Gulfstream Aerospace is planning to deliver the first completed G650 business jets to customers shortly with the Sept. 7 receipt of the long-awaited full type certification (TC). The certification of the 650 – Gulfstream’s largest, fastest and most expensive aircraft to date – comes on the heels of receiving the full type certification for its super midsize G280 late last month.

Gulfstream received provisional type certification in November 2011 for the G650 and delivered the first 12 green aircraft by the end of that year, fulfilling a promise the aircraft manufacturer had made to customers and the financial community. Another two dozen were expected to be delivered this year.

Gulfstream says the first aircraft should enter service before year’s end, but actually may come much sooner since a number of G650s have long been in completion.

The 650 is anticipated as the first of a family of aircraft, with the next evolution – possibly a truncated version – well in the works and poised to be announced next year.

Gulfstream in recent months has applied for trademarks on a wide range of aircraft designations, from the G180 on up to the G890.

Gulfstream is hoping its newly certified G280, meanwhile, will re-energize the sagging super midsize market with new performance parameters, including intercontinental capability.

The company last week announced that it had achieved full U.S. FAA and Civil Aviation Authority of Israel (CAAI) certification for the G280 (the certification was awarded the week prior). Delivery to the first customers is expected to begin before year’s end, and the initial aircraft are in completion. While Gulfstream hasn’t provided specifics on delivery plans, the company expects to deliver 10-15 mid-cabin aircraft this year, with the G280 accounting for the majority of those deliveries.

The G650 TC culminates nearly a decade of development of the aircraft, which for the time being is the fastest certified in-production business jet on the market (Cessna is planning to up the speed of its Citation Ten to reclaim that title).

35-Month Flight-Test Program

Gulfstream had announced the aircraft in March 2008, but began development work five years beforehand. The first G650 rolled in September 2009 and the flight-test program kicked off that November, spanning 35 months. It involved seven aircraft that accumulated more than 3,889 hr. over 1,181 flights.

But the program suffered a setback and flight testing was temporarily halted after S/N 6002 crashed in April 2011, killing both Gulfstream test pilots and both technical specialists aboard.

Certified at a maximum operating speed of Mach 0.925, the aircraft actually brushed up against the speed of sound, reaching nearly Mach 0.99 during testing. Powered by Rolls-Royce BR725 engines, the G650 completed a 5,000-nm closed circuit at Mach 0.90 over the Atlantic Ocean in 9 hr. and 45 min. during testing in October 2010. While not yet certified, the aircraft set a city-pair speed record on a flight between Burbank, Calif., and Savannah, Ga., in February 2011, making the 1,900-mi. trip in 3 hr. and 26 min.

Gulfstream has orders for more than 200 of the aircraft, with a backlog stretching into 2017. Jay Johnson, chairman of Gulfstream parent General Dynamics, has noted, “because new orders of the G650 currently have this five-year entry-into-service date, we do not expect new orders to match planned deliveries .”

Johnson touts the aircraft as setting a “new world standard” for performance, range, speed and comfort. Unfinished, the 650 has a cabin that measures 102-in. wide and 77-in. high, making it the roomiest of all the Gulfstreams. The 650 incorporates 16 of Gulfstream’s signature oval cabin windows, but they are larger than those found on other Gulfstream models.

Gulfstream has incorporated iPod Touch-controlled cabin management systems, and the aircraft is designed with a cabin altitude of 3,300 ft. at Flight Level 410 and 4,850 ft. at FL510.

The aircraft incorporates a full three-axis fly-by-wire system, which builds in redundancy and reduces maintenance. The aircraft uses a “PlaneConnect” aircraft health and trend monitoring system, which tracks up to 10,000 parameters.

The aircraft’s PlaneView cockpit includes four 14-in. liquid crystal displays, three PlaneBook subscriptions; a standby multi-function controller that combines current display controller functionality with standby flight instruments; automatic descent mode; wide area augmentation system/localizer performance with vertical guidance (WAAS-LPV), future air navigation system (FANS) 1/A; controller-pilot datalink communications (CPDLC); automatic dependent surveillance-contract (ADS-C); and a fully automatic, three-dimensional scanning weather radar.

The cockpit further is equipped with pilot situational awareness and flight safety, including the Gulfstream Enhanced Vision System, the Synthetic Vision-Primary Flight Display and the Head-Up Display.

Full certification for the G280 comes nine months after the aircraft received provisional type certification from CAAI. FAA awarded provisional type certification in March. The aircraft was announced in October 2008 as the replacement for the Gulfstream 200 and first flew in 2009. The certification program involved three G280 aircraft that accumulated more than 2,150 hr. and 794 test flights. Like the Gulfstream 200, the aircraft is a joint effort with Israel Aircraft Industries. Certification and market entry comes a little less than a year later than originally anticipated, pushed back in part by software delays.

Significant Change

Although the aircraft essentially incorporates the G200’s fuselage, the G280 incorporates so many significant changes that it required a new type certificate. The G280 has more powerful Honeywell HTF250G engines that produce 7,445 lb. of thrust and wings that are nearly 50% larger. The result is the aircraft flies farther and faster, but burns less fuel.

Originally known as the G250, the G280 comes to market with improved performance over the original estimated specifications – and brings a new range and new equipment to the super midsize category. While super midsize aircraft are traditionally considered transcontinental, the G280 provides an intercontinental range of 3,600 nm at Mach 0.80. The range is 200 nm farther over the original projections.

The aircraft also incorporates features such as fly-by-wire rudder and auto brakes – both new to super midsize aircraft.

The G280 has a top speed of 0.85 Mach and a balanced field length of 4,750 ft. – a 1,300-ft. improvement over the G200 and 210 ft. better than originally announced. The aircraft climbs to 43,000 ft. in 23 min. with a maximum cruise altitude of 45,000 ft.

The G280 is equipped with a PlaneView280 cockpit that is based on Rockwell Collins’ ProLine Fusion, with three 15-in. liquid crystal displays that include navigation map with terrain; approach and airport charts; graphical flight planning, and optional enhanced vision.

The eight-10-passenger cabin is roomier than the G200 with noise dampening that approaches that of Gulfstream’s large-cabin models. The cabin was designed with a larger lavatory, improved galley and increased storage.

The G280 also benefits from some of the cabin management system features developed for the G650, such as iPod Touch-controlled passenger cabin units.

While full certification comes later than originally anticipated, its timing comes as the market appears stronger for midsized/super midsized category.

General Dynamics executives have agreed with industry analysts that the large-cabin market bounced back earlier than it has for the smaller aircraft.

Gulfstream still found the market for its mid-cabin aircraft sluggish earlier this year, but GD’s Johnson noted the G280 was capturing some interest – and that interest was improving the closer the aircraft got to entry-into-service. Backlog for the G280 extends into 2014, the company says.