The super-midsize class has been one of the hottest selling segments of business aircraft in recent years. These versatile aircraft can fly eight passengers nonstop between East Coast and West Coast North American cities at true jetliner speeds. They also can fly nonstop across the North Atlantic eastbound. Almost all can fly westbound from England or Ireland to the U.S. East Coast. To fly from virtually any city in Europe to any destination in North America, they need no more than one refueling stop. Their cabins provide passengers with ample room to work, to relax and to converse. They have full galley facilities, ample storage space for carry-on luggage and full-width aft lavatories. Most have inflight access to a pressurized aft baggage compartment.

The origins of today’s super-midsize class date back almost half a century. In the early 1960s, Grumman embarked upon development of the GII, a large-cabin, transcontinental range turbofan business aircraft, capable of flying coast-to-coast at true jetliner speeds. Building upon the success of its large-cabin Gulfstream I turboprop, Grumman engineers retained the basic fuselage tube and stretched the cabin by almost 4 ft. They added mildly swept wings, a T-tail and two pylon-mounted Rolls-Royce Spey engines to create the new model.

Customers, especially GI operators, eagerly signed orders for the new aircraft, well in advance of Grumman’s building a mock-up. Similar to the GI, the GII would have a flat floor, more than 6 ft. of headroom, a 7.2-ft. maximum cabin width and signature wide, oval windows. The cabin had room for a forward four-seat club section, a mid-cabin conference grouping and a single aft, forward-facing CEO’s chair flanked by a small divan. It could fly most coast-to-coast trips at 440 to 450 KTAS and had a maximum range of 2,600 to 2,700 nm at long-range cruise. That range enabled the GII to transport eights passengers between most U.S. coastal city pairs, if headwinds were moderate. It also could fly between most North American and European cities with one fuel stop.

The market responded quickly and enthusiastically. Grumman management slashed a full year from the sales promotion campaign and proceeded directly to cutting metal for the first production conforming aircraft. GII s.n. 001 sprinted off Grumman’s Bethpage, N.Y., runway in late 1966 and earned its FAA type certificate in October 1967.

Grumman went on to deliver 258 aircraft in the next 12 years. The GII was succeeded by the GIII in 1980, GIV in 1987 and GV in 1997, among other derivatives. While its successors were faster and had more range, the basic need for a coast-to-coast range business jet offering 450-plus KTAS cruise speeds and a comfortable cabin for eight or more passengers never went away. GII production ended in 1967, leaving a market segment that wasn’t filled for 25 years. In spite of all its assets, the GII eventually was doomed to obsolescence because of its 4,000-pph fuel thirst and ear-splitting jet roar.

“We left an opportunity for others when we abandoned that market niche. For years, there never was an aircraft in that segment to fill the void,” said Pres Henne, Gulfstream’s senior vice president programs, engineering and test.