Gulfstream Aerospace has already signed purchase agreements for two or three G650ERs, Larry Flynn, president of the U.S. manufacturer (Booth 5129), told a small group of reporters during a breakfast flight in a Gulfstream G550 over the Alps yesterday morning. The company had announced the extended-range upgrade of the ultra-range, top-of-the-line G650 on Monday at EBACE 2014 in Geneva.
“We’ve just scratched the surface of the G650 customer base,” Flynn said, explaining that Gulfstream did not tell its customers about the upgrade before the EBACE announcement. He added that the Savannah, Georgia-based OEM also signed an agreement for a G450 with an Africa-based customer on Tuesday.
Asked about Aerion’s announcement at EBACE concerning its redesigned supersonic business jet, which now has three engines (see the Tuesday edition of EBACE Convention News), Flynn said, “I think everyone knows we’ve had an interest in supersonic and we have a small R&D project that’s been underway for several years. The project is mostly focused on suppressing the sonic boom. Our intentions would be to fly a supersonic airplane over land. We want to have that capability, because we think that airplane will be more valuable and flexible.”
Flynn said Gulfstream had met with Aerion, but decided not to participate in the project because, “We’ve got enough on our plate internally,” he said. “So we just wouldn’t be able to do them justice.” However, he does think there’s a market for a supersonic business jet, even one priced north of $100 million.
“Oh, there’s a market for it,” Flynn said. “I think it is a larger market, if the airplane can be flown over land. We’re convinced that speed is important. Witness the G650, where we’ve been focused on speed and range and have been very successful. All of our customers are flying at nine oh [Mach 0.90].” He added that the two recent test flights to prove the G650ER were both flown at Mach 0.86 and above. “The airplane wants to fly fast,” he said. “And when we landed from those flights, we had more fuel than we needed, so obviously it has longer legs than what we advertised.”
General Dynamics owns the G550 (N855G) that flew the breakfast flight and uses it for corporate travel. Based at Dulles Airport near Washington, D.C., N855G flew nine Gulfstream people to EBACE and is flying them back to Gulfstream’s headquarters in Savannah, Ga., today, and then back to Dulles. The General Dynamics flight crew included pilots Mark Leahy and Steve Copley and flight attendant Maura Jordan. Scott Neal, Gulfstream senior vice president, worldwide sales and marketing, and Steve Cass, vice president of communications, were also on the breakfast flight.