Executives at Gulfstream Aerospace are noticeably pleased with the progress of the company's new flagship G700 program. Flight-test and certification efforts for the Savannah, Georgia-based airframer’s ultra-long-range model is advancing as planned, and customer interest is strong for the jet, which sells for around $75 million.
“The order situation for the aircraft is spectacular,” Gulfstream senior v-p of worldwide sales Scott Neal told AIN during a press briefing and tour of the G700 last month at Paris Le Bourget. Interest is global but particularly strong in the U.S., and buyers consist of existing Gulfstream customers, customers from competitors, and first-time business jet buyers, he said.
Neal remained tight-lipped about how many fleet orders the G700 has collected since Gulfstream launched the program amid much fanfare two years ago at NBAA-BACE 2019 in Las Vegas, but disclosed that “the next available delivery position is in 2025.” However, it did reveal the launch customers at the October 2019 unveiling: Qatar Executive and U.S. fractional share, lease, and jet card provider Flexjet.
The Qatar Executive charter arm of Qatar Airways is taking 10 G700s, while Flexjet is adding 16 of them to supplement the G650ERs, G500s, and G450s already in its fleet. Flexjet is the first North American customer for the G700, and Qatar Executive is the international launch operator.
The G700 is slated for entry into service next year, with “delivery of the first aircraft to Qatar Executive toward the beginning of the fourth quarter,” Neal said.
Gulfstream is not exhibiting this week at NBAA-BACE 2021 because the company earlier this year decided to forgo participation in large international trade shows and events owing primarily to health safety concerns for employees and customers arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, Neal said. “It was a prudent decision,” he explained. “Gulfstream will go back to participating in industry events when the Covid situation improves.”
Meanwhile, the airframer has opted to introduce the jet in-person to customers. The initial stops in the recent international demonstration tour of the first aircraft with a production interior were Doha, Qatar, and Paris Le Bourget.
“These were the first international flights for the G700, and it performed exceptionally well,” noted Gulfstream president Mark Burns. “Not only did the aircraft prove its speed and distance capabilities but the fully outfitted cabin is also receiving rave reviews with its impressive size, environment, quality, and flexibility.”
Moreover, the G700 set the ultra-long-range model’s inaugural city-pair speed records when it flew from its home base in Savannah to Doha, on to Paris Le Bourget, and back to Savannah. The fully outfitted G700 production test aircraft—S/N 006 and registered as N706GD—left Savannah on August 27 for Doha, covering 6,711 nm at an average speed of Mach 0.88 in 13 hours and 16 minutes.
The aircraft then set another city-pair record on August 31 from Doha to Paris, flying 2,953 nm in six hours and 15 minutes at an average speed of Mach 0.90. For the return flight, the jet cemented yet another city-pair speed record, making the transatlantic crossing in seven hours and 59 minutes at an average cruise speed of Mach 0.90. This flight broke a record set by the Gulfstream IV in 1997 by exactly 30 minutes, according to the company.
In keeping with the OEM's sustainability commitment and the industry’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, the G700 burned a blend of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) on the Savannah to Doha flight and the flight from Le Bourget to Savannah, and Gulfstream also purchased carbon offsets for all three flights. During these flights, the G700's Rolls-Royce Pearl 700 engines ran on a 30 pecent SAF blend sourced from Gulfstream’s Savannah-based SAF supply—which is distributed by World Fuel Services and produced by World Energy—and from FBO Jetex at Le Bourget, respectively. The SAF pumped by Jetex is produced from used cooking oil by TotalEnergies in France.
Gulfstream’s agreement with World Fuel Services is for the 30 percent SAF blend at its Savannah headquarters fuel farm, and it uses this blend whenever possible in the flight-test program. The business aircraft manufacturer told AIN that it will “explore opportunities to incorporate higher-ratio fuels into its SAF supply when these become more widely available and feasible, and as blends like the 100 percent blend become certified for use.”
Turbine engines are currently approved to run on up to a 50 percent SAF blend but Rolls-Royce is working on 100 percent usage. The UK company in February conducted its first tests on the new Pearl 700 powerplant operating on unblended SAF at its facility in Dahlewitz, Germany.
'Smooth' Flight-test Program
The flight-test program is going “immensely well” and the aircraft is performing even better than expected “with practically no squawks,” according to Neal. Through the first half of this year, the program had amassed more than 1,600 flight hours using five flight-test aircraft and one production test aircraft.
“One of the benefits we have in the G700 is that some of the technologies that we have incorporated—for instance, the touchscreen Symmetry flight deck and the data concentration network—have already been proven on the G500 and G600,” he said. In addition, Neal stressed, Gulfstream could keep its timeline because it was able to continue to operate as a business during the pandemic.
“We have been very fortunate,” he acknowledged, explaining that the General Dynamics subsidiary was considered a piece of critical infrastructure in the U.S. and management was very proactive to ensure the supply chain was not disrupted by Covid.
The first production test aircraft is equipped with a full interior and is thus being used to validate every facet of the cabin from a technical and comfort aspect. “We run more than 18,000 test points,” Gulfstream director of completions for new product development Jonathan Ringham told AIN. The cabin, which is the largest ever in a traditional business jet, has a finished length (excluding baggage room) of 56 feet 11 inches, a width of eight feet, two inches, and a height of six feet, three inches.
No major issues have surfaced so far, and the cabin is proving to be as quiet as its designers have aimed for. “Really no surprises there,” said Ringham. “We worked hard to drive down the cabin noise levels. We baked that into the requirements for all our suppliers.”
According to Gulfstream, the G700 can be configured with up to five living areas, though layout and finishing are customer-dependent. The cabin viewed by AIN featured two pairs of club seats in the first of four living spaces, and two seats in the entertainment area opposite a credenza with a stowable 32-inch television monitor and storage place, including a wine chiller.
A third area showcased the typical four and two-seat dining and conference layout and is separated with a pocket door from the rearmost compartment, fitted with a pair of club seats across a three-person divan, which can sleep two. The private suite has a 53-inch-long en suite lavatory with a toilet and a single vanity.
A second STC aircraft to test the interior is now in production and will have a shower, said Ringham.
Meanwhile, the G700 holds a dedicated 88-inch-long crew rest compartment with two windows, a lie-flat seat, an entertainment screen, and storage space that meets all Part 135 requirements.
N706GD also includes Gulfstream’s new “ultra galley,” which boasts more than 10 feet of counter space. “We had tons of feedback on the need for more space,” noted Ringham. The enlarged ice storage compartment was another “major feedback item” as was the need for a larger refrigerator, he added. The trash capacity is much larger than those on Gulfstream’s previous models because of the G700’s range capability—7,500 nm at Mach 0.85 with eight passengers and four crew.
To further improve cabin air quality and neutralize pathogens, including Covid-19, Gulfstream has added an airborne ionization purification system as standard on the G700. The company is working on having this certified as a retrofit for previous models, including the G450 and G500.
In the front end, Gulfstream’s predictive landing performance system—which predicts the need to go around on the approach or even the position where the aircraft will come to a complete stop once touched down on the runway—comes standard on the G700, as are Collins Aerospace’s HGS-6200 dual head-up displays (HUDs) with both enhanced flight and synthetic vision systems. “The combination of synthetic and enhanced vision gives pilots the best of both worlds,” said Scott Evans, Gulfstream's director of demonstration and corporate flight operations.
Gulfstream engineers also enhanced the overall comfort of the flight deck and redesigned the pilot seats. “We studied how the automotive industry does seats," Evans said. "We used some of their technologies and qualified them for use on an aircraft. This is our office, our dining room, for up to 15 hours. A better seat with perforated leather, more space, the ability to cross our legs and move our body positions combined with the 100 percent fresh cabin air and the new low cabin altitude reduce the impact of fatigue over a long distance.”