Future of Flight

Gulfstream aims to reshape the business aviation industry with the all-new G500 and G600
g500, g600, aviation, avionics, cabin, technology
Written By Adam Van Brimmer

The 150-foot video screen lifted, the hangar doors parted, the light shone in and Gulfstream made history—again. Just a few minutes removed from publicly acknowledging the existence of a development program for two all-new aircraft—the Gulfstream G500 and the Gulfstream G600—Gulfstream introduced the G500 in a dramatic powered rollout, with the first aircraft of its kind taxiing into position outside the same facility that houses its new production line.

Aircraft manufacturers typically debut products as “paper airplanes,” showing drawings, computer-generated renderings or scale models as stand-ins for the actual jet. Occasionally, plane makers will drop a curtain to show the new aircraft or use a tug to pull it out in front of an audience. The all-new G500 amazed everyone when it met the world under its own power—not that those in attendance could tell the Pratt & Whitney Canada engines were running.

“With the applause, you couldn’t hear them,” says Larry Flynn, president, Gulfstream Aerospace. “They run very, very quiet.”

The launch event for the G500 and its sister aircraft, the G600, made noise of another sort when it revealed not just one but two industry-changing aircraft that will certainly make their mark in business aviation history.

The perfectly timed and choreographed launch event delighted the 2,500 customers, prospects, dignitaries industry analysts, media members and Gulfstream employees in attendance on October 14, 2014, and the two clean-sheet aircraft wowed those inside the industry.

The consensus was the G500 and G600 represent an aviation rennaissance.

“These new airplanes reflect the optimal combination of form, function and efficiency with wide cabins, advanced technology flight decks and high-speed performance,” says Phebe Novakovic, chairman and CEO of Gulfstream’s parent company, General Dynamics.

Anticipation is sure to build in the months to come. The same G500 that strutted across the ramp at the launch event will complete its historic first flight this year. The first delivery is scheduled for early 2018. The G600 will come to market approximately a year later. In the meantime, Gulfstream’s aeronautical engineers will perform more than 20,000 test hours on the aircraft systems in the company’s Research and Development Center.

“Even before the G500 we saw at the launch event was built, it was a very mature aircraft,” says Dan Nale, senior vice president, Programs, Engineering and Test, Gulfstream. “By the time we start deliveries, these aircraft will already be top performers.”

The clean-sheet approach to the design of the all-new G500 and G600 included a clean slate for the cabin. Just as optimization was the theme for the airframe, flexibility was the focus for the interior.

Optimized Aircraft

The Gulfstream fleet expands to eight aircraft with the addition of the all-new G500 and G600. The new jets fill niches in business aviation’s most respected lineup, offering unique combinations of speed and range with next generation flight decks and cabin environments.

The design for the G500 and G600 is the product of an optimization philosophy. Gulfstream’s Advanced Technology Customer Advisory Team, a group of Gulfstream operators who meet twice a year to offer feedback and ideas on products in development, urged the company to create aircraft with different mission ranges while maintaining the Gulfstream jet experience.

“They weren’t looking for replacements; they were looking for more choices,” Flynn says. “We strive to give customers what they ask for, then optimize the aircraft for what they need.”

The optimization efforts stretched from the nose to the tail and wingtip to wingtip. The fuselage keeps the Gulfstream G650’s ovoid-shaped, not perfectly round design, for ample shoulder space and headroom. The clean wing and T-tail are aerodynamically engineered to provide a blend of range, speed, fuel efficiency, and takeoff and landing performance, as are the Pratt & Whitney Canada 800 Series engines.

Together, the components that make up the airframe produce real-life time machines. The G500 and G600 cruise at up to Mach 0.90 and fly a top speed of Mach 0.925, shifting the aviation paradigm. Customers base their cruise speed on range and how fast they can fly for each mission, meaning the ability to fly faster and farther for long-range travel is extremely appealing, says Scott Neal, senior vice president, Worldwide Sales and Marketing, Gulfstream.

“Our customers are using speed for every mission,” Neal says.

Optimization means operators of the new aircraft won’t sacrifice range to travel at high speeds. The G500 will fly 3,800 nautical miles/7,038 kilometers at Mach 0.90, enough to travel from Miami to São Paulo. The G600, meanwhile, can cover 4,800 nautical miles/8,890 kilometers, or the distance between Los Angeles and London, at that speed.

Performance, says Neal, is where the new aircraft really shine.

“We have a very long-term development strategy,” Neal says. “Cabin volume, range and speed were the design drivers, and our combination of those will be matched by no other aircraft.”

Focus on the Cabin

The clean-sheet approach to the design of the all-new G500 and G600 included a clean slate for the cabin. Just as optimization was the theme for the airframe, flexibility was the focus for the interior.

Customers demand options in cabin experiences. Large-cabin, long-range aircraft are as likely to be purchased by individuals as corporations. So Gulfstream’s completions engineers developed multiple distinct seating configurations, from traditional club seating and conference table settings to a media area and, in the case of the G600, a stateroom.

With three living areas in the G500 and up to four in the G600, customers can mix and match those seating configurations during the outfitting process. This creates “literally hundreds of floorplans,” says William Gay, director, Completion Planning, Gulfstream.

Gulfstream built a full-scale G600 cabin mock-up as a preview for customers. Based on the G600 specifications, the mock-up demonstrates Gulfstream craftsmanship and features 14 large panoramic windows. The company also constructed two additional living area concepts—the media room and stateroom—to display alongside the cabin mock-up at the 2014 National Business Aviation Association Convention & Exhibition.

The interior static display succeeded in evoking an “emotional connection,” says Cindy Halsey, vice president, Completion Planning and Design, Gulfstream.

“We are providing a lifestyle, not just an aircraft,” she says.

Yet style and functionality alone don’t equate to cabin bliss. Gulfstream incorporated its renowned interior environment features into the design for the G500 and G600 to create what Gay calls “the best cabin experience in business aviation.”

The panoramic windows provide abundant natural light, and travelers breathe only 100 percent fresh air replenished every two minutes while airborne. The cabin is pressurized to less than 3,300 feet/1,006 meters at the initial cruise altitude of 41,000 feet/12,497 meters, reducing the impact of jet lag.

Acoustically, the cabin is as quiet as that of a luxury automobile traveling at highway speeds, even when the aircraft is streaking between destinations at Mach 0.90. The new aircraft will be equipped with numerous other amenities, including state-of-the-art communications and entertainment options.

“These new airplanes reflect the optimal combination of form, function and efficiency with wide cabins, advanced technology flight decks, and high-speed performance.”

Intelligent, Immersive Integration

Innovation is a Gulfstream hallmark going back to the development of the Gulfstream I in the 1950s. Nowhere is that ingenuity more apparent in the new aircraft than the flight deck.

Gulfstream introduced flight computers, the integrated digital cockpit and the Enhanced Vision System to business aviation. The company’s engineers again revolutionized flight deck technology in developing the all-new G500 and G600.

The Gulfstream Symmetry Flight Deck™ changes the way pilots aviate, navigate and communicate. Industry firsts such as active control sidesticks and touch-screen controllers work with a next-generation fly-by-wire system, known as Intelligence-by-Wire™, and leverage Phase-of-Flight™ technology.

“The flight deck is mind-blowing,” says Michael McCauley, a pilot, aviation executive and ATCAT member. “When you get into a cockpit that is this different but is easy to use and promotes that kind of work flow … wow.”

The active control sidesticks were the difference makers in the flight deck design process. Active sidesticks, long a feature in military fighters but never before used in civil aircraft, mimic the operation of the traditional pedestal-mounted yokes. When one pilot makes a course adjustment by moving one sidestick, the other pilot feels or sees his or her sidestick move accordingly. Such active controls help prevent pilots from inadvertently fighting each other for control of the aircraft, as can be an issue in other aircraft that use sidesticks that are not digitally linked.

“They had to be active before we would consider putting them in our aircraft,” Neal says.

The sidesticks were designed for comfort and safety. The controller is mounted on the outboard armrest where a pilot’s hand naturally rests. And the absence of a control column means more space in the aircraft’s flight deck, even allowing for foldaway work desks for the pilots.

The active control sidesticks drew high praise from aviation journalists. Veteran pilot Fred George, Aviation Week’s aircraft evaluation specialist, spent time in the G500 cockpit flight simulator and wrote simply, “I’m sold.”

The touch-screen avionics controllers, meanwhile, were tailored to reduce the time it takes to prepare an aircraft to fly. Most business aircraft flight decks are full of switches and dials and require 20 minutes or more of preflight checks and adjustments. Gulfstream engineers set an ambitious benchmark for the G500 and G600: 10 minutes or less. Such a significant change called for significant measures, and touch-screen tablet technology and smart software provided the opportunity for a major overhaul. The Symmetry Flight Deck features 70 percent fewer switches than the typical business aircraft cockpit and the avionics software provides a structured task list for greater efficiency.

Once in the air, the touch-screen controllers employ Phase-of-Flight technology. The system structures avionics input options to match only the tasks appropriate to that point in the mission. Phase-of-Flight also filters out input errors to enhance safety.

Gulfstream’s smart technology extends beyond the flight deck of the G500 and G600. The aircraft will be the first wired with a Data Concentration Network, an advanced data delivery infrastructure that acts like an aircraft’s central nervous system. The DCN collects data and makes that information available to systems around the airframe for better aircraft trend monitoring, reduced power consumption and simplified wiring.

The DCN significantly reduces cables and parts as well as the size of the cabin radio racks for a lighter and more spacious aircraft.

Building a Better Aircraft

Some industry-changing products are conceived and developed in a residential garage. The all-new G500 and G600 required roomier confines.

Gulfstream constructed two manufacturing buildings specifically for the new aircraft. Both are Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) certified. The facilities are located adjacent to each other on the Savannah, Georgia, campus and were organized to maximize efficiency and leverage Lean production methods.

The buildings are assembly plants, one for the wing and tail, or empennage, and the other for the airframe. Both are equipped with state-of-the-art robotics and three-dimensional modeling design geared to produce parts.

The real epicenter of the ingenuity behind the G500 and G600, however, is located a mile away from the manufacturing buildings in a state-of-the-art test facility.

Several labs and mock-ups enable systems to be thoroughly evaluated and tested in a controlled environment prior to the assembly of a new aircraft. Gulfstream first incorporated an Integration Test Facility, or ITF, during development of the Gulfstream GV in the 1990s.

New labs and systems have been added to the ITFs for development of subsequent aircraft, and the test facility for the G500 and G600 is the most advanced yet.

And for the first time, the engineers, scientists and technicians involved in the development of the aircraft work in the same building as the labs.

“The facility allows us to remove all the excuses,” Nale says. “The efficiencies happen in real time. We take all the production specs and put them into the labs and test them.”

The finished product guarantees to deliver tomorrow’s flight experience today. One of the two G500 launch customers, Qatar Airways’ Akbar Al Baker, sums up what promises to make the G500 and G600 so desirable to owners.

“We base our decisions on innovation, engineering advancements, performance enhancements and design elements,” Al Baker says. “The G500 is truly at the top of its league in the business jet industry and fits the service promise we have committed to deliver on.”

Ranges shown are based on NBAA IRF theoretical range at Mach 0.85 with eight passengers. Actual range will be affected by ATC routing, operating speed, weather, outfitting options and other factors. All performance is based on preliminary data and subject to change.

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