New Gulfstreams Deliver More Range and Cabin Comfort

 - November 1, 2014, 3:15 AM

Gulfstream Aerospace pulled a rabbit out of its hat on October 14 when it not only uncloaked the new large-cabin G500 and G600 programs but also rolled out the G500 under its own power in front of a crowd of 3,000 people gathered for a launch ceremony at the company’s Savannah, Ga. headquarters. A week later, crowds got in line to file through a full-size G600 mockup at the NBAA Convention in Orlando, Fla.

By aviation industry standards, Gulfstream’s launch of the new twinjets was a well kept secret, especially since the programs have been in the works since 2009. Over the past 12 months, the U.S. airframer has seen rival Dassault Falcon refresh its product range with the launch of the Falcon 5X and 8X, but Gulfstream insists that its focus has been on boosting choice and the value proposition of its own line of aircraft rather than seeking to keep up with competitors.

The new aircraft build a bridge between the G450/G550 and flagship G650. According to Lor Izzard, Gulfstream’s director of sales support and technical marketing, the G500 and G600 will deliver unmatched high-speed range when they enter service in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

Pricing for the first 50 serial numbers has been set at $43.5 million for the G500 and $54.5 million for the G600. By comparison, the G650 is priced at $66.5 million and the rates for the G450 and G550 are, respectively, “in the mid 30s and lower 50s,” according to Gulfstream.

Power by Pratt & Whitney Canada

Gulfstream has made a significant shift in powerplant selection, opting for Pratt & Whitney Canada’s new PW800 turbofan series. The 15,144-pound-thrust PW814GA will power the G500, while the 15,680-pound-thrust PW815GA will propel the G600.

The PW800 was selected for Cessna’s proposed Columbus jet, a program that was cancelled in 2009. Dassault is believed to have considered the engine for the Falcon 5X but opted instead for Snecma’s Silvercrest. Gulfstream acknowledged that it considered several other powerplant proposals for the G500/600, and these likely would have included the Silvercrest, as well as GE Aviation’s Passport and the Rolls-Royce BR725, already deployed on the G650.

Pratt & Whitney Canada is responsible for delivering a completely integrated powerplant system. This will feature an aluminum Kevlar fan case and a nacelle developed by Nordam, which is aiming to deliver a thrust reverser that will be 50 percent more efficient than existing equipment.

The Canadian engine manufacturer has had nine engines involved in the development program, which has so far accounted for more than 1,720 operating hours, 2,786 cycles and 4,400 hours of core testing. As of September, the company had completed some 35 hours of flight-testing, some of which included participation from Gulfstream pilots. The PW800 is slated to complete certification before year-end.

All-new Flight Deck

There is to be even greater innovation in the cockpit of the fly-by-wire G500 and G600, which will be the first Gulfstreams to feature active sidestick controls. According to Mark Kohler, Gulfstream vice president for advanced aircraft programs, the airframer was unwilling to make the shift to a sidestick control until BAE Systems adapted technology originally developed for fighters for civil use. “The system’s active force feedback provides a classic airplane feel, and it simulates the feel of mechanically linked sticks,” explained Izzard. In addition to BAE Systems, Thales, Parker Aerospace and Moog are contributing to the flight control/fly-by-wire systems for the new models.

The flight deck is based on Honeywell’s Primus Epic suite and is being branded as Gulfstream Symmetry. The avionics manufacturer’s PlaneView system is used on existing Gulfstreams. For the G500 and G600 Honeywell is also providing the APU, the environmental control system, cabin pressure system and most of the touchscreen control panels for cabin systems.

The new Gulfstreams feature no fewer than 10 integrated touchscreen control panels in the cockpit. Since pilots can easily switch the functions for which these are used, the aircraft will be able to be dispatched with just three of the screens functioning. Backup flight displays will be provided by L-3. Esterline group subsidiary Korry is contributing the three overhead displays.

An enhanced vision system (featuring higher resolution and a wider field of view) and synthetic vision for the primary flight display will be standard equipment for the new aircraft. Both will feature the same Rockwell Collins head-up display as the G650.

The cockpits will feature an all-new crew seat, with a full seat pan thanks to the absence of a control wheel and column. This will make it easier for the pilots to move in and out of their seats (as will new handles on the headrests). They will also benefit from Ventimesh materials that make the seat area cooler.

GE Aviation is supplying the electrical power distribution system, as well as the aircraft health and trend monitoring system and data concentration network. For the latter, engineers have devised a way to break down the usual radio rack into separate elements, in the process reducing the amount of wiring and weight, while also improving the network’s reliability. This change has also opened space for additional cabin volume.

The G500/600 will have half as many LRUs as the G650. For example, the flight controls will require just eight control units (compared with the G650’s 16).

The maintenance interval between major inspections will be 750 flight hours. Gulfstream has used 3-D virtual reality technology to optimize access to systems for maintenance, which will follow the MSG-3 task-orientated programs. The new aircraft will have a high degree of systems commonality with the G650.

Skunk Works, Savannah-style

Working under extraordinary levels of secrecy out of its expanded research and development facilities in Savannah, Gulfstream and its program partners have made great progress in testing and evaluating systems and airframe structures. All wind-tunnel testing for the G500 and G600 is complete, and engineers are engaged in iron-bird testing of the airframe and cockpit systems integration.

The first flight-test aircraft are already under construction with a view to flying the G500 next year and the G600 in 2017. Critical design review for the G500 is complete, and the G600 should pass this milestone by year-end.

The two models will have a common basis for flight certification; five test aircraft will be used for the G500 development program and four for the G600. One of these will be used entirely for evaluating cabin design and systems.

Two full-size static test articles equipped with all flight controls are being used for structural tests, including ultimate limit-load testing. The new test laboratory can process some 15,500 channels of data.

Much thought is already being given to devising a more efficient manufacturing process for the new aircraft. This will involve the use of precision-build carts, more automation, a new autoclave able to produce large composite airframe sections, greater use of standard parts and various lean manufacturing techniques.

The G500 and G600 will have more composite content than existing Gulfstreams. The material will be used in the winglets, nose radome, horizontal stabilizer, elevator and rudder, engine nacelle, floorboards, landing-gear doors, wing-to-body fairings, spoilers, pylons, dorsal fin and rear pressure bulkhead.

Potential Buyers Buy Into Design

Gulfstream has closely involved prospective buyers in helping to define key characteristics of the new models through its Advanced Technology Customer Advisory Team. This consultation has resulted in more than 200 design changes, including improved cockpit functionality and comfort, additional storage space, cabin layout revisions, a commitment to pilot type ratings common for both aircraft and overall performance goals.

Gulfstream senior sales and marketing vice president Scott Neal insists that recent product developments at major rivals have not been a significant driver of its latest plans. “We listen to the customer base and determine what to build,” he told AIN. “We have always led the market with our products and our behavior is not changed by what competitors are doing.”

Neal also emphasized that Gulfstream remains committed to producing the G450 and G550. Part of the company’s thinking on market segmentation is that existing customers of the smaller G280 will be more inclined to upsize to these existing types.