Success Breeds Success
Kurt Erbacher needed to meet several crucial directives as project manager for the design of the Gulfstream G450 in 2001. Give it state-of-the-art avionics, he was told. Upgrade the cockpit, its electronic and power systems, and boost its range by another couple hundred nautical miles. But by all means, whatever happens, Erbacher was instructed, don’t do anything to affect its storied reliability, a lineage of excellence that began with the iconic Gulfstream GIV and extended to the Gulfstream GIV-SP and the Gulfstream G400. The GIV family of aircraft proudly maintained a National Business Aviation Association dispatch reliability rating greater than 99 percent.
“The GIV-SP and G400 were two of the most reliable business aircraft in the world,” Erbacher recalls. “The GIV was known as the workhorse of the fleet. In all of business aviation there was no competitive model that had comparable numbers for dispatch reliability. So we had to ensure the reliability was unaffected in the process of enhancing performance requirements.”
In a way, the success of the G450 program is history repeating itself. The GIV’s enormous popularity triggered a change in Gulfstream practices about a decade before the G450 design, explains Steve Cass, vice president of Communications, Gulfstream, who as director of Sales Engineering and Technical Marketing assisted in the launch of the G450.
“Prior to the GIV, the company would build about 200 of any particular model, and once a new model was introduced, the previous model would be supplanted,” Cass says. “When we were introducing the GV in the mid-‘90s, the demand for the GIV was still so strong that the company made the key decision to keep both production lines running in parallel. This action marked the first time in Gulfstream’s history that we went from being a one-product company to a multiproduct company. That’s a significant milestone. Today, 20 years later, we’re still selling a variant of the popular GIV, which is the G450.”
November 2014 will mark the 10th anniversary of the G450’s type certification by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In March, the 300th G450 was delivered.
One of the first steps in any Gulfstream aircraft redesign is assembling a customer panel to provide feedback and direction. The Customer Advisory Board (CAB) critiqued the G400 and provided a wish list of improvements that would become the G450. Erbacher and his team set about making those wishes reality.
“The G450 was a significant project for us at Gulfstream,” Erbacher says. “It was a true test for us, but we executed on time, on budget and met all project milestones.”
The Customer Advisory Board (CAB) critiqued the G400 and provided a wish list of improvements that would become the G450.
By project completion, 13 specific customer requests were achieved in the development process.
Longer range was one such key requirement. Engineers increased the maximum range by 230 nautical miles to 4,350, or 8,056 kilometers. While seemingly insignificant on paper, the additional range provides the G450 the capability to reach two key city pairs nonstop—New York City to São Paulo and New York City to Moscow at Mach 0.80.
Rather than altering an already efficient low-drag wing, engineers looked to the engines to stretch range. Working with Rolls-Royce, the team developed the Tay Mk 611-8C engine, which had larger fan blades, new thrust reversers and reconfigured mixers, which increased exhaust capabilities, and in turn, improved engine efficiency and range.
Using speed as an indicator, their work paid off. The G450 boasts nine city-pair world records with an average speed of 513.9 miles per hour/827 kilometers per hour—bringing the GIV family of world records to 78.
The new engines also provided another valuable and cost-reducing benefit for operators: an extended time between overhauls, from 8,000 hours to 12,000.
Remarkable technological advancements also have been incorporated into the G450 cockpit.
The redesign created the perfect opportunity to incorporate state-of-the-art avionics. Lighter, more compact electronics reduced weight and provided more space because they replaced heavier cathode ray tube (CRT) displays and electrical relays throughout the cockpit. The modular avionics units also offer faster data analysis, faster response, reduced maintenance costs, improved serviceability and a cooler cockpit because liquid crystal displays (LCD) and digital systems produce significantly less heat.
The upgrade also meant the G450 could be equipped with PlaneView. First introduced in 2003 by Gulfstream in the Gulfstream G550, the PlaneView flight deck represents a major change in how pilots receive information. Six CRT displays were replaced by four 14-inch LCD displays. Flight information such as navigation charts, moving maps and real-time weather conditions are shown alongside the primary flight display in easier-to-read formats. The new presentation reduces pilot workload and improves situational awareness, meaning pilots have a sharper sense of where the aircraft is in relation to terrain and other aircraft.
With PlaneView, the G450 gets the latest avionics upgrades through simple software updates. PlaneView provides another advantage in the G450. Pilots need only one type rating to fly both the G450 and the G550 because the two aircraft operate from nearly identical cockpits.
“That’s a big deal when you think about flight departments that have a G450 and a G550 in their fleet,” Cass says. “They can have the same pilot fly both, where previously a pilot would be required to have a type rating in both of those models. That reduces a lot of extra training costs and time.”
Engineers made slight modifications to fine-tune how the G450 handles for pilots, giving it similar flight characteristics to the G550.
“We made the control forces lighter by changing some of the gearing ratios,” explains Jake Howard, the project test pilot. “The modified flight controls give the pilots a comparable control feel which helps make the muscle memory between the two platforms very similar.”
Pilots also got improved comfort thanks to the more compact PlaneView and digital equipment. Using the G550 nose, engineers were able to extend the cockpit 12 inches, or 30 centimeters, fulfilling another specific customer request for more space for the crew.
“When you’re in the confines of a cockpit for long periods, an extra foot of leg room makes a huge difference,” Cass says. “Think about a commercial flight. If you had an extra foot in front of you that would make all the difference in the world.”
When the G450 was publicly introduced, pilots offered some of the highest praise, Howard says.
“Pilots were impressed with the PlaneView avionics ease of use and capabilities, the extra space in the cockpit, and the legendary reliability of the Rolls-Royce Tay engines,” he says. “Coming from the lineage of the GIV and then adding the improvements ensured the G450’s status as a leader in the large-cabin aircraft class, and it remains there today.”
Passengers also experience improvements the moment they enter a G450 cabin.
The cabin door is repositioned 3 feet/0.3 meters farther aft of the cockpit, allowing passengers to walk directly into the cabin in an aft galley floor plan. Thenew entryway satisfied another customer desire.
A lower cabin altitude was also a key request. Passenger comfort increases with a lower cabin altitude because the heart and lungs don’t have to work as hard to oxygenate the bloodstream. After a flight, passengers arrive more alert and refreshed. The G450’s cabin is pressurized to 6,000 feet/1,829 meters at the maximum altitude of 45,000 feet/13,716 meters.
“The G450 is still one of the most highly dispatched jets in the industry,” Erbacher says. “We kept the same reliability rating, but we added so much more.”
As technology evolved, so did the G450 cabin. The G450 offers Broadband Multilink, Gulfstream’s ultrahigh-speed Internet, and dual DVD players, two LCD monitors and an audio system equipped with noise-canceling headphones to allow passengers a variety of entertainment options. A wireless local area network, satellite communications and a multifunction printer keep passengers connected and productive during a flight.
Improved communications technology is the latest adaptation for the highly versatile GIV family and an indication of the G450’s burgeoning popularity.
“The G450 is still one of the most highly dispatched jets in the industry,” Erbacher says. “We kept the same reliability rating, but we added so much more. Customers love this aircraft.”
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