Reiterating its commitment to the 3,600-nm G280, Gulfstream Aerospace this morning outlined a number of enhancements in the works for the super-midsize twinjet, ranging from reducing the cabin altitude to new flight deck capabilities and quieting technologies.
Speaking to reporters, Gulfstream president Mark Burns, however, sought to dispel any discussion that Gulfstream is moving on beyond the G280. “There is certainly investment going forward in all our product lines but our commitment to the G280 remains strong,” he said.
He noted a report in 2018 of investment in a new product that followed a board meeting of its partner in the G280 program, Israel Aircraft Industries. The Israel business news organization Globes had reported that the board of IAI had signed off on a project called P32, believed to be an upgraded G280, and committed $80 million to that effort, matching a Gulfstream investment.
Speaking to that report, Burns did not outright deny such a possibility, but he said, “Our commitment is not to be episodic in our investment. It is to make sure that we continuously invest to bring the right product to market at the right time. It’s why we’re still committed to the 280 because we believe it is the right product at this point.”
As for upgrades in the works, they run the gamut from safety and operational improvements to passenger experience upgrades. In the shorter-term, Gulfstream is looking at a surface management system designed to reduce the risk of runway incursion by providing aural and visual cues to alert pilots of unsafe ground and arrival operations, the company said. In addition, the company is working on adding access to vertical weather and predictive wind shear information, incorporating external LED lighting, using a de-ionization fresh air system, increasing RVSM validation intervals to 96 months, and providing for a 360-degree HD camera.
Gulfstream is looking at technologies to make the aircraft CPDLC FANS-E compliant (FANS En Route), a capability that will enable priority treatment by air traffic control and improve communications, the company said. Not yet fully implemented in business aviation, the G280, has actively participated in the testing of these capabilities. Gulfstream also is adding a predictive landing performance system that already is on its new G700 flagship and can warn pilots of possible runway overrun, reducing cabin altitude beyond the current 7,000 feet at 45,000 feet, employing thrust reverser and inlet modifications to reduce noise, and adding new airspeed data probes to help in icing condition operations.
As far as when these capabilities will come online, Gulfstream is planning to have the ionization and RVSM validation increase available in the first half of this year, with the 360-degree HD camera later in 2021. Meanwhile, other targeted timelines specified by the manufacturer included cabin altitude improvements and external LED lights next year.
Some of these efforts, such as predictive landing, come from lessons that Gulfstream has gained from its newer ultra-long-range products, and Burns expressed the belief that technology transfer would continue over time and could see exploration in areas such as fly-by-wire.
This effort comes after recent investments that have included an international supplemental flight package designed to add redundancy for international trips and include items such as an inertial reference system —“making sure we’ve got all of the back-up systems [for] operating in an international environment,” Burns said. Gulfstream further has developed options for SiriusXM high-resolution graphical weather and dual electronic charts and recently secured recognition that the G280 is Stage 5 noise compliant.
This comes as the fleet of G280s has continued to grow with 212 now in service—surpassing the 200-aircraft milestone in June. The fleet has amassed 250,000 hours and accrued more than 160,000 landings, Gulfstream said, while achieving a 99.78 percent dispatch reliability. The fleet leaders have put 4,400 hours on the aircraft and 3,620 landings.
Entering service in 2012, the G280 also has racked up some 80 city-pair records, including involving operations using sustainable alternative fuel, an area of emphasis for the Savannah, Georgia airframer.
At the same time, Derek Zimmerman, president of product support for Gulfstream, noted the substantial investment the company has made throughout its support network as the G280 fleet has been certified in 19 countries and based on five continents. This includes more than 20 Gulfstream centers on four continents that can service those and other Gulfstream models and $1.6 billion in spares inventory, including for the G280, that Zimmerman said has ensured 100 percent availability of mission-critical parts.
As for the market, Burns said the company is seeing “good customer interest.” While conceding that “obviously the pandemic changed a lot of things” and noting that the first three or four months raised concerns, he added that, “I think the market is pretty strong right now.”
As markets have started to open and optimism grows with the vaccine, “I see a changing dynamic among customers,” Burns said. “I actually see a broader customer base right now for all our product lines, including the G280, as more people see the value of business aviation.” He reiterated that Gulfstream sales were stronger in the fourth quarter and that has carried over into the first quarter.