Gulfstream G650 satisfies the need for speed

 - May 3, 2010, 1:08 PM

Gulfstream is on track to fulfill business aviation’s need for speed with its new G650 jet reaching its top operating speed of Mach 0.925 during a test flight on Sunday.
The large-cabin aircraft is on track to enter service as the world’s fastest in-production civil aircraft, overtaking the Cessna Citation X and perhaps heading off the challenge posed by planned supersonic business jets.

The U.S. airframer’s chief test pilot John O’Meara and senior experimental test pilot Tom Horne piloted the 34-minute flight, which reached an altitude of 42,500 feet and included banking maneuvers. “It was buffet-free up to 45 degrees, and demonstrated pretty powerful aerodynamic characteristics,” said Pres Henne, senior vice president, programs, engineering and test.

According to O’Meara, the aircraft is stable and responsive to pilot input, “with fantastic maneuver capabilities. Turns can be initiated and completed without any onset of buffet. The engine performance is extremely smooth. At the conditions flown, the entire operation was flawless.”

To date, the G650 has amassed 163 hours of flight time over the course of 57 flights. It has also completed all structural-limit load testing, as required by the FAA and EASA. The completion of the structural testing was a “key milestone” that allowed the company to flight test the aircraft at the maximum operating speed of 340 kcas and Mach 0.925. The aircraft will eventually undergo testing at the maximum dive speed of 385 kcas and Mach 0.99.

By the end of the month, Gulfstream expects two more test aircraft to join the two that are already flying. S/N 6001 made its first flight in November 2009, and S/N 6002 took off in February. In total, five test aircraft will undergo an estimated 1,800 hours of testing.

The company said the ultra-large-cabin, ultra-long-range aircraft is on track for FAA and EASA certification next year, as well as entry into service in 2012.

The G250 is also on track for certification and entry into service in 2011. The company recently completed major assembly of the third test aircraft, S/N 2003, the last in the flight-test program. In total, the three airplanes will undergo an estimated 1,200 hours of flight time. As of Sunday night, S/N 2001 and S/N 2002 have flown 101 hours and 36 flights.

Gulfstream, meanwhile, had a “tough year and got hit pretty hard,” according to president Joe Lombardo, but the manufacturer is seeing an increase in demand for large-cabin aircraft and a renewed interest in the midsize category. It ended the year with a backlog of $19.3 billion and recorded sales of $5.2 billion on 94 aircraft deliveries. In addition, orders exceeded defaults.