Competition in the super-midsize segment is as hot as the Savannah summer sun now that the first customer deliveries of the $24 million Gulfstream G280 have begun. For nearly a decade, the class champion Bombardier Challenger 300 reigned supreme, outselling the matronly G200 and all other super-midsize aircraft by a wide margin.

Gulfstream did its best to field a competitive super-midsize aircraft when it acquired the Galaxy (nee Israel Aerospace Astra IV) in 2001 and rebadged it as the G200. The Savannah firm installed a first-rate interior, made incremental product improvements and increased operating weights, as well as provided top-ranked customer support.

These efforts paid dividends. G200 operators say their passengers love the cabin, plus they say that the aircraft has rock-solid reliability and it's relatively inexpensive to fly. Fueled by such positive comments from Galaxy/G200 operators, Gulfstream, along with Galaxy Aerospace, succeeded in delivering more than 240 aircraft.

But G200 sales remained hampered by the aircraft's undersized wing, anemic engines and outdated avionics. Compared to the Challenger 300, it was a flabby underachiever, leaving the Bombardier aircraft to run away with a huge market share.

Enter the G280, the replacement for the G200. It retains the basic G200 fuselage design, but it has been transformed into a muscle rocket with a new wing, engines and empennage. It's now a genuine Gulfstream performance machine with the best thrust-to-weight ratio and runway performance in the super-midsize class. And it has more tanks-full payload, 350-nm more range and better fuel efficiency than its Canadian competitor even though it has higher thrust engines and a smaller wing.

Of equal importance to operators, the G280 has more cabin volume than either the Challenger 300 or the G200, along with a lower cabin altitude and reduced cabin sound levels. Its 120-cu.-ft. aft baggage compartment is the largest in class and it's now accessible in flight because the G200's aft fuselage fuel tank has been eliminated. The G280 carries all its fuel in wing, center and belly tanks.

The new Gulfstream super midsize almost begs for admission to the large-cabin class because of its 935-cu.-ft. cabin volume, 3,600-nm range and Mach 0.80 normal cruise speed. It has more range than either the Dassault Falcon 2000S or Embraer Legacy 600. It also can fly 100+ nm farther at Mach 0.80 than the Challenger 605.

Want more range at Mach 0.80? Plan on spending $10 million, or so, to step up to a Falcon 2000LX or Gulfstream G350. Those aircraft have larger cabins, but they also burn considerably more fuel. They also have a higher profile at airports, a drawback for some operators who like a more modest ramp presence.

Even without a heavy-iron class cabin, the G280's range and speed make it competitive with larger aircraft that can fly nonstop across the North Atlantic from Paris to New York. It can climb directly to FL 430 at ISA+10C and it cruises at 459 KTAS, enabling it to top the North Atlantic bus lanes on typically warm days above the Gulf Stream and fly more direct routes between Europe and North America. It also can sprint across the continental U.S. at Mach 0.84, flying between most East and West Coast U.S. cities in 5 hr. or less.

This is an 8-hr. endurance airplane with an 8-hr. cabin. Maximum cabin altitude is 7,000 ft. A tape measure and sound meter tell more of the tale. The cabin width is within 2 in. of a G550's and interior sound levels are close, Gulfstream claims. Admittedly, the G280's main seating area is 40% shorter than that of a G550. It also has a 4-in. dropped aisle rather than a fully flat floor. But once passengers are in their chairs, they actually have a couple more inches of overall floor width than in the G550 and nearly the same seated head and shoulder room. As for the difference in cabin length, the G280 will typically carry four to eight passengers instead of eight to 12 in a G550.

While the G280, which is manufactured in Tel Aviv, lacks the signature wide oval cabin windows of Savannah-built Gulfstreams, it has four more windows than the G200, totaling 19 in all, that flood the cabin and aft lavatory with ambient light. There is a standard Iridium satcom phone and Wi-Fi system, power outlets at each seat and multi-mode cabin entertainment system. The G280 is the first Gulfstream to be fitted with the dual redundant Cabin Essential CMS, virtually assuring 100% availability of cabin lighting, 28 VDC power, CMS control, audiovisual entertainment, fresh water and waste systems.

Up front, there is large, full service galley across from the entry door that was custom designed with inputs from professional flight attendants. There's even a two-way, cockpit jump seat for the flight attendant that faces forward for takeoff and landing and then aft during cruise to provide a rest area. The aft lavatory has a high-capacity vacuum toilet, a first for a super-midsize aircraft, and a rear access door to the baggage compartment.