Gulfstream makes first flight of its super-midsize G250

 - December 28, 2009, 6:14 AM

Gulfstream Aerospace and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) flew the super-midsize G250 for the first time on December 11, and at press time were expecting the new airplane to fly again, weather permitting. This second flight could see the Honeywell HTF7250G-powered twinjet reach 40,000 feet and Mach 0.8, according to IAI chief test pilot Ronen Shapira. During the first flight, which lasted three hours and 21 minutes, Shapira and his copilot took the airplane to 253 knots and 32,000 feet, part of a detailed flight-test card that the flight crew completed more quickly than expected.

A derivative of the G200 (the former IAI Galaxy), the first G250 rolled out under its own power with Shapira at the controls on October 6 in front of some 600 people at IAI’s manufacturing facility on Ben Gurion International airport in Tel Aviv, Israel. While Gulfstream and Shapira would not comment on orders for the new model, an IAI spokesperson at the rollout said that eight or nine had been signed. A knowledgeable observer at the rollout, who wished not to be identified, told AIN he knew of a number wealthy individuals in the U.S. who had placed orders for the airplane.

After taking off at 8:16 a.m. local time (0616 UTC) from Ben Gurion airport, the pilots climbed at reduced thrust and with the landing gear down to 10,000 feet, where they performed initial checks of several systems, including cycling the landing gear and flaps and varying airspeed from 130 to 200 knots. “I wanted to be sure the landing gear worked, so I had watched it operate at least 50 times in the hangar before the first flight, lying on the floor so I could see the system operating,” Shapira said.

The crew then took the airplane in steps to 32,000 feet and 250 knots, checking the flight controls and handling qualities at each point on the test card. Systems checked included the autopilot, autothrottle, pressurization and environmental control. Shapira said the flight was “extremely smooth with no issues,” but he did have some concern before landing because the wind speed had increased earlier than expected.

“We had a nine-knot crosswind and had planned for less than five knots,” he said. But the airplane had a surprise for him. Said Shapira, “I made one of the most beautiful landings in my life,” which means a lot coming from a pilot who has more than 10,000 hours and experience in 747s, 737s, MD-11s, many Gulfstream jets and several fighters, including the F-15 and IAI Kfir and Levi. He attributed the G250’s smooth landing to its fly-by-wire roll spoilers and rudder and mechanical ailerons. “We [IAI and Gulfstream engineers and pilots] spent a lot of time on handling qualities in the simulator,” he said. Gulfstream pilots will join the G250 flight-test team in about two months, said Shapira.

Planned performance objectives for the G250 include Mach 0.85 Mmo, maximum altitude of 45,000 feet and 3,400-nm NBAA IFR range at Mach 0.80. Its new transonic wing, T tail, Rockwell Collins PlaneView 250 cockpit and two additional cabin windows (19 total) are main features that set it apart from the G200. The elimination of the G200’s aft-fuselage fuel tank increases the usable volume of the cabin and provides in-flight access to the baggage compartment. The airplane’s base price is $24 million (2008 $).

Said Itzhak Nissan, president and CEO of IAI, “The successful first flight of the G250 represents the achievements of Gulfstream and IAI as the designers, integrators and manufacturers of this advanced business jet. IAI continues to benefit from its world-leading, strategic partnership with Gulfstream.”

According to Gulfstream, the G250 remains on schedule for type certification by Israeli civil aviation authorities by next year, with FAA validation and entry-into-service the same year. Although it is derived from the G200, the G250 requires a new type certificate because of its new wing and tail, Shapira said. 

Bizav Flight Activity Strengthening, ARG/US Data Shows

November business aircraft flight activity indicates a “continued trend toward recovery,” according to TraqPak data from aviation specialized services firm Aviation Research Group/U.S. (ARG/US). The data indicates that business aircraft activity for the month was up 22.7 percent year-over-year and 3.15 percent above October activity. Flight activity for both aircraft types and operators logged across-the-board increases, the only exception being fractional light jets (down 3.6 percent from November last year). Large-cabin jets led the improvement at 28.1 percent versus a year ago; midsize jet activity was up 26.2 percent, turboprops rose 24.2 percent and light jets were up 14.3 percent. Part 135 flying increased 34.1 percent year-over-year, fractionals were up 21.2 percent and Part 91 operators gained by 18.3 percent. Teal Group aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia told AIN that these numbers are “more evidence of market stabilization,” though he cautioned, “Stabilization is a long way from recovery, let alone a return to growth.” –C.T.