The all-American business jet and its European partners

 - October 3, 2007, 12:30 PM

Despite the large-cabin Gulfstream’s aura of being the all-American business jet, it
has significant European content. On the G350/450 that content includes the pair of Rolls-Royce Tay engines, and on the G500/550 it includes not only the Rolls-Royce Deutschland BR710 turbofans but also the tail, which is made by Stork Fokker in Holland.

Stork, a large Dutch corporation (13,000 employees and revenues of €2 billion [$2.38 billion] last year) whose products span from poultry processing equipment to military vehicles, has breathed new life into the ailing Dutch airplane manufacturer that once built whole airplanes such as the F.27 Friendship and F.28 Fellowship and their F50 and F70/100 successors until hard times got the better of it in the middle of the last decade. Far from being a relic of a past era, Fokker is now at the forefront of airplane manufacturing technology, having invested more than €100 million ($119 million) in a new facility in Papendrecht, the Netherlands, that produces Glare (glass-reinforced aluminum) fuselage sections for the upcoming Airbus A380 mega-widebody.

Glare sandwiches thin layers of fiberglass cloth between thin sheets of aluminum, creating panels that Fokker says can be between 15 and 30 percent lighter than all-aluminum panels of equivalent strength. Such weight savings (at least a ton on the A380 thanks to 5,059 sq feet of Glare used in the fuselage) have airplane manufacturers salivating. Gulfstream, for one, is investigating the feasibility of incorporating the material into the structures of business jets. Glare not only weighs less for a given strength but also tolerates impact damage better and has more fatigue resistance, its proponents claim. Cost per square foot of Glare is said to be comparable with that of finished conventional aluminum structure (that is, milled, rolled, fastened and so on). Unlike sheet aluminum, which can be coaxed into the required curves on the production line to create the desired shape, Glare has to be manufactured at source to the exact shape required for its final application. Fokker therefore has had to invest in massive molds and autoclaves to shape the A380 panels from the outset. When finished, they hang from racks like so much dry cleaning, awaiting delivery to the A380 final assembly facility.

Stork Fokker president Kees de Koning told journalists at a briefing recently in Rotterdam, “We need Stork as a strong financial partner. When Stork bought us in 1996, we ceased being an integrator [an OEM], and the Gulfstream V [tail section] was the first real component program for Stork Fokker seven years ago.” Stork Fokker’s risk-sharing portion accounts for between 5 and 10 percent of the G500/550 program. “We try to support Gulfstream in selling the airplanes because, as we tell ourselves, ‘Every sale means a tail.’” As well as the tail, Stork Fokker makes the thermoplastic floorboards that form part of the G500/550’s pressure vessel above the wing.

Stork Fokker also builds the complete empennage for the Citation Sovereign, and will be providing Dassault with the flaps, ailerons and spoilers for the upcoming Falcon 7X. Employment at Fokker since it was acquired by Stork has risen from 1,800 people to just shy of 3,000. Stork also owns 46 percent of Belgium’s Sabca (Dassault owns the remainder).

The active Fokker fleet stands at about 1,000 aircraft, with 48 percent in Europe, 13 percent in South Asia, 12 percent in North America, 10 percent in the Middle East, 9 percent in South America and 8 percent in Africa. After refurbishment by Stork Fokker, the U.S. fleet of Fokker 100s (American Airlines had 80 and US Airways 38) is finding new life with European startup carriers and as a very reasonably priced executive bizliner–the F100EJ, for about $12 million completed. When it went out of production in 1996, a new Fokker 100 in airline configuration cost about $20 million.
Stork Fokker has the integration contract with the Japan Coast Guard for two Sea Watch GVs, whose long range will allow far-reaching maritime surveillance missions.

The other partners in the program are Gulfstream and Thales. The first GV equipped for Sea Watch duties flew for the first time on March 2.

Rolls-Royce Deutschland

The other major European manufacturer on the large-cabin Gulfstreams is Rolls-Royce Deutschland, formerly BMW Rolls-Royce, which supplies the BR710 turbofans for the G500 and G550 and, in a recent shuffle, the Tays for the G350 and G450. BMW Rolls-Royce, the result of a joint venture with the German car manufacturer in 1990, launched the BR700 core in 1991 with no customers signed, and the BR710 first ran three years later, flying for the first time on the GV in 1995.

The partnership with BMW continues not with the entity now known as Rolls-Royce Deutschland (now solely owned by Rolls-Royce) but with the German car manufacturer’s 10-percent holding in Rolls-Royce as a whole, which makes it the largest single industrial shareholder. Despite the removal of the BMW name from the venture, Rolls-Royce Deutschland director of operations Dr. Norbert Arndt told AIN that the company has no plans to delete the B from the BR710 designation.

The company’s Dahlewitz facility, near Berlin, is engineering dominated, with engineers accounting for half its 900 employees. The Oberursel facility (which built Red Baron Manfred von Richthofen’s engines 90-odd years ago) north of Frankfurt concentrates on planning and component manufacturing.

Rolls-Royce Deutschland delivered about 100 engines last year and expects to double that tally this year. So far, the company has delivered some 1,100 BR700-series engines, comprising 800 BR710s and 300 BR715s (this engine powers the Boeing 717) that had logged two million hours by the end of last year. About one in three of the BR710s is enrolled in Rolls-Royce’s Corporate Care program, similar to Power By The Hour. Arndt produced reliability figures showing that the BR710 since 2000 has settled into a reliability level of 99.974 percent (as measured by delays and cancellations per 100 aircraft departures), better than the original R-RD target of 99.95 percent. The engine has clearly outgrown the teething troubles that in 1998 and 1999 kept the reliability rate around the 99.7-percent mark.

As for ETOPS reliability, the BR710 has earned a 12-monthly moving average per 1,000 hours of 0.011 shutdowns total (a category that includes maintenance and pilot mistakes, the latter including shutdown of an engine that could have simply been idled) and 0.004 shutdowns basic (when the engine alone was at fault).

The BR710 C4-11 that powers the G550 has a 2-percent better specific fuel consumption than its predecessor, 4.3 percent more thrust (up to 15,385 pounds from 14,750 pounds) and weighs 55 pounds less–attributes that combined to help Gulfstream increase its flagship’s range to 6,750 nm from 5,800 nm and set the initial cruise altitude at FL430 for the G500 and FL410 for the G550.

The Tay that has powered the GIV and its later derivatives has undergone a steady process of improvements, to the point that the two Tays that now power the G350 and G450 are 600 pounds lighter as a propulsion package than the early GIV engines. Rolls-Royce Deutschland is now the primary site for Tay work, rather than Derby in England, and the first pair of German-built Tays was delivered this past January.

R-RD’s Dahlewitz facility uses a moving production line that will soon accelerate to moving once a day from its current 1.5 days. Derby, which has heretofore used fixed-station buildup, is slated to follow suit. R-RD director of logistics and assembly Liam Smith said he hopes to have the Tay integrated with the BR700 moving line by the third quarter of this year.

The current work schedule of two shifts five days a week transforms an engine from a collection of parts into a finished BR710, ready to be test-run, in 10 days. Every engine is tested in a test cell at Dahlewitz before being crated up and (usually) shipped across the Atlantic to OEMs in North America.

R-RD is comfortable with the noise and emissions of the BR710 as they relate to current and known future regulations. The engine is already inside the proposed Stage 4 noise limit, and on emissions (CAEP 4) it is 21.4 percent below the nitrous oxides limit, 33 percent below the carbon monoxide limit, 32 percent below the smoke limit and 81 percent below the limit for unburned hydrocarbons. CAEP 6 will be 12 percent tougher on emissions than CAEP 4 when it takes effect in 2008, according to Arn