““[Bill Gates] has been historically one of my best supporters…One of my favorite e-mails he ever sent me…I proposed this crazy project. And he sent back this two-line response: ‘This has got to be the craziest thing you’ve ever suggested. Please proceed.’” ”
Gulfstream Elite Cabin Concept in G550: The BJT Report
The Gulfstream Elite interior concept debuted in 2011 in the G650 and found its second application in the G450. To date, Gulfstream has delivered some 30 Elite cabins. Now this cabin is coming to the G550 and the manufacturer invited and journalists from several other publications to experience it on a recent flight in .
“Integrated” barely describes Elite, which incorporates virtually every aspect of the passengers’ experience inside the popular large business jet, now celebrating 10 years in service.
Gulfstream does all its interiors in-house, Tray Crow, Gulfstream director of interior design, explained. Obviously, this is a profitable area for the company, but it also gives Gulfstream better control of what goes in the cabin. “When something breaks, the customer says, ‘My Gulfstream is broken,’ regardless [of] the problem. We want to be able to fix it as soon as we can, so we want to have control of everything that’s in the aircraft.”
In-flight entertainment and cabin management systems are notoriously problem-prone. Elite includes Gulfstream’s cabin management system, which provides digital control of the high-definition entertainment, lighting (LED throughout), temperature and window shades, all via an iPod Touch. Passengers can also use their own iPhones by downloading the free app.
Each seat is provided with an iPod Touch, hidden in a sidewall compartment and complete with charging station. By selecting seat position, any iPod or iPhone can be used to control the above functions anywhere in the cabin. A master control panel, which includes digital circuit breakers, is located on the wall in the galley, for control by the flight attendant. The system is designed so that no single point of failure results in total loss of functionality.
The entertainment system includes two dual DVD players, two cabin LCD monitors and a stereo speaker system (which can be very loud, as this writer inadvertently found out).
The forward galley in N550GA features a microwave, dual coffee makers (including espresso) and water sterilization system. Several components are stacked in “a stainless steel stack to save space and weight, make it look good and it’s more efficient,” said Andrew Fulford, design operations manager for Gulfstream’s Industrial Design Department. Fulford came to Gulfstream from the automotive industry.
He pointed out numerous details of the design that are not readily apparent through casual observation. The reading lights, gaspers and oxygen boxes on the ceiling above the seats are placed in such a way that they are less obvious. “When you look down the ceiling of a normal cabin, these give a rather spotty look. But when you look in the Elite cabin ceiling, it’s clean,” said Fulford.
Gulfstream has also added features to the seats. “We offer a seat that has more functionality than our regular seat to offer than lumbar, heated seat massage, powered back rest and leg rest,” said Fulford. “We’ve also developed a new divan which is a lot lower to the ground and the back angle is more reclined. So now it’s more like the sofa at home.”
He said Elite uses a modular approach, so that the customer has several options. For example, the galley can be moved to the rear of the aircraft or the divan to the front.