Larry Flynn, president of Gulfstream Aerospace, said at a press briefing here yesterday that the Middle East remains a growing market for its business jets and that political turmoil of the Arab Spring has “not had as much impact as we expected.”
Noting that “business aviation is perceived more and more as a business tool” in the Middle East, Flynn said, “At the end of the day folks have to get around and conduct their business, and not all of it is in the Middle East.”
As a result, Gulfstream’s long-range, large-cabin products–the G450, G550 and soon-to-be-certified G650–continue to find favor in the region, where the OEM already claims the bulk of this market segment. The U.S. airframer says its share of Middle East large-cabin business jet sales exceeds 40 percent.
Gulfstream’s sales are now predominantly international, with about 70 percent of recent orders coming from outside the U.S. A decade ago, the Middle East accounted for 7 percent of the 1,000 Gulfstreams in operation. Today the number of Gulfstreams flying has grown to 2,000, with this region accounting for 8 percent of that total. (The company does not disclose regional sales by specific country.)
Asked what drives the purchasing decisions of customers in the Middle East, Flynn said, “They’re focused on the reliability of the airplane and the support of the airplane. They’re buying an airplane manufactured far from here. So having [authorized service provider] Jet Aviation here in Dubai, a big inventory of parts and field reps makes a big difference to them.” Jet Aviation also has Gulfstream authorized service facilities in Jeddah and Riyadh.
At the airshow Gulfstream has its G150 and large-cabin G450 and G550 business jets on static display, and will conduct a regional operators’ forum today to provide updates and technical presentations on maintenance and operational subjects relevant to Gulfstream operators.
Meanwhile, Gulfstream’s largest, longest range offering, the G650, which is capable of traveling 7,000 nm at Mach 0.85, is expected to receive provisional type certification from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration by the end of this year and full certification early next year. Deliveries will commence in second quarter 2012, Flynn said, as promised when the program was unveiled in 2008. As of November 3, the four aircraft in flight test had accumulated 2,241 hours on 678 flights. Fourteen aircraft are at various stages of production. Half of G650 orders are from outside the U.S., but the company does break down international orders by region.
Mid-size cabin jets are selling better than expected, with the super-midsize G280 garnering “big interest” in the region, according to Flynn. As previously announced, final performance figures for the G280 have been increased from the original specifications. This includes a 200-nm increase in range. Following extensive flight-testing, Gulfstream said it had demonstrated a 3,600-nm NBAA IFR range with four passengers at Mach 0.80. Balanced field length–the shortest runway length complying with safety regulations–has been reduced from 4,960 feet (1,512 meters) to 4,750 feet (1,448 meters), an improvement of 1,300 feet compared to its predecessor G200.
The G280 is conducting final activities required to receive type certification from the U.S. FAA, European Aviation Safety Agency and Civil Aviation Authority of Israel. It is expected to enter service in late second quarter 2012.