NBAA Convention News

Gulfstream Actively Upgrading Older Jets

 - November 1, 2016, 2:00 PM
Directing resources to supporting and upgrading its older GIV and GV models, Gulfstream is showing operators it intends to keep them operating safely and productively through at least 2030. Not unexpectedly, much of the refreshment work involves avionics.

For Jeff Gayon, the GIV and GV represent boundless opportunity for life-extending upgrades, rather than just being older airplanes that will quietly exit the business aviation stage as their values steadily drop and buyers opt for newer airplanes. As Gulfstream’s director of product support technical sales and development, Gayon sees his job as helping GIV and GV owners keep their steeds operating efficiently and safety for decades. After all, the airframes are designed to last for many years and thousands more hours than any business operator can put on them.

My vision on the GIV and GV is that operators have been concerned that we’re not investing in the airplane and will end up like the GII and GIII,” he said. “In the last few years we’ve done so much, re-creating [the airplane] from the cockpit to the cabin to connectivity to mechanical things to keep it going. With my team I’m constantly thinking 2030. Whatever we’re doing with these airplanes, [we’re thinking] what is five or ten years down the road, and how to keep these updated and flying through at least 2030.”

To back up these goals, Gulfstream has invested in its own engineering and certification programs, but also is working with partners such as Honeywell, Rockwell Collins, Inmarsat, Gogo Business Aviation and others to bring new products to the legacy Gulfstream platform. Obviously, the value of used GIVs and GVs has dropped, and buyers can find a GIV for as little as $2 million and a GV for $12 million. “That’s a lot of airplane,” Gayon said. “Put a little love into them and spend a little money, and you have such a fantastic machine with all the latest and greatest technologies that are out there. And you can go anywhere.”

A key element in upgrading the older Gulfstreams is replacing CRT cockpit displays with LCDs. “There are a lot of things you can do once you get the CRTs out,” he said. “Adding technology is our mantra.” The PlaneDeck LCD upgrade brings the GIV and GV closer to the flight deck configuration of the G450/G550, and earlier this year, Gulfstream certified synthetic vision on the GIV and GV PlaneDeck cockpit. More than 130 of the 720 GIVs and GVs in the field have been upgraded to PlaneDeck so far, according to Gayon.

From there, Gayon’s product development team looks at upgrades that can be added one at a time, instead of developing an expensive all-inclusive package of multiple modifications. “You can add a little every year,” he explained. “This limits downtime and immediate out-of-pocket expense.”

In late August Gulfstream received STC approval for its FANS 1/A+ upgrade for the GIV and GV, using TrueNorth’s Simphonē Iridium datalink. The STC is agnostic, Gayon explained, allowing the use of any TSO’d Iridium datalink so that customers aren’t limited to just one satcom provider. Operators have the option of upgrading their FMS CDU to Honeywell’s new touchscreen CD-830, and with this they can elect to add a software upgrade to achieve European Link 2000 capability. While the GIV and GV are exempt from the Link 2000 requirement, “best-equipped, best-served” will apply to aircraft so equipped when operating in Europe.

Gulfstream’s FANS solution is fully integrated with the flight deck automation of the GIV and GV, unlike some other, less expensive FANS solutions that replace the third FMS with another manufacturer’s unit that doesn’t hook into the autothrottles and facilitate the performance capabilities of the original FMS. “We’re trying to make [our FANS solution] the best that there is,” Gayon said. “Our philosophy has been around maintaining the automation. The next best solution doesn’t include the automation. We felt that for our operators and pilots, from a situational awareness and CRM standpoint, [the other solutions] are not going to be the right solution our pilots want to see. They want to use the automation. The beauty of this, it’s a Honeywell [FMS], it’s almost identical from a keystroke standpoint to the G450 and G550. It maintains all the autothrottle, autopilot, VNAV and performance functions.”

For the 2020 ADS-B out mandate, Gulfstream’s large-cabin fleet (GIV through G650 models) is more than 80 percent compliant. The G150 and G200 midsize fleet is less compliant, however “they are slowly but surely coming on,” Gayon said. “As we do these avionics summits, we’re just pounding on operators about planning for this upgrade. If they wait, if they think the regulators are going to push this out, they’re mistaken.”

Large-cabin Gulfstreams will have the option of adding an extra ADS-B antenna on top of the fuselage, for transmitting ADS-B signals to Aireon’s space-based ADS-B receivers mounted on Iridium’s Next satellites. This provides continuous ADS-B coverage over oceanic and remote areas of the planet.

Operators can view their upgrade options for NextGen mandates on the MyGulfstream website, including what is needed to comply; applicable Gulfstream aircraft service changes and maintenance and operations letters; and whether a letter of authorization is required.

Gayon’s team also develops cabin interior and management/entertainment system upgrades for the legacy jets. This includes replacing all incandescent lights with LEDs, inside the cabin and on the airframe exterior, and LEDs should be available for all models in the second quarter of 2017. Refurb options are also available, from carpets to softgoods on cabin seats, upgrading the yoke finishing in the cockpit, fresh paint and more.

The area of most concern for the owners of these jets is now airborne connectivity. “This is a huge focus,” he said. Two years ago, Gulfstream set up a connectivity council to study airborne connectivity options across the different Gulfstream models. “We see all these changes in connectivity that are going to require a lot of different solutions,” he said.

The most popular solution for Gulfstream owners is a combination of Gogo’s air-to-ground system and Inmarsat SwiftBroadband satcom. For service faster than the 432 Kbps offered by SwiftBroadband, Gulfstream offers Ku-band ViaSat service (marketed as BBML). Satcom Direct’s SDR router is the preferred choice for Gulfstream operators, although some use Gogo’s UCS 5000.

The next big development is Inmarsat’s Ka-band Jet Connex satcom, which was certified first on the G650. This will offer a guaranteed data rate of up to 6 Mbps, although it can go as high as 15 Mbps with the tail-mounted antenna that can fit on a large-cabin Gulfstream. Honeywell manufactures the satcom hardware and antenna and is working with five service providers to provide the connectivity. Jet Connex will be available in the first quarter of next year on the G550, followed by the G450 in the second quarter, then the GIV and GV.

Gulfstream operators want the ability to watch television when flying over the ocean, and Jet Connex can allow this, so Gulfstream’s connectivity council is working on making this possible. “We want to come up with a solution that’s reasonable [cost-wise],” Gayon said. “Technology-wise, it’s definitely doable.”

For midsize Gulfstreams, the upcoming Iridium Next satcom offers a reasonably priced connectivity solution, with an antenna requirement suited to smaller jets.

I feel we are ahead of the rest of the industry in what we’re doing,” Gayon said.