Gulfstream Aerospace is well on its way to achieving certification of two new jets this year–the G250 and G650–as utilization of the nearly 2,000-strong, in-service Gulfstream fleet grows, new orders exceed deliveries and the product support business continues to expand. Gulfstream’s backlog at the end of 2010 was $17.8 billion, according to president Joe Lombardo, and projection for 2011 deliveries is for 90 large-cabin jets (up from 75 last year) and 15 super-midsize jets.
Demand for Gulfstream aircraft remains significant outside of North America, according to Lombardo. During the first quarter, about 70 percent of sales were international and half of those were from Asia. Utilization is up and Gulfstream fleet hours “have just about returned to 2008, pre-recession levels,” he said. The Savannah, Georgia-based OEM brought four jets to the EBACE static display–a G550, G450, G200 and G150. This Wednesday, Gulfstream will hold an operators conference here in Geneva.
Although the April 2 crash of flight test G650 serial number 6002 has created some potential delays in the certification program, Gulfstream remains confident that the new large-cabin jet will achieve FAA approval by the end of this year. Gulfstream expects to deliver 12 green G650s by the end of this year and has orders for more than 200 of the ultra-large cabin, ultra-long-range jet.
“First and foremost, we’re taking care of the families,” said Pres Henne, senior vice president, programs, engineering and test, referring to the two pilots and two technical specialists killed in the G650 flight-test accident. “And we’re working with the NSTB [on the investigation]. They are responsible for announcing the causal factors. We’re working with the FAA on when we can safely resume flight testing. The accident occurred during a difficult test. This was an engine-out, low-speed, high-angle takeoff test. In the near-term, we’ll increase speeds a bit to get some margin,” he said.
“We feel confident about the design,” said Lombardo. “Whether there will be delays in certification, it’s most likely.”
Meanwhile, all other aspects of the G650 certification program remain on track, except for flight test. By the end of March, the flight-test fleet had logged 1,560 hours during more than 470 flights, toward an expected total of 2,000 hours. The entire performance envelope of the fly-by-wire G650 has been fully opened, Henne said. Highest altitude reached was 55,000 feet, maximum speed Mach 0.995 and longest flight 14 hours.
On the production line, G650 serial number 6009’s airframe is complete and 6010, 6011, 6012 and 6013 are in process. G650 fatigue test article F6 will be tested in the structural test hangar to 2.5 times the airframe life; one life cycle is 40,000 hours and 17,000 landings. Fatigue testing is ongoing, Henne said, and the G650 will have achieved more than the minimum 10 percent of the 40,000 cycles required at certification.
The G650 simulator has been delivered to the FlightSafety learning center in Savannah, Georgia, next to the Gulfstream factory, and FAA level-D certification of the simulator is expected in 2012.
The three G250 flight-test airplanes have flown more than 1,150 hours and 400 flights, and the jet remains on schedule for certification later this year. The Honeywell HTF7250G turbofan received FAA certification on March 18 and delivers substantially lower emissions compared to the earlier version, the HTF7000. Relative to CAEP/6 requirements, the HTF7250G emits less than 20 percent of the unburned hydrocarbons standard, about 70 percent of the carbon monoxide and NOx levels and less than 50 percent of the smoke level.
All static, limit/ultimate load testing is done on the G250 and fatigue testing is under way. The G250 will also exceed the 10-percent minimum of the 40,000 cycles needed for certification, according to Henne. Natural icing, far-field noise, high-elevation and water-ingestion tests are done.
The G250 is the launch airplane for the Rockwell Collins Fusion cockpit (branded as Gulfstream’s PlaneView in the G250) and the latest software load is running in the G250 avionics. All seating static and dynamic tests are complete, and an “iron bird” for the cabin is located at Gulfstream’s Dallas, Texas maintenance facility for testing interior installation. The first non-flight test G250, serial number 2004, should arrive in Dallas by the end of June.
Gulfstream’s product support organization continues growing, but now the challenge is to increase support capabilities in Asia, where 60 Gulfstreams are based in Hong Kong and in mainland China. “The geographic distribution of our aircraft continues to shift,” said Lombardo, with more and more aircraft located farther from our corporate facilities in Savannah.”
The product support division has grown to more than 3,300 employees worldwide and $1.2 billion worth of spares. Two new warehouses have been added in Europe, in Madrid and Luton, England. “We are putting more parts and people overseas to support our growing international customer base,” said Mark Burns, president of Gulfstream product support.
Last year, Gulfstream serviced more than 10,200 aircraft. The company also expanded its mobile support network with the addition of its field and airborne support teams (FAST), dedicated groups that can help stranded customers anywhere in the world. FAST mobile repair team members can travel on the Gulfstream airborne product support jet or any other method of transportation to reach the location of an AOG Gulfstream jet and perform maintenance from changing tires to engine replacement. The first FAST is based in Europe and includes two maintenance technicians in Geneva, one in Altenrhein, Switzerland, and one in Greece.