““[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.’” ”
Production models of Gulfstream’s new, near-supersonic flagship G650–which received FAA certification on September 7–have been rolling off the assembly line and winging their way to completion centers. The manufacturer expects to have the $64.5 million, 7,000-nautical-mile-range bizjet into the hands of customers before the end of this year.
The G650 is by far Gulfstream’s most ambitious project to date. It has not been without a few hiccups along the way, including the loss of a certification aircraft and crew in April 2011 that temporarily halted flight testing, and some software issues. However, this has not dissuaded more than 200 customers from lining up for deliveries, making the G650 one of the most successful bizjet launches ever. The aircraft’s two chief attributes–size and speed–account for this popularity.
The G650 features 28 percent more cabin volume than the G550, itself a large 12- to 16-passenger jet. The G650’s main cabin door is 75 inches high, the cabin floor is 80 inches wide and the finished cabin ceiling is 77 inches tall. In back, you’ll find a cavernous, 195-cubic-foot baggage compartment. All that space means room for larger seats, windows and monuments. The divan is 80 inches long. The single executive seats in the G650 are two inches wider and the cabin windows are 16 percent larger than those on the G550.
The windows use PPG’s Opticor technology, allowing passengers to brighten or dim them electronically as opposed to using conventional window shades. The electrically deployed sidewall tables are large enough for a laptop and a food plate and feature an especially sturdy mechanism. From the monitor lifts to the pocket doors and drawer hardware, Gulfstream rethought virtually all of the cabin hardware on the G650, focusing on robustness, smooth function and quiet operation.
The cabin can be configured for up to 18 passengers in any of 12 floor plans, with either forward or aft galleys and with or without a dedicated crew rest area. The conference area is expandable from four seats to six by replacing the center cabin credenza with two single seats. With forward-galley layouts, an optional stateroom is available just forward of the aft lavatory. It can be equipped with a single executive seat, a work table, a large LED monitor and a berthing divan. Passengers can access the baggage hold in flight through the aft lavatory, easing wardrobe changes.
The G650 cabin benefits from a combination of clean lines, high-tech accents and hints of art deco on the curved-edge cabinets. The absence of clutter and visible switching on this airplane is striking. The galley is large and decidedly high-tech. The appliances are housed in an attractive aluminum stack as opposed to being garaged behind cabinet doors. The arrangement looks cool and saves space.
The wireless Gulfstream Cabin Management System (GCMS) uses a passenger’s personal portable electronic device, synched to individual seats, to control the CabinView Audio Video on Demand (AVOD) system, lighting, window tinting, temperature, monitors, speakers and attendant call. Gulfstream’s proprietary graphical user interface will be developed to be compatible with Android, iPhone, Windows 7 or any other industry standard. The GCMS is built on multiple networks with a 24-channel, fiber-optic backbone for routing audio, video and communications.
The controllers, switches and all other components also are wireless. They can receive commands, report status and communicate wirelessly should primary communications over the backbone break down. The system also can be serviced wirelessly aboard the aircraft via a laptop computer. Gulfstream calls this “cabin essential” technology. All key systems, including the GCMS, are designed with backups.
The airplane has a 100 percent fresh-air system that provides a 4,850-foot cabin altitude when flying at 51,000 feet and a 2,800-foot cabin altitude when cruising at 41,000 feet. Both forward and aft lavatories are independently vented.
The G650 mates its stylish, spacious and highly functional cabin to near-supersonic maximum cruise speeds. Earlier this year, the G650 set a speed record for business jets, making the trip from Washington, D.C., to Geneva, Switzerland, in 6 hours, 55 minutes, for a speed that averaged between Mach 0.90 and 0.92. It also flew from Los Angeles to Savannah, Ga., in just 3 hours, 26 minutes. The G650 has a maximum cruising speed of Mach 0.925, making it the world’s fastest business jet.
Power on the G650 comes from a pair of 16,100-pound-thrust Rolls-Royce BR725 turbofans that reduce emissions and are 33 percent quieter than the engines on the G550, cutting noise levels to 17 decibels below Stage 4 standards. Estimated time between overhauls is 10,000 hours. Mechanics can access aircraft data and some systems wirelessly as well and the aircraft continuously transmits health usage and monitoring data to Gulfstream for trend monitoring and analysis, minimizing the odds of any unanticipated maintenance problem.
In the cockpit, the G650 features the latest digital controls, including fly-by-wire technology and enhanced- and synthetic-vision equipment for landing in the worst weather. While final performance numbers aren’t yet available, Gulfstream expects the G650 to be able to use runways as short as 6,000 feet under heavy loads.
The G650 does have a large wingspan–almost 100 feet with its winglets–and that has created potential problems at one airport, Aspen, that bans models with wingspans of more than 95 feet. However, Gulfstream expects the aircraft to meet the 100,000-pound weight limit imposed at other airports, including Teterboro, N.J.
Thanks to its comfort and advanced technology, the G650 sets a new world standard. Thanks to its blistering speed, that world just got a little smaller.
AT A GLANCE
Price: $64.5 million
Range*: 7,000 nm
Maximum cruise speed: Mach 0.925
Cabin Lenth: 26 ft 10 in
Cabin Width: 8 ft 6 in
Cabin Height: 6 ft 5 in
Cabin Volume: 2,138 cu ft
*at long-range-cruise speed of Mach 0.85 with 8 passengers, 4 crew, NBAA IFR reserves.