Executives from Gulfstream Aerospace were clearly starting to relax about the economic situation at a Dubai Airshow press conference here this week. The business aircraft manufacturer is banking on an upturn to ensure that its two new jets–the G250 and G650–prove real winners. Both aircraft have been rolled out in recent weeks and are being prepared for their first flights and test campaigns ahead of 2011 and 2012 entries into service, respectively.
“In the last 90 days, we’ve seen lots of awakening on the new aircraft sales side as well as on the services side of the business,” said senior v-p sales and marketing Larry Flynn. “In the last two quarters we have seen net positive orders versus cancellations. Large aircraft have definitely been stronger. With midsize the market, it has hit the bottom. There are a lot of white tails and pre-owned [aircraft in the marketplace] that have to clear themselves. [Meanwhile], we are not interested in lowering prices. With the large cabin [aircraft] we are already seeing pricing improvement.
“The market here [in the Middle East] is good, and in China, but larger cabin planes are selling better than mid-cabin,” he continued.
Flynn said that the G250 is “very, very close to first flight.” With the G650 major systems and structural article testing being completed, the G650 prototype can take to the air soon, as well. Orders stand at nine aircraft for the G250 and about 200 for the G650, confirmed Flynn.
With other Gulfstream models Flynn said that there are 80 G150s in service, 218 G200s, 153 G350/450s and 228 G500/ 550s. He was keen to point out that the flagship G650, an all-new design, had stimulated a new top-end segment, which had not impinged on the G550’s territory. “With 200 aircraft sold, right now that’s our market,” he said, responding to a question as to what rival Bombardier might do in response to the G650’s success.
Asked why the G650 has proved so popular Flynn responded, “It is the fastest, farthest, largest. It’s the best. We have created a new market, cutting over an hour off some trips. Customers are getting the string out and looking at city pairs at 6,000 and 7,000 nautical miles and seeing that the aircraft can give them real flexibility, that they don’t have to stop for fuel.” These are the reasons Flynn gave for why its aircraft had “surpassed all our expectations.” He added that Gulfstream is “confident” that the aircraft will be kept below 100,000 pounds mtow, something the company found to be a key customer requirement because “it opens up a lot more airports, [which is] a significant [product] differentiator.”
Although 70 percent of Gulfstreams are U.S.-based and about half of new sales are from U.S. customers, the company has passed 100 sales in the Middle East, out of 1,800 aircraft worldwide. Asian numbers are at similar levels to the Middle East, but the company sees this as a huge opportunity. Having purchased Jet Aviation with its global support network, it is continuing to grow to help secure further international sales.
Mark Burns, president of Gulfstream Product Support, said it is working with Jet Aviation to strengthen its global support presence and take advantage of “synergies.” He predicted that 2010 will see Beijing and São Paolo added to the support network, for example.
Burns also said the company will have the “grand opening” of its new service center in Savannah, Georgia, in early 2010. “We just opened the second phase. It will be able to have 75 aircraft in work at the same time,” he said.