New models hide in Gulfstream cloud

 - October 21, 2009, 3:43 PM

Gulfstream is not shy about the fact that the new wide-cabin G650 may be the first of a new jet family for the Savannah, Ga.-based aircraft manufacturer. In fact, Jay Johnson, president and CEO of Gulfstream parent General Dynamics, said as much at the Morgan Stanley Global Industrials Conference held early last month: “We are already working on product development beyond the G250 and G650–that’s not the end of the line.”

And then there is Gulfstream’s well-known slide presentation that shows its current and past aircraft products over a timeline with a “cloud” that depicts as-yet-unannounced products in the future. But what exactly is in that cloud?

Recent U.S. trademark filings by Gulfstream as well as its various ongoing research and development programs in key aerospace technology areas provide a clue as to what might be in that cloud. If the number of active model-name trademarks are any indication of what’s going on inside the company, Gulfstream’s new-product development team is working at a frenzied pace. The OEM has reserved at least 21 new model names with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

While many of these model names– such as the G360 and G470–suggest incremental product improvements, others offer a look into the “cloud.” They show that Gulfstream is thinking far ahead, and not just beyond incremental improvements to the just-rolled out G650 via its G660 and G670 trademarks.

What is most intriguing are Gulfstream’s recent trademark filings for the G700, G750, G760 and G770, as well as the G800, G850, G860 and G870. One wonders if these models will incorporate any of the manufacturer’s known research-and-development projects, including the supersonic boom-reducing Quiet Spike, external-vision system or fly-by-light control system, or if any other secret research is going on at the company. Gulfstream has already implemented its homegrown fly-by-wire system into the G650, so the company apparently isn’t doing these technology projects just for fun.

Asked about the new G700-series and G800-series models at the G650 rollout late last month, Joe Lombardo, Gulfstream president, and Pres Henne, senior vice president of programs, engineering and test, acknowledged that the company is actively working on more new aircraft models beyond the G250 and G650.
“However,” Lombardo said, “don’t assume that these aircraft are larger or faster than the G650.” Henne added, “The model numbers don’t matter. Don’t read too much into these model numbers.”