NBAA Convention News

G650 ’Round-the-World Flight Broke Westbound Record

 - October 21, 2013, 3:50 PM
Tom Horne, Gulfstream senior experimental test pilot, who served as pilot-in-command for the record flight, was accompanied by Gulfstream pilots Bud Ball, John McGrath, Ross Oetje and Eric Parker.

Records are made to be broken and the Gulfstream G650 did just that on July 1-2 this year, Gulfstream Aerospace revealed yesterday here at NBAA 2013. Flying westbound around the world, the G650 made the trip in 41 hours, 7 minutes, making three fuel stops–with an average speed for the 20,310-nautical mile trip of 568.5 miles per hour (915 kilometers per hour), which broke the record for a non-supersonic aircraft.

Tom Horne, Gulfstream senior experimental test pilot, who served as pilot-in-command for the record flight, was accompanied by Gulfstream pilots Bud Ball, John McGrath, Ross Oetjen and Eric Parker. The pilots held the long-range, large-cabin business jet at Mach 0.90, which is its standard high-speed cruise. (The G650’s Mmo–the maximum operating Mach number–is 0.925.)

With Kris Maynard serving as the official observer for the National Aeronautic Association, the flight departed Brown Municipal Airport in San Diego, Calif., at 9:08 p.m. local time on July 1 and flew to Guam International Airport in 10 hours, 29 minutes. The second leg took the jet to Dubai World Central-Al Maktoum International Airport in 10 hours; the third leg continued to Cape Verde’s Cabral International Airport in 8 hours 52 minutes; and the fourth and final leg proceeded to Brown Field in 10 hours and 10 minutes, landing at about 3 p.m. The cumulative time for three fuel stops was 1 hour and 30 minutes.

“The aircraft performed flawlessly, which is what we expected,” said Horne. “It is a tremendous thrill to be a part of a once-in-a-lifetime experience like this.”

The team set up the G650’s cabin aft of the bulkhead of the forward galley as a sleeping area, with two queen-size and two twin beds (all JetBeds), and kept the area dark and quiet during the entire flight. The cockpit, galley, forward lav and crew-rest seat served as the work area.

“We figured out our work/rest schedule before the flight and started using it some days before departure,” Horne said. The four pilots had 10-hour work shifts and 14 hours of rest. The trip was also planned so that the final leg would be flown at the best circadian time for the pilots and in daylight. “So we worked back from that to get the departure time from San Diego, which was at night, as was the entire first leg,” Horne explained.

Working with Universal Aviation and en route via Gulfstream’s BBML and satellite communications, the crew continually sought the best ground speed, flying generally between FL340 and 410. This kept the cabin altitude between 2,300 feet and 3,200 feet, which also helped avoid fatigue. A computer program aided the selection of the best-groundspeed routes and altitudes against the generally westerly winds. The strategy paid off. The calculated average wind for the round-the-world flight was a 14-knot tailwind.

More than 30 Gulfstream employees helped in the planning and execution of the flight. FBOs San Diego Jet Center, Guam Flight Services, Jet Aviation Dubai and Safeport Executive in Cape Verde provided ground support.

The G650’s record applies to a Class C-1.l airplane weighing from 35,000 to 45,000 kilograms (77,162 to 99,208 pounds). The round-the-world flight also garnered 22 city-pair speed records. The 650 has garnered 38 records since its first record flight in January 2011, from Burbank, Calif., to Savannah, Ga. o

See AINtv’s video interview of Tom Horne on

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