““[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 acquired the super-midsize G200 when it bought Galaxy Aerospace in 2001. The aircraft offered a unique value because its ovoid fuselage actually allows for more headroom than a full-size Gulfstream GIV (with a tube that is only two inches narrower), seating for eight to 10 passengers, true transcontinental range, a 45,000-foot ceiling and a top speed of Mach 0.85.
The thin wings and smallish engines gave the aircraft good fuel economy for its size. However, they also gave the G200 poor takeoff performance when heavily loaded, gave it useful-load problems and required some fuel to be stored in the fuselage. And without more powerful engines, more aerodynamic wings that could hold all of the fuel and updated avionics, the G200 risked becoming an also ran to the competition.
The airplane inherited a long list of other problems from Galaxy that Gulfstream was largely successful in fixing: starter-generator failures; slow landing-gear actuators; jet fuel that vented into the aft equipment bay; lousy seats; a myriad of fit, finish and function troubles; and malfunctions on everything from the toilet to the ventilation system.
However, for the G200 to be a market leader, bandages weren't enough: A major redesign was in order. Four years ago, therefore, Gulfstream and Israel Aircraft Industries-which originally developed, built and assembled the G200 at its facility in Tel Aviv began working on a successor aircraft, the $24 million (2008 dollars) G250. Gulfstream unveiled the design in October 2008. The model is currently being flight-tested and certification is expected in 2011. The G250, which is also largely built and assembled by IAI (Gulfstream holds the type certificate and installs the interiors), retains the G200's positives and discards the rest. As expected, the engines, wings and avionics are all new and are predicted to enhance the aircraft's performance.
Gulfstream is replacing the engines with more powerful Honeywell HTF7250G high-efficiency turbofans, rated at 7,445 pounds of thrust each. Quieter and more fuel-efficient, they will power the G250 up to 41,000 feet in just 20 minutes and reduce cabin noise. The redesigned transonic wing considerably shortens the G250's required takeoff distance under full load. The aircraft will now be able to comfortably use 5,000-foot runways. Up front, the G250 will be guided by a PlaneView cockpit built around the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion system. It features three large, high-resolution 15-inch LCD displays and can be outfitted with synthetic and enhanced vision, enabling landings in the worst weather and the most challenging topography.
While the fuselage is unchanged from that on the G200, Gulfstream optimized it by moving all the fuel into the wings, which created more usable cabin space as well as in-flight access to the 154-cubic-foot baggage compartment. Three basic cabin layouts are available in eight-, nine- and 10-passenger configurations, including double-club and club with half-club opposite a three-place, side-facing aft divan. Overall cabin length is now 25 feet, 10 inches from the forward edge of the lavatory to the aft edge of the galley. That extra space also allowed Gulfstream to eliminate recline restrictions on the right-hand aft chair. (On the G200, adjustment of that seat is limited so as not to conflict with the emergency exit.)
More cabin room means noticeably more lavatory space as well. The lavatory is 48 inches wide on the G250 compared with just 26 inches on the G200. The G250 lav has a wardrobe closet, two large windows and a sink with a raised ledge. It also has a vacuum toilet system-a unique feature in a super-midsize business jet-powered by a vacuum generator up to 16,000 feet; above that altitude it is powered by differential air pressure.
The redesigned galley, while the same size as the one on the G200, has increased stowage space, a gasper-cooled ice drawer and a sink with slide-out work surfaces. It also has a modular design, allowing customers to specify differing locations for the positioning of things like coffeemakers, ice drawers, glassware and liquor. Another clever and important innovation is drawers that can accommodate all sizes of catering trays. Options will include espresso makers, choice of microwave or convection oven and stemware storage. The G250 cabin also has a forward closet.
Natural lighting comes from 19 cabin windows and LED lighting. In-flight entertainment packages include Iridium satcom system with three headsets, high-definition television and larger, 17-inch flat-panel standard cabin displays. LCDs bigger than 17 inches are a contemplated option.
Cabin altitude at 45,000 feet is a comfortable 7,000 feet and the G250 has Gulfstream's "100 percent fresh air system." The company has turned to Honeywell to provide all the environmental-control and cabin-pressure systems on the aircraft. The G250 employs Gulfstream's Cabin Essential architecture: All major cabin systems are redundant so that no single-point failure will compromise functionality. Gulfstream says this means "the cabin lighting always illuminates, water is always available and an entertainment source always works."
The electrical system also promises to be more reliable on the G250, incorporating large-aircraft features that include independent generators on each engine and a quieter auxiliary power unit.
Gulfstream made extensive use of various customer advisory teams that operate a broad cross-section of aircraft in the mid- to large-cabin categories. The teams met seven times before the manufacturer unveiled the final cabin configuration. Such a meticulous solicitation of customer input during the design phase significantly improves the G250's chances when it does come to market next year. The bar for super-midsize bizjets just got a little higher.