision Flight Deck is a highly graphical system that makes use of cursor control (with alternate means of control) to manage every imaginable part of the flight, from controlling the temperature in the back of the airplane to troubleshooting faults to making FMS inputs.

The centerpiece of Global Vision is the HUD system, which mirrors what is going on in the head-down system, otherwise known as the primary flight display. While the HUD symbology is rendered in electro-green on black compared to the rich, colorful look of the PFD, the presentation is based on the same symbology principles. The tapes are presented the same, the guidance cues are the same and the layout is roughly the same as well, among many other factors. The result is that going from HUD to PFD or vice versa doesn’t require the pilot to make many mental adjustments. Both are presenting the same information in very similar ways.

The HUD (partially blanked in this pic) provides a data-rich view; the glowing dome is KBDL.|

The HUD does this through the use of an enhanced-vision infrared sensor, and the PFD does it with synthetic vision, essentially a computerized rendering of the outside world complete with terrain, obstacles, runways, roads and waterways. The main difference operationally is that the HUD can be used for flying approaches to reduced minimums, which is not (yet?) the case for synthetic vision.

The level of automation is remarkable. There are, of course, autothrottles and a sophisticated autopilot that is among the best I’ve flown. There are also auto-brakes, which can get you stopped very quickly and in a much straighter line than I can manage at a high degree of braking effort.

We got everything buttoned up and the engines uneventfully started — no need to agonize over the start; the computerized start logic has you covered. We taxied out toward Runway 6 at Bradley, Bombardier’s Mike Goggins my faithful guide in the right seat. Like many larger jets, the Global 6000 has a tiller for ground steering, though there’s no need to touch it after you’ve lined up and completed that final pre-takeoff check.

Once cleared for takeoff, I engaged the autothrottles, stood the levers up and let the auto-power system set the power, which is a great help at a high workload moment in the flight.

Autothrottles are a big part of that workload reduction in climb too, when you can set an airspeed and let the autothrottles and autopilot do the hard work of adjusting the power and capturing the altitude smoothly, something that is no easy task in an airplane with 30,000 pounds of thrust beneath you.

The standard autothrottles reduce workload and enhance safety.|

The controllers at Hartford were a bit confused at our flight plan, which called for us to climb to FL 450 through RVSM — we were fully compliant but not yet authorized — up to a VOR and loiter there for a while before heading back to Bradley. Our initial clearance to 23,000 feet went as planned, but the OK to go to 450 took a while. Once cleared, Goggins advised me to set the indicated airspeed climb to 300 knots, which allowed us to climb smartly directly from 230 to 450. The ceiling of the airplane is 51,000 feet, one of the few civilian airplanes with such a ceiling. Much of the cruising, Goggins told me, is done at 45,000 feet and at Mach .85, settings that, with four crew and eight passengers (along with other factors, of course), give that magical 6,000 nm range. The numbers we were seeing — Mach .85 and just over 3,000 pounds per hour total — supported that.

The Global 6000 feels very much like the big airplane it is while remaining very pleasing to fly. At 45,000 feet, an altitude that used to sound coffin-corner crazy to jet pilots, we asked Boston Center for a block, and I got to hand-fly the 6000 for a bit. Even at such rarified heights, the Global handles like a dream, giving you exactly the kind of control response — solid and smooth — you’d hope for in such a machine and with cockpit ergonomics that delight at every turn.

Back to the Cabin

At its ceiling of 51,000 feet, the Global 6000 maintains a cabin altitude of lower than 6,000 feet, a remarkable figure and one that helps assure passengers will arrive at their distant destination refreshed and ready to go. The cabin itself is a work of art, though I got to enjoy it only while on the ground — pity. For the 6000’s cabin, Bombardier designers created a sleek, elegant and clean design that is also smartly laid out and comfortable even for the long haul. The cabin itself is wide — Bombardier claims nearly a foot wider than the competition — and there are 27 feet of length for the compartment. This allows a private stateroom in back that features a private lavatory with a shower, a remarkable touch that nearly every visitor remarks upon. There are three environmental zones, and the cabin is fully wired, with HD displays throughout, Blu-ray piped through the cabin, in-cabin networking and high-speed Internet. I prefer the compartment at the pointy end of the airplane myself, but for those forced to travel in back, the ride doesn’t get much better than this.

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**Back to Home **

On descent, we got to see just how well the spoilers work, allowing rates of descent in excess of 5,000 fpm. On our way back down, we stopped at 15,000 feet to do some more hand-flying, for me to get used to the feel of the airplane in the landing configuration and to see the envelope protection in action. The most impressive part, again, was how solidly the 6000 flew even at low speeds. At one point, as I held the nose up with the power back, the airspeed sank and, instead of the stick pusher activating, the autothrottles came up and the airplane maintained its altitude at mere knots above the stall.

It was a gray and murky day in northern Connecticut as we made our way back to the field, but as I peered though the HUD, there popped up a glowing half-orb right where BDL was. Glancing down at the PFD, there was that same little orb. It might seem like a silly little feature, but for those of us who have at one point or another accidentally headed toward the wrong airport (there are probably a few of us who’ve made it all the way to the runway before discovering the error), the little orb makes nothing but sense, like so many other nice touches on the Global Vision Flight Deck.

The approach to BDL was gusty, with a sharp crosswind of about 20 knots. It was a tough runway for a pilot making his first landing in a new airplane. The approach, however, was exceptionally slow for an airplane this size — our Vref was just 115 knots; the airplane felt rock-solid all the way down the pike. Once we were on the ground, the powerful reversers and giant brakes helped get us stopped, with medium effort, extremely quickly.

We weren’t in Paris — though we could have flown there nonstop — and KBDL isn’t the Louvre, but I still had some great photographs to remember my trip in Bombardier’s true work of art.

This kind of beauty and capability come, not surprisingly, with a breathtaking price tag — the Global 6000 starts at about $58.5 million, a bit more if you want the shower. But what it can do makes even its beauty pale in significance. With a 6,000 nm range at Mach .85, a transcontinental range at Mach .88 and the cabin amenities to make that range not merely tolerable but pleasant and productive, it’s easy to see why those with the need to do business from one end of the Earth to the other will find the Global 6000 a tool that’s hard to beat.

The wide, remarkably luxurious cabin of the Global 6000 is a great place to get work done while transiting the globe.

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