Meet the Man on a Mission: Jeff Kilgore

technology, aviation, special missions
Photography By Kathy Almand

As program manager of the Special Missions Service Center in Savannah, Georgia, Jeff Kilgore takes the lead as a talented team of engineers and technicians reconfigure Gulfstream aircraft for any use a customer can envision.

What job skills are needed to turn a beautifully crafted Gulfstream business jet into a Special Missions aircraft?

We select highly skilled, experienced technicians for interiors, avionics and heavy metal structures, which is a specialty. We do very detailed, very structured modifications to the aircraft, and these technicians work hand in hand with dedicated on-site engineers and quality control for the modifications performed on these airplanes.

We’ve heard from some Special Missions customers who are impressed that even after significant fuselage modifications, the aircraft still flies like a Gulfstream. How is that level of performance ensured?

Our engineers and pilots will tell you it’s really a testament to the original engineering of a Gulfstream clean wing and plenty of power from the Rolls-Royce engines. Gulfstream aircraft are capable of far more performance than a business customer would typically ever use, so even with the extra attachments and shapes, our Special Mission aircraft still fly like a Gulfstream. We also do a lot of aerodynamic analysis and computational fluid dynamics to determine the best shape and placement of external modifications needed to meet the unique aircraft mission requirements. For one recent customer, we dedicated thousands of hours to ensure the aircraft performed exactly as it needed to.

How involved can a customer be in the design of a Special Missions aircraft?

Sometimes, we build the aircraft to their specifications and they install additional equipment; more often, they come to us and our engineers develop the required specifications, which we then build.

Nearly 200 Gulfstream aircraft support militaries and governments around the world. Is interest growing in the program and its capabilities?

We’re seeing significant interest. We’ve taken a world-class business aircraft made for comfort, made for speed and added Special Missions capabilities to it. So now, you have all the perks of a military or mission-type platform with the quality and reliability of a Gulfstream. And the capability of this corporate business jet can outperform the heavy metal airliners any time, any day, any-where and do it much more cost-efficiently for the operator. That’s proving to be a very appealing combination.

How confident are you in your team’s ability to satisfy a customer need?

We’ve succeeded at every task placed before us—no matter how extreme. We’re a one-stop shop, and if a customer needs it, I’m sure we can do it.

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