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 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But G200 sales remained hampered by the aircraft's undersized wing, anemic engines and outdated avionics.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 theFalcon 2000S or 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.
Nearly Clean Screen Design
The G280 has new CAA Israel andPart 25 type certificates, ones that are not linked to a previous model. The aircraft complies with Part 25 through Amendment A1-120, plus A122. CS-25 A2 type certification is in the works. The aircraft meets ICAO Annex 16 and FAR Part 36 Stage 4 noise standards, along with FAR Part 34 fuel venting and exhaust emission requirements.
The TCs and other approvals are, or will be, owned byLP, a joint venture of Gulfstream Aerospace and Ltd. based at Tel Aviv-Ben Gurion Airport. The green aircraft is assembled at IAI using parts made in the U.S., Israel and other countries in accordance with a CAA Israel production certificate. It's then fitted with a ferry package and flown to Gulfstream's Dallas-Love Field facility for painting and outfitting.
The G280's design is classic Gulfstream, one for which the engineers in Savannah provided ample margin for weight gain during the development process. They fitted it with a generously sized wing and empennage, along with powerful engines. The G280 has sporty performance in spite of its nearly 4,000-lb. weight increase compared to the G200.
That wasn't the case for IAI's G200. It fell well short of performance goals because the Israelis set overly ambitious weight goals, specifying an 18,100-lb. BOW and 33,450-lb. MTOW. The original design indeed was even more anemic than the final product. IAI planned to use 5,900-lb.-thrust engines, as we reported in December 1993.
The aircraft's BOW later ballooned to 20,200 lb., fuel capacity was increased and MTOW was bumped to 35,650 lb. The 369-sq.-ft. modified Astra SP wing and 6,040-lb. increased thrust Pratt & Whitney Canada PW306A engines simply couldn't handle the increased heft. The added weight gave it one of the highest wing loadings and weakest thrust-to-weight ratios of any purpose-built business jet.
Gulfstream fixed those problems for the G280 starting with a clean-sheet wing derived from the G550 airfoil with a slightly different twist distribution and new large, wide radius winglets. It has more sweep and 495 sq. ft. of area, 34% more than the G200 wing. While it has less than half of the G550's wing, the G280 has nearly identical wing loading because of its lower weight. Similar to the G550, design cruise speed is Mach 0.80, up from Mach 0.75 for the G200. That yields up to 29 KTAS more speed, enough to shave half an hour or more off the flight time between London and New York.
The larger wing, along with the wing center section tank and feeders, also holds 20% more fuel than the G200's wing and center tanks. The increased fuel capacity in the wing tanks enabled Gulfstream to shrink the size of the forward belly tank and eliminate the 5,515-lb. capacity, 67-cu.-ft. fuselage tank, replacing it with a 1,130-lb. capacity aft belly tank.
Overall fuel capacity actually was reduced by 390 lb. from the G200, but the more-efficient wing and new engines more than made up the difference. Range with four passengers is boosted nearly 300 nm even though long-range cruise is 29 KTAS faster. Gulfstream selected second-generation 7,624-lb.-thrustAS907-2-1G turbofans, marketed as HTF7250G engines, to replace the P&WC powerplants on the G200. The Honeywell engines give the G280 the best thrust-to-weight ratio of any Gulfstream in current production.
Similar to Savannah-built Gulfstreams, the G280 also gets a new T-tail empennage that replaces the G200's cruciform tail. The vertical and horizontal stabilizers have more area to handle the aircraft's nearly two-ton weight increase. The horizontal stab also has more sweep.
The new aircraft retains fuselage outer loft contours, but the G200's all metal, semi-monocoque structure was modified to handle increased pressurization, the new wing, additional windows and aft internal baggage bay access door. In addition, the external baggage door was changed to a plug design that opens inward. The main entry door is virtually the same as the one on the G200, but it's now hydraulically retracted rather than using air springs.
The increase in pressurization to 9.2 psi from 8.9 psi results in a 1,000-ft. reduction in maximum cabin altitude. Passengers, however, will on average experience slightly higher cabin altitudes because the aircraft can climb directly to FL 430 or higher, resulting in a 6,500-ft. cabin altitude. The G200 could barely reach FL 390 at MTOW, where cabin altitude is 6,000 ft.
The flight control system of the new aircraft has little in common with that of the G200 other than similar pitch control mechanisms and the stall protection system. The roll control system, for example, uses manually actuated ailerons with servo tabs that provide a high fidelity aerodynamic feel. Computer controlled multifunction spoilers provide most of the muscle needed for roll control. The result is natural feel, abundant roll control authority and well-harmonized pitch and roll forces at the yoke.
The G280 is fitted with a fly-wire-wire (FBW) rudder in place of the manually actuated, boost-assisted system installed on the G200. The rudder pedals have no mechanical connection to the rudder. Instead, the pedals have movement transducers that send electrical signals to two, dual-channel digital FBW computers. Each computer then commands a separate FBW electrohydraulic rudder servo actuator, powered by the left or right hydraulic system.
The avionics system also sends signals to the FBW computer for rudder bias in the event of asymmetric thrust, yaw damping and turn coordination. In the event of an engine failure, the rudder bias system is so effective that it virtually eliminates any sideslip. Since the rudder pedals aren't connected to rudder linkages, they wouldn't provide pilots tactile feedback of an engine-out condition without an add-on system. The G280 is fitted with a rudder feel servo system that mildly deflects the rudder pedals in proportion to thrust asymmetry, thus providing artificial feel that “talks to your toes” during an engine-out condition.
In keeping with long-standing Gulfstream design practices, the G280 has no leading-edge high-lift devices. The trailing-edge flaps are electrically controlled and hydraulically actuated. The G200's relatively small wing, in contrast, needs flaps and leading-edge slats and Krueger flaps to boost lift for takeoff and landing.
The G280 has a thoroughly updated and fully split bus electrical system with increased automatic load shedding compared to the G200's hybrid split/parallel bus architecture that shares common emergency and hot battery buses. Aboard the G280, there are left and right 28-VDC 400A brushless generators, plus a 28-VDC 400A APU starter-generator rated for inflight use up to 40,000 ft. at reduced output. Left- and right-side 24-VDC 38AH heated lead-acid batteries, plus a standby battery, are standard. Similar to the G200, the right battery is used to start the APU. But the engines use air turbine starters, so the G280 doesn't need the G200's big batteries, which can be used for electric starting of its main propulsion engines.
The hydraulic system also has been updated, mainly to provide additional redundancy for the FBW rudder. The left and right sides have both engine-driven and electrically powered hydraulic pumps, similar to the Challenger 300. The design provides the necessary power redundancy for the digital FBW rudder.
As with the G200, the right side powers the landing gear, nosewheel steering, Q-feel system for the elevators and on-side thrust reverser. The stall prevention stick pusher function now is incorporated into the autopilot pitch servo. The left-side system powers the ground spoilers as in the G200, but now it also powers the entry door retraction system and wing flaps. Both sides power the brake-by-wire system, multifunction spoilers and elevators.
The G280's air-conditioning and pressurization system is similar to that of its predecessor, but the single air-cycle machine pack has been modified to improve refrigeration performance. The APU now is approved as essential equipment. It's certified for unattended operations and it can be used on takeoff and up to 20,000 ft. for pressurization and air-conditioning.
The basic G200 landing gear set is retained, including virtually identical nose gear and nosewheel steering. The beefier trailing link main landing gear handles the G280's higher weights. The aircraft gets a new brake-by-wire system with an auto-braking function, a first for this class of business aircraft. The auto braking system has low, medium and high deceleration levels, plus a rejected takeoff mode for maximum braking.
The ice protection system has been changed significantly. Gone are the G200's pneumatic deice boots on the leading edges of the wing and horizontal stabilizer. The G280 uses bleed air for heated wing anti-ice. Similar to most other turbofan aircraft with horizontal T-tails, the stabilizer doesn't have ice protection. As aboard the G200, engine bleed air is used to heat the engine inlets for anti-ice protection and electrical heaters protect the windshields, probes and static ports.
The G280's cabin is 17-in. longer than that of the G200 because the fuselage fuel tank has been removed. The extra cabin length makes available 8 in. more seating room in the main area and a 9-in. larger aft lavatory. The finished cabin is 6.1-ft. high, 6.9-ft. wide, with a 5.4-ft.-wide floor, and is 25.9-ft. long. Each side of the main seating area now has two extra windows and the lavatory has a window on each side. Variable hue LED wash lighting and aisle lighting are standard, along with several passenger reading and work surface lights.
Buyers are offered a choice of Gulfstream Select interior configurations with standardized floor plans, cabinetry, cabin sidewalls and cabin systems. All factory standard configurations incorporate Gulfstream's Cabin Essential redundant cabin management system. All aircraft come equipped with electronic and paper copies of Gulfstream's cabin operating manual, a maintenance handbook and instruction video.
Configurations are available to accommodate eight to 10 passengers, each design having a forward four-seat club section. Individual chairs are 25-in. wide with 21 in. of seat room between the armrests. Each seat has a telescoping headrest with optional foldout “wings” to support the sides of the head.
About 10% of buyers are opting for a second four-seat club section in the aft cabin. Close to 45% are choosing an aft section with two facing chairs on the right side with a 6.7-ft. long, three-place divan on the left side. The remaining buyers are selecting a four-place conference grouping on the left side of the aft cabin with the three-place divan on the right side. Customers said they wanted life-raft storage underneath the divan, so that feature is built into the aircraft.
All single and dual seats fold down into berths. The divan may be extended into the aisle to form a 31-in.-wide berth. The aircraft is designed to sleep four passengers on extended flights in fully flat or near-flat berths.
Occupants enter the aircraft through a 6.0-ft.-high by 2.8-ft.-wide airstair door, which features tread lighting and non-skid steps. It's a plug design that hinges from the bottom edge. A short leg, actuated by the door opening mechanism, extends to support the door on the ground when it's fully opened.
The G280 is the only super-midsize aircraft to have a dropped aisle. Competitors have flat floors. However, early customers contacted by BCA said that their passengers didn't view the dropped aisle as a drawback. Most of these customers currently operate smaller aircraft or G200 aircraft that also have dropped aisles, so their passengers are accustomed to the configuration. In addition, the dropped aisle/raised floor layout allows the chairs to be moved outboard, thereby increasing the width between chairs to 21 in. to make it easy to move about the aircraft.
The right aft chair in the front club section usually is designated as the master position. Gulfstream's Cabin Essential cabin management system is designed to use off-the-shelf iPod Touch PDAs, loaded with a Cabin Essential app, as the remote control. Two iPod Touch PDAs are included with the aircraft. The master seat has an iPod Touch docking station for storage and charging. The master seat also has an Iridium satcom phone handset.
An iPod loaded with the Cabin Essential app can be used aboard any Gulfstream aircraft equipped with the Cabin Essential CMS. The iPod app communicates with the aircraft to “learn” the cabin layout and its specific systems. Thus any iPod running the generic Cabin Essential app can control the cabin systems on any Gulfstream fitted with the Cabin Essential CMS. The cabin audiovisual system has dual 160 GB media servers that each can store 80 to 100 Blu-ray HD movies, a boon to passengers on long flights. There also are dual Blu-ray/DVD/CD players with USB ports, plus laptop ports for inflight business presentations. Fiber-optic cables link the servers with display screens to eliminate latency.
Standard equipment includes a 19-in. forward bulkhead LCD monitor and Gulfstream's CabinView moving map system with flight information, high-resolution satellite imagery, geographic borders and points of interest, and passenger briefing videos. Individual side ledge plug-in monitors are optional.
With inflight access to the baggage compartment, Gulfstream added an auxiliary pressure bulkhead between the lavatory and baggage bay to comply with the latest airworthiness requirements. Normal access to the compartment is restricted to no higher than 40,000 ft. The usable volume of the aft baggage compartment actually is 5-cu.-ft. smaller than the G200's baggage bay because the 33-in.-high by 31-in.-wide external access door opens inward and slides upward rather than being an outward opening door. The plug design, though, is fail-safe because it's sealed in place by cabin pressurization and cannot open in flight.
Inside the cabin, however, there's a 14-cu.-ft. coat closet just aft of the entry door, two divan end cabinets that hold a combined 10 cu. ft. of luggage and a 10-cu.-ft. storage compartment on the left side of the lav, just aft of the sink vanity. The internal storage compartments increase total storage capacity to 154 cu. ft.
Up front, the galley has been redesigned for easier use. There's an edge-to-edge counter top, a sink with right-side faucet with hot and cold water, large capacity ice and trash drawers, aft cabinets for dinnerware and upper cabinets for beverage and amenity storage. A microwave oven and coffeemaker are standard. The galley has its own water heater that's separate from the hot water heater in the lavatory. A conventional oven and Nestlé Nespresso machine are optional.
The galley has a cooled wine storage area, a 115 VAC/60 Hz power outlet, touch-screen control panel and pull-out counter extension, plus LED work surface, accent and cabinet toe kick lighting.
The aft lav is considerably bigger than the one aboard the G200 and features left- and right-side windows to flood the compartment with ambient light. It has more than 8 sq. ft. of floor space and 2.5 ft. of net usable length from cabin divider to the aft cabinets. The aft left side of the lavatory has a closet and the right aft side houses an avionics rack. There's a high-capacity, low-flow vacuum toilet and a sink with hot and cold running water, along with a covered 115-VAC power outlet, LED lighting and flight attendant call button. The lavatory has its own hot water heater. Notably, the entire fresh water system can be purged prior to landing to prevent freeze damage caused by cold weather layovers.
Cabinetry, upholstery, fabrics and Scott Group carpets, among other furnishings, are in keeping with large-cabin Gulfstream standards. The Dallas completion center now gives customers the option of selecting manufactured or reconstituted wood veneers on cabinets that use recycled materials. Aboard Gulfstream's G280 demonstrator, we found these materials to be virtually indistinguishable from natural wood veneers. Overall, the quality of the cabin completion appears to be unparalleled in this class of aircraft.
As comfortable as the cabin furnishings are, the interior completion complements the aircraft's MSG 3 maintenance-friendly design. Only three tools are required to remove all interior components, including chairs, cabinets and side panels.
Belt into the left seat of the G280, as we did in late August 2012, and it's immediately clear that its PlaneView280 flight deck puts this aircraft on par with the best of Gulfstream's large-cabin aircraft. Brian Dickerson, senior production test pilot for Gulfstream, accompanied us as instructor pilot in the right seat of s.n. 2004 and Bob Wilson, midsize Gulfstream aircraft experimental test pilot, rode along as safety pilot.
Dickerson explained that the G280 is the only aircraft in this class to have both full-authority auto throttles and an auto braking system. It's also the only super-midsize aircraft in current production offering optional HUD and EVS, although the demonstrator wasn't so equipped. We noted that Embraer plans to offer optional HUD and EVS on the Legacy 500 when it arrives in late 2013.
PlaneView280 has three 15-in. landscape configuration displays instead of the four 14-in. units used in larger Gulfstream aircraft. Each screen may be divided in half or quarters, providing as many as a dozen different images. It's easy to learn how to select various functions. Must-have functions are all top level, mostly selected by discrete controls. Nice-to-have functions are selected by using cursor control devices on the outboard side ledges.
The glareshield has left- and right-side standby multifunction controllers (SMC) adapted from the units aboard the G650 that function both as integrated standby instrument systems and display controllers. The SMC also provides APU start and operation monitoring when the aircraft batteries are the only source of electrical power.
The center section has the flight guidance control panel with direct readouts for speed, heading/track, vertical speed/flight path angle and preset altitude, that aid hand/eye coordination. These same data are available on the display screens.
Dickerson and Wilson prepped the aircraft and they had the APU running when we arrived at Gulfstream's Dallas-Love Field facility (elevation 487 ft.). Outside, the temperature was 33C/91F, but inside the aircraft it was 21C/70F.
Pre-start checks were straightforward, including use of the standby multifunction controller to run through stall, TCAS and TAWS tests, plus setting the landing field elevation. The FMS performance database is not yet certified, so Wilson computed takeoff data for a 32,000-lb. takeoff weight and flaps 20 deg. He calculated 106 KIAS for V1 takeoff decision speed, 112 KIAS for rotation and 124 KIAS for the V2 OEI takeoff safety speed. En route climb speed was 171 KIAS. Using those speeds and opting for a “bleeds off” takeoff, we computed takeoff field distance at 3,725 ft. The APU would furnish bleed air for air-conditioning and pressurization until after takeoff.
Rolling out of the chocks, we found the nosewheel steering and new brake-by-wire system to be smooth and precise. We reflected on how far brake-by-wire systems have progressed since the original GIV's primitive system of the mid-1980s.
Once cleared for takeoff on Runway 13R, we advanced the throttles midway and engaged the auto-throttle system. Rpm advanced to 90.6% N1, providing nearly 7,600 lb. of thrust on each engine. With a weight-to-thrust ratio of 2.11 to 1, acceleration was spirited.
Rotation force was moderate and roll force was well harmonized with pitch force. The ailerons and elevator have virtually no perceptible on-center stiction, making the aircraft quite enjoyable to hand-fly. In addition, thrust change causes very little pitch change. Some pilots may not want to relinquish control to the autopilot. But the auto-throttle system is so smooth and precise that there's little reason not to use it.
After takeoff, the pneumatic system automatically switched from APU bleed air to engine bleed air. At that point, we secured the APU.
Following a 250 KIAS/Mach 0.75 speed schedule, the aircraft climbed to FL 450 in 21 min., including a 3 min. ATC delay. That's impressive as the OATs were mostly ISA+15C to 17C until we climbed above FL 300. At FL 450, though, OAT cooled off to ISA-5C. Fuel burn for the climb was about 1,000 lb.
We checked cruise performance at Mach 0.80 normal cruise and Mach 0.84 high-speed cruise at FL 450 at ISA-5C to -6C temperatures. At a weight of 30,800 lb., fuel burn was 1,510 pph at normal cruise and 1,810 pph at high-speed cruise. Gulfstream's AFM indicates the aircraft's long-range cruise speed at this weight is Mach 0.79 and fuel flow should be about 1,400 pph. At Mach 0.84, the book predicts 1,778 pph at that weight and OAT.
We also checked buffet boundaries. The aircraft was buffet free up to 40-deg. angle of bank, corresponding to 1.3 g. At MTOW, the aircraft has 1.2 g of buffet margin from Mach 0.75 to 0.80 at FL 450. Buffet margin drops sharply above normal cruise speed.
We descended to 16,000 ft. for airwork southeast of Abilene, Texas, using idle thrust and the variable position speed brakes for drag. The air brakes produce very mild pitch-up when fully extended and just slight airframe rumble that's unlikely to disturb passengers.
Once level at low altitude, we flew a couple of steep turns. It's easy to maintain altitude using the PFD's flight path marker and airspeed trend vector. Pitch force is moderately heavy, thereby preventing over-control. Roll response, with the help of the FBW roll spoilers, is crisp, but roll effort is moderate, again preventing over-control. Dickerson commented that pilots aren't allowed to use the flight path marker on check rides.
Dickerson next demonstrated the aircraft's low-speed protection system. If the aircraft is slowed to 72% of the angle of attack (AOA) at which the stall warning stick pusher fires, the auto-throttle system automatically engages and power is advanced to prevent the stall. Up to maximum available thrust, the auto-throttle system will not allow angle of attack to exceed 78% of stick pusher AOA.
We then flew clean, flaps 20 approach and landing configuration stall approaches to stick pusher at weights of 30,150 lb. to 30,250 lb. For the three configurations, stall warning stick shaker then stall prevention stick pusher respectively were triggered at 139 KIAS and 131 KIAS, 113 KIAS and 106 KIAS, and 107 KIAS and 101 KIAS. Aircraft behavior during each of the maneuvers was very benign.
Next, it was off to Abilene's Runway 35R for pattern work, starting with the ILS approach. Wilson pegged Vref at 128 KIAS for the aircraft's estimated 29,600-lb. landing weight, providing a 23% margin over stall. Dickerson set the auto-braking system to medium deceleration for demonstration purposes.
We flew the approach at Vref+5 until crossing the fence. The relatively large wing and absence of leading edge slats/Kreuger flaps provides considerably more ground effect cushioning than in the G200. We floated down the runway for a few hundred extra feet before the aircraft touched down. Auto braking action was very smooth and progressive. The aircraft slowed to moderate taxi speed in about 2,500 ft.
It was then time to sample the G280's engine-out takeoff performance. Wilson computed speeds of 101 KIAS for V1, 109 KIAS for rotation and 121 KIAS for V2. Just above 101 KIAS, Dickerson retarded the right throttle to idle, simulating an engine failure. Only light left rudder pressure was needed to control yaw because of the powerful FBW rudder system. But the servo system moved the rudder pedals enough to make it apparent to our feet that the left engine was producing substantially more thrust than the right engine.
The aircraft was easy to control throughout the simulated OEI approach and landing. We noted that thrust response to throttle movement is very linear and predictable with the Honeywell HTF7250 turbofans, thus speed was easily controlled. That's a vivid contrast to the throttle response of the PW306C engines that power the G200.
After landing, we taxied back to sample the aircraft's auto braking rejected takeoff feature. During our simulated takeoff roll, Dickerson called “Abort! Abort!” just past 80 KIAS. We snapped the throttles to idle. The ground spoilers fully deployed and the auto braking responded with maximum braking effort. There was the slightest tendency toward triggering the anti-skid system, but the aircraft decelerated smartly to a stop with no loss of directional stability.
Returning to Dallas-Love Field, we noticed that, compared to the G200, the aircraft's considerably larger wing and relatively stiff wing structure results in a firmer ride in turbulence. It feels similar to a G450.
We landed 1 hr., 49 min. after departing Love Field and easily stopped the aircraft in the first 3,800 ft. of runway.
Conclusions? The G280 delivers sporty performance, excellent handling qualities and unsurpassed avionics capabilities in this class of business aircraft. Its range, speed and systems capabilities are on a par with far more expensive large-cabin aircraft, placing it at the top of its class.
G280 Versus Competitors
Glance, please, at the accompanying Comparison Profile. Because of the G280's exceptional capabilities, we didn't just compare it to other super-midsize aircraft such as the Hawker 4000 and Challenger 300. We also added in the Dassault Falcon 2000S, Bombardier Challenger 605 and Embraer Legacy 650.
Our readers might ask if this is a fair matchup. The graph indicates that the G280 doesn't have as long a cabin as the composite average, mainly because of the 16.6-ft. extra length of the Legacy 650. Take that aircraft out of the mix and the G280 holds its own.
The G280 can carry five passengers with full fuel. The tradeoff for each additional passenger is 60-65 miles of range. With equal payload, the G280 can fly farther than other super-midsize aircraft. Only large-cabin aircraft have more range with the same payload. But they also burn more fuel on such missions.
By most other measures, the G280 is a strong performer in comparison with the combined average of its super-midsize and entry-level large-cabin competitors. However, when price is considered, the G280 soars above the competition by all but two metrics.
In doing so, the G280 establishes a new niche between super-midsize and large-cabin class aircraft. It's an aircraft that can perform most transatlantic missions flown by large-cabin aircraft on less fuel with no sacrifice in speed. Its 7,000-ft. cabin and G550-like sound levels reduce fatigue. It will sleep four comfortably on North America to Europe overnight missions, while providing a productive work environment for them when they're awake. The commodious full-service galley and enlarged lavatory with vacuum toilet also are well-suited to 8-hr. missions between continents.
The super-midsize aircraft market has been disappointingly flat since the bottom fell out of the world economy four years ago. Gulfstream declines to release its G280 order book, but industry sources estimate there is a 50 to 100 aircraft backlog.
When the market recovers, the G280 will be ready to seize a much larger share. Bombardier and, among other manufacturers, also believe the super-midsize market is due for major improvement. Cessna's 4,000-nm range Longitude is due in 2017, and market leader Bombardier is mulling over a next-generation Challenger 300.
But others will now have to catch up to Gulfstream. With deliveries now under way, the G280 is the aircraft other airframers will use as a basis of comparison for years to come. BCA
|BCA Equipped Price||$24,000,000|
|Engine||2 Honeywell HTF7250G|
|Output/Flat Rating OAT°C||7,624 lb. ea./ISA+16.7C|
|Payload With Max Fuel||1,000/454|
|Fuel With Max Payload||11,550/5,239|
|Fuel With Executive Payload||14,000/6,350|
|Time to FL 370 (min.)||14|
|FAR Part 25 OEI rate (fpm/mpm)||846/258|
|FAR Part 25 OEI gradient (ft./nm; m/km)||371/61|
|Sea Level Cabin||28,900/8,809|
|Certification||FAR Part 25 A1-120, 122|