Gulfstream Aerospace (Booth T139, Static SD406) kicked off construction on its new major MRO facility at Farnborough, UK, this month, part of more than 780,000 additional sq ft (72,464 sq m) that the company is adding throughout its services network over the next 15 months as it prepares to ramp up to support its growing large-cabin fleet.
“It is really, for us, an unprecedented expansion in that narrow scope of time,” said Derek Zimmerman, president of Gulfstream customer support, pointing to projects also underway at Gulfstream’s headquarters in Savannah, Georgia, as well as in Appleton, Wisconsin; West Palm Beach, Florida; and Van Nuys, California.
The U.S. expansions are all slated to open within the next three quarters, while the Farnborough facility, which will become Gulfstream’s major European maintenance hub, is to open in summer of 2020.
These facilities are coming online as Gulfstream’s flagship G650 fleet has now topped 340 aircraft, while its G500 ultra-long-range, large-cabin fleet numbered 17 in service by the end of March, and the G600 approaches certification in the next few weeks.
Announced a year ago, Gulfstream broke ground on the center May 8, and a start-up crew has moved into a temporary facility at the location. Once complete, the Farnborough center is slated to span 225,000 sq ft, making it Gulfstream’s largest maintenance facility outside of its MRO at its Savannah headquarters. It will be capable of housing 13 large-cabin aircraft.
The facility will join Gulfstream’s other UK-based service facilities centers at London Luton Airport, where it has more than 85,000 sq ft of hangar, office, and parts warehouse space, as well as at Stansted Airport, which provides line support.
The company is still evaluating the shift of work between the centers, Zimmerman said, but added that Farnborough will become the primary site. “We are assessing the current presence at Luton and Stansted to determine what will be appropriate once Farnborough is fully operational in 2020,” he said. “London is a big market,” he added and said Gulfstream is evaluating business traffic patterns there.
Farnborough is a strategic location for Gulfstream, not only because it is 45 miles outside of London, but also because the airport is a major business aviation center in Europe and home to a FlightSafety International training center. With London hosting the largest volume of its traffic in Europe, Gulfstream also houses its European parts warehouse in the city (near London Heathrow), as well as a design center.
As far as work ongoing at the U.S. centers, Gulfstream is adding 202,000 sq ft (18,766 sq m) on the east side of Savannah Airport. Slated to open this summer and to create 200 jobs, the facility will feature hangar space, offices, and back shops. Construction also recently began in West Palm Peach on a 115,000-sq-ft (10,684-sq-m) center that is at a joint location with Jet Aviation. Scheduled to open in winter 2020, that facility will create about 50 new positions.
The expansion in Appleton is the most significant since Gulfstream acquired the facility in 1998. Scheduled to open later this summer and create 200 positions, that facility will be nearly 180,000 sq ft (16,723 sq m). Van Nuys is another joint location with Jet Aviation. Gulfstream’s maintenance center there will complement its Long Beach facility that is about an hour away and in the heart of another busy region for Gulfstream aircraft. The nearly 68,000-sq-ft facility is expected to open this summer.
Zimmerman noted that facility construction is just one step and the company has been “busy hiring out for months now to get ready for those expansions.” This includes recent additions of upwards of 400 employees in customer support and work to add about an equivalent amount over the next year, he said.
The centers are part of an overarching four-tier approach to support that Joseph Rivera, v-p of service center operations for Gulfstream, said involves a major support center capable of heavy structural work, a full-service support center, line service, and Field and Airborne Support Teams (FAST) support.
Gulfstream’s goal is to have this support approach in every region—including Europe—to provide operators the easiest access to the same level of services no matter where located, Rivera said. This is key since Gulfstream supports the majority of its in-production models. “We try to capture most of it,” he said.
Support in Europe is becoming more and more important as the fleet increases there. Scott Neal, senior v-p of worldwide sales, said orders have remained steady from the region, which is now home to 224 Gulfstream aircraft.
In addition to the Farnborough center, Gulfstream also recently bolstered its European presence through the addition of a 16,500-sq-ft hangar at Paris Le Bourget Airport in France. That facility supplements a FAST unit that the company added in 2017 at Le Bourget. Zimmerman said the Le Bourget facility, which is based on the model of its base in Teterboro, New Jersey, would not qualify as a full-service center but provide easy access for AOG and quick service items in the region.
Meanwhile, Gulfstream also gets significant support from its sister company Jet Aviation, which is authorized to support Gulfstream aircraft at numerous locations within Europe such as in Basel, Geneva, and Vienna. And along with those at Le Bourget, FAST technicians are located throughout at least a half-dozen other locations in Europe.
Zimmerman called the additions of the FAST units one of the more significant changes Gulfstream has incorporated over nearly the past decade. “We are really building out that capability,” he said, adding they are part of a recognition that many customers do not want to travel far for minor repairs, in addition to a need to be able to reach grounded aircraft as quickly as possible.
The central FAST coordination facility, based at Gulfstream’s main support facility in Savannah, is staffed 24/7. FAST units were dispatched to nearly 2,000 events in the past year, and Gulfstream has worked to help owners understand the full scope of capabilities.
The mobile units are augmented by two U.S.-based FAST aircraft (G150s) that are collectively logging thousands of flight hours a year. The goal is to keep them constantly moving, Rivera said. They carry parts, personnel, tools, and anything else that might be necessary for support.
Along with building out its service capabilities through facilities and people, Gulfstream is evolving its approach to support through big data. “It’s a big thing for us. To me its one of the next-step functions in our ability to keep customer aircraft flying,” Zimmerman said. A key advantage of the new clean-sheet models is Gulfstream engineers have been able to build smart systems into the architecture of the aircraft that can query and monitor health trends, he said. Technologies designed for the Gulfstream G650 have been carried forward to the G500 and G600. “Now we’re able to retrieve from the aircraft and query the aircraft for thousands of individual data points,” he said, adding this “allows us to develop capabilities to predict and ultimately prevent in-service AOG events.”
He cited as an example an electrical component that might be “drifting” from its electrical draw would be discovered and changed proactively between flights so it does not impact operations.
With the G650 in operation for more than six years and the fleet approaching 350, Gulfstream has begun to accumulate a broad set of data that is statistically meaningful, he added.
That is combined with computerized maintenance tracking programs. “Between what the airplane is telling us and what the maintenance records are telling us, combined, they are very powerful” and provide new approaches to support that Gulfstream previously wasn’t able to do, he said.