“Let me be straight with you. What I'd rather have is an airplane. We just had a third kid. I don't like flying commercial. I like to take my family to Hawaii. When I go east, I'd like to have pilots I know. ”
Uber-barges, such as the 6,000-plus-nautical-mile-range Gulfstream G550 and Bombardier Global Express, are often the launch platforms for passenger comfort and avionics features that later show up on somewhat smaller, less expensive and more limited-range aircraft.
The Gulfstream G450 is such an aircraft. At a glance, a new G450, first delivered to customers in 2005, looks virtually identical to a 20-year-old GIV. Given that the former can cost $35.85 million (2008 price) and the latter can be had used for $16 million, you may wonder what the G450 gives you for all that extra money.
A lot, actually. Range aside, you basically get a G550 in a shorter tube for around $10 million less. There are, in fact, so many similarities between a G550 and a G450 that a pilot can fly them with the same type-rating. And even though it doesn't share the 6,750-nautical-mile range of a G550, a G450 can still haul eight passengers and crew a fair spell down the road-4,350 nautical miles unrefueled.
However, when carefully compared with the older GIV, the G450 evidences some pronounced differences-even in the airframe. The G450's fuselage is 12 inches longer and the cabin entry door has been moved three feet to the right, creating a cockpit that is 30 percent larger. The larger cockpit provides plenty of room for a third crew seat on those longer missions. The G450's systems-avionics, electrical, engines and environmental-have all been reworked. The result is an airplane that is more economical, reliable, powerful, fuel-efficient and comfortable than its predecessor. Pilots say it flies better, too.
Start with the engines. The Rolls-Royce Tays that made their debut on the GIV (certified in 1987) have been updated with more durable components that allow for an astonishing 12,000 hours recommended time between overhauls. That is probably longer than you-and the next two owners combined-will own the airplane. The engines also have been fitted with digital controls and tweaked to produce slightly more power and fuel efficiency. They push the G450 to speeds up to 476 knots. Thanks to new thrust reversers, the aircraft stops shorter as well (in 3,190 feet at maximum landing weight). The maintenance cycles of other components also have been increased and Gulfstream claims that overall maintenance costs for a G450 are as much as 20 percent lower than for a GIV.
A lot of this reduced maintenance is in the cockpit, which is dominated by four large-and I do mean large- Honeywell Primus Epic avionics LCD displays that the pilots can easily manipulate with a unique cursor control device that grows out of the outboard arm rests. The system is a Game Boy for the Gulfstream. It can do everything but cook your steak and is easier to use than some of the center-console trackball devices on other airplanes. Gulfstream also has a proprietary electronic flight bag called PlaneBook that uses a tablet laptop to create a true paperless cockpit. It makes your crew's flight planning and other duties demonstrably simpler.
All this whiz-bang is nice, but what is really going to save your bacon on a stormy night landing at Aspen is the Kollsman enhanced vision system (EVS) that is standard on the G450. Using a forward-looking infrared camera mounted under the nose and a military-style head-up display, the EVS turns night into day and allows your pilots to see runway lights and the surrounding obstructions and terrain even in the worst weather. (Check out the video at www.gulfstream.com.)
The passenger cabin also incorporates refreshed technology, including LED lighting, better environmental systems, heated windows and updated seat-mounted controls. The aircraft's relocated main door provides a more spacious entry area. Gulfstream offers a variety of standard floor plans, with most seating 12 to 16, and will still customize an airplane to your exact tastes-for a price, of course. The standard floor plans feature forward or rear galleys, a forward crew lavatory and a main executive lavatory in the rear of the aircraft.
A stateroom, complete with one or two berthing divans, can be created in the rear of the aircraft forward of the main lavatory. The 169-cubic-foot baggage compartment is accessible in flight through the rear of the lavatory. The galley features a microwave, high-speed/temperature convection oven, two coffeemakers and refrigerated storage. An espresso maker is optional. There is ample space for two meal services.
The standard in-flight entertainment package includes Airshow 4000 with moving map, dual DVD/CD players, 17-inch bulkhead monitors, a 15-inch credenza-mounted monitor (opposite the conference grouping), headphone jacks at each seat, up to four telephone locations, a fax machine and electronic window shades. The single seats can be fitted with optional, individual seven-inch monitors. Satellite television ($200,000) and Gulfstream's Broadband Multi-Link System ($700,000) are two big-ticket options popular with G450 buyers. The latter option provides Internet connection speeds up to 3.5 mb per second, about five times faster than dual-channel systems, and true wireless access throughout the cabin. Just open your laptop and boom-you're connected.
It is the kind of comfort and convenience you would expect on a Gulfstream. While the G450 may not be the OEM's flagship, it is a top large-cabin choice for all but
the longest missions.
G450 at a glance
Price (2008): $35.85 million*
Range (4 pax, 2 crew): 4,350 nm
Maximum cruising speed: 476 kt
Maximum takeoff weight: 73,900 lb
Cabin Length: 45 ft 1 in
Cabin Width: 7 ft 4 in
Cabin Height: 6 ft 2 in
Cabin Volume: 1,525 cu ft