Super-sized on Large-cabin Ideas
Evaluating the Gulfstream G280 from its aircraft specifications alone reveals only a fraction of the class-leading performance behind this successful business jet.
Far less technical assessments have merit, too. There is undeniable value in hearing the G280 described as “spectacular” because it climbs skyward so quickly and directly—a best-in-class feature. And all the charts and data in the world still won’t provide the visceral reaction of a guest pilot, his face radiant as he exclaims, “That was cool,” when he first experiences the fast, even deceleration of a G280 controlled by autobrakes—a feature no other aircraft in its class offers.
To be sure, the list is long when citing the best-in-class virtues of the G280. While other super-midsize jets define high-speed cruise as Mach 0.80, the G280 cruises at Mach 0.84. The G280 also tops the range comparison, flying nonstop for 3,600 nautical miles/6,667 kilometers. In fuel-efficiency, the G280 tops every jet in its class and offers an ample maximum payload of 4,050 pounds/1,837 kilograms—two more best-in-class features. And in its class, only the G280 is capable of flying nonstop from London to New York.
The G280’s ability to offer a class-leading combination of speed and range is a trait shared with its large-cabin Gulfstream family, particularly the G650, which was developed concurrently and entered service in 2012, the same year as the G280.
The dedication of Gulfstream and General Dynamics, its parent company, to pursue new research and aircraft development, even in the wake of a global recession, underscores the financial strength of the company and means that when the G650 and G280 began flying, they did so with many of the most technologically advanced aircraft systems available in the business jet market—systems that still lead the industry today.
So while the G280 may be classified as a super-midsize jet, it flies alongside the G650 in terms of the large-cabin capabilities it delivers—advancements such as its clean wing, autobrakes, fly-by-wire technology, a quiet, 100 percent fresh air cabin environment, and an app-accessible cabin management system—all of which enhance the passenger experience.
With a recent regulatory change that optimized operating procedures, the G280’s typical landing distance has decreased to 2,380 feet/725 meters, giving the G280 added capability to land at smaller airports and opening up even greater possibilities.
Travel Faster, Higher, More Smoothly
Owning an aircraft gives you the ability to get where you want as quickly as possible, and one way to evaluate speed and performance is by considering an aircraft’s thrust-to-weight ratio. In the G280, that ratio is one of the best of any business jet—a chart-topping 7,624 pounds/33.90 kilonewtons of thrust from each of its two Honeywell HTF7250G engines.
“That ratio is the greatest Gulfstream has ever produced,” says Lor Izzard, the program director for the G280 as the aircraft came to market. “For the owner, it means a few things. It means the engines are able to function in their normal capacity without really being stressed, like a high-horsepower engine, so there is much less wear on the engine. It also means the airplane can climb very high very fast.”
The G280 can climb directly to 43,000 feet/13,106 meters, in 20 minutes without the need to level off and burn fuel, as some competing aircraft must.
“With better climb performance you can plan to depart from more challenging airports—shorter runways, higher altitude, hotter temperatures—because you can get off the ground and get to altitude very quickly,” Izzard says. “If you do have a tricky approach, that climb performance also means you have extra power available for a go-around.
“That buys the owner a lot of flexibility to have that type of performance available to them, and it also fundamentally buys them safety,” Izzard states.
Wing design also plays a crucial role in speed and performance, and for the G280, engineers mated an all-new wing with characteristics of a G550 wing. Gulfstream is renowned for designing long, highly swept wings unencumbered by flap tracks, leading edge devices or other mechanisms that increase drag and diminish speed and range. A Gulfstream wing looks as sleek as a surgeon’s scalpel and moves through the air as effectively. What is less noticeable but equally vital to wing performance is the subtle shaping and contouring along the length of the wing, which determines how air will move over and along the wing for peak efficiency.
“The wing is a very clean design. From a pilot standpoint, he can make it a pretty fast ride. It climbs like a fighter plane,” says Jeff Gibbs, G280 program director, Gulfstream.
That brings direct benefit to passengers in the cabin.
“It’s all about having options,” explains Sonya Sheldon, a Gulfstream sales engineer. “The G280’s climbing capabilities mean it can climb over other traffic. If there is turbulence at 39,000 or 41,000 feet, you can fly over it to find smooth air and the best winds. It means you get to pick how you fly instead of the aircraft picking for you.”
A Cabin to Fly For
While the G280’s certified maximum range is 3,600 nautical miles/6,667 kilometers, factors such as outfitted weight, payload on board and available tailwinds have meant some operators are flying farther.
“It really wasn’t conceived to be an international aircraft, but it is trans-Atlantic capable, and easily so,” says Mike Collins, G280 program engineer, Gulfstream.
Knowing that the G280 would fly nonstop for hours, Gulfstream engineers ensured the utmost in cabin comfort by once again borrowing traits and styling from the ultralarge-cabin G650 design. The result is a super-midsize aircraft with the spacious feel of a much larger aircraft.
The G280’s best-in-class interior length of 32 feet 3 inches/9.83 meters provides passengers individual seating, a conference area and a divan, nearly 7 feet/2.13 meters long, that may prove an irresistible place to stretch out for a nap.
Its cabin height of 6 feet 3 inches/1.91meters—ranked best in class—is only 2 inches/5 centimeters shorter than the G650 cabin, and its width of 7 feet 2 inches/2.18 meters offers ample room for wide, comfortable seating and ease of movement.
One often-overlooked measurement is another standout for the G280. Its spacious aisle provides extra width, ensuring that passengers won’t have to step sideways or lean over seated passengers to move through the cabin. The width also provides sufficient space for a four-person conference table—a feature narrower aircraft in the class can’t offer. The G280 also brings the most usable baggage volume in its class, 120 cubic feet/3.40 cubic meters, which is accessible in flight.
“It’s all about having options ... It means you get to pick how you fly instead of the aircraft picking for you.”
When you settle into your handcrafted seat, the G280’s cabin management system provides fingertip control of lights, entertainment and environmental systems from a touch-screen device near the seat arm, providing you total control of your cabin as you recline in comfort. Selected preferences can be saved and accessed on Apple and Android devices.
Like its large-cabin peers, the G280 also provides passengers with a 100 percent fresh air environment and a low cabin altitude—6,000 feet/1,829 meters at 43,000 feet/13,106 meters—meaning travelers arrive revitalized, not jet-lagged from recycled air at higher altitudes.
Another crucial cabin element—a quiet interior—was enhanced in the G280 by borrowing some of the technology developed for the G650, says John Maxon, engineering manager of Gulfstream’s Acoustics and Vibrations Department.
“We spent a lot of time improving the sound quality and reducing interior noise to make the G280 on par with our large-cabin aircraft,” he says. “In its competing class, I don’t think anyone else comes close when it comes to a quiet cabin.”
Even some of the smallest details contribute to the feel of large-cabin outfitting. Hot and cold water are available onboard, a necessity offered as a cold-water-only option on some competing aircraft. Unlike other aircraft in its class, the G280 is also the only jet to offer a vacuum toilet instead of a chemical one.
Many Additional Features
Buyers who consider the G280 soon realize how many more performance and safety features the Gulfstream aircraft offers—including some that competitors don’t even offer as an option.
The PlaneView280 flight deck, which shares aspects of the G650 operating system, presents flight data on three 15-inch/38-centimeter liquid crystal displays that layer flight information in easily understood graphics. Side-mounted Cursor Control Devices offer pilots the ability to scroll through flight data, charts and maps, which helps reduce pilot workload and increase responsiveness.
PlaneView280 offers as standard features automatic descent mode and outfitting for FANS 1/A and ADS-B Out compliance. The G280 also offers optional head-up display and Enhanced Vision System, technologies that improve what a pilot sees in flight. The infrared capabilities of EVS show runways, approaches and unexpected impediments such as deer on a runway even at night.
The enhancements and capabilities continue. The G280’s fly-by-wire technology uses electronic signals rather than mechanical linkages to transmit a pilot’s flight adjustments to the control surfaces of the spoilers and rudder. That advanced system ensures more precise changes in flight and a smoother ride for passengers.
Standard autothrottles and autobrakes provide additional safety and precision control. Autothrottles offer touch-of-a-button control on takeoff for a highly controlled, smooth flight that also maximizes fuel-efficiency.
Autobrakes, a standard feature in the G280, provide similar benefits. During a routine flight, autobrakes deliver minute adjustments to ensure smooth landings. During nonroutine events, such as strong crosswinds or an obstacle on the runway, autobrakes provide a faster, harder and more precisely controlled stop than a human pilot can.
Robert P. Mark, flight test editor at P1 magazine, experienced that precision firsthand during an aborted takeoff demonstration. Mark took the G280 to 130 mph/209 kph before aborting. In less than 2,000 feet/610 meters, the G280 came to a stop, never weaving or wavering on the runway. His excitement was palpable.
The G280 proves itself as a best-in-class performer that delivers unmatched capabilities, often courtesy of incorporating large-cabin Gulfstream technology.
Theoretical max range is based on cruise at Mach 0.80 with four passengers, two crew and NBAA IFR fuel reserves. Actual performance will be affected by ATC routing, operating speed, weather, outfitting options and other factors.
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