Like a high-stakes card game, where the formidable player carefully curates cards and holds them close to the chest until the big reveal occurs, Gulfstream Aerospace has just shown its full hand.
That hand includes the G500, G600, G700 and two new cards—the G400 and G800.
In announcing two new business jets, the G400 as the smallest member of its large-cabin family and the G800 as its longest-range aircraft—8,000 nm at Mach 0.85—Gulfstream has unveiled a product lineup for which it started creating a strategy in 2006. That 2006-08 “vision still holds up . . . [and] now others are trying to catch up,” says Gulfstream President Mark Burns.
- G400 is Gulfstream’s new entry-level large-cabin jet
- G800 is Company's longest-range jet
When Gulfstream launched the long-range G650 in 2008, “We were thinking well beyond [it] and envisaged two families of aircraft—the G650, which will grow into the [ultra-long-range] G700 and G800, and the smaller airplanes in the large-cabin segment: the G400, G500 and G600. Investing in those families was important for us from a long-term vision,” he says.
When Gulfstream announced the large-cabin G500 and G600 in 2014, the smaller G400 was already in the mix. Similarly, when the company announced the G700 in 2019, “We were actually working on the G700 and G800 simultaneously,” Burns says.
However, instead of announcing the whole family plan, “We elected to announce them at certain times to make sure we were meeting the right market demands, without overselling our hand,” he says.
Now that the well-guarded secret is out, Burns says it feels “good to have the entire vision on the table of what we’re trying to accomplish.” That vision includes certifying and putting into service five aircraft in seven years: the G500 (2018), G600 (2019), G700 (2022), G800 (2023) and G400 (2025).
Gulfstream and its parent company, General Dynamics, have invested “heavily” in R&D the last 15 years, and that long-term, continuous investment focus has been a key enabler of that vision and “sets us apart,” says Scott Neal, senior vice president of worldwide sales. The manufacturer does not disclose the R&D investment figure.
Creating five aircraft as a family has enabled Gulfstream to take advantage of design, manufacturing, certification and customer support synergies. Here are some of those:
- The cabin interiors feel similar because the G400, G500 and G600 share the same fuselage cross-section, with a finished cabin width of 7.6 ft. and cabin height of 6.2 ft. The G700 and G800 share a fuselage cross-section as well, with a finished cabin width of 8.2 ft. and cabin height of 6.25 ft.
However, while there are two different fuselage gauges, the G400 cabin shares much of the same technology as the G700 and the “fit, finish and comfort” should be the same on the G400 as the G700, Burns says, adding: “A lot of energy went into the G700 cabin.”
- The G400, G500, G600, G700 and G800 all share the high-speed wing and winglet design that first debuted on the G650. That is part of what allows these aircraft to be optimized for cruise speeds of Mach 0.85 and faster, Gulfstream says. In addition to the fast cruise speeds, the aircraft are designed to operate from short runways and have steep approach capability, which provides operational flexibility.
- The aircraft families share a common flight deck. The G500 debuted the Symmetry flight deck, based on Honeywell Primus Epic avionics and featuring active sidesticks. Originally developed by BAE Systems for fly-by-wire military aircraft, the active inceptors are electronically linked between pilot seats and provide both crewmembers with simultaneous tactile and visual feedback on control inputs.
The G500 was also the first business jet to obtain FAA authorization for pilots to land in degraded visibility conditions using only enhanced vision system (EVS) imagery on its left-seat head-up display (HUD). Gulfstream’s EVS III system uses a nose-mounted Elbit Kollsman infrared camera that sends imagery to the Collins Aerospace HUD, presenting the enhanced scene on the combiner glass in the pilot’s forward field of vision.
- Because of the flight-deck commonalities, Gulfstream anticipates that the G400, G500 and G600 will share a “GVII” type rating and the G700 and G800 will have a “GVIII” type rating. Because of the commonalities between the five aircraft, Gulfstream says it is trying to minimize the training requirements between the GVII and GVIII type ratings and hopes to know the training differences as the G700 approaches certification.
- Each of the aircraft families also features the Data Concentration Network, the aircraft’s central nervous system “that provides more data more quickly to the crew and allows for future growth without installing new wiring,” Neal says. The network can be updated or reconfigured using software rather than installing new hardware.
The Data Concentration Network, developed by GE Aviation from the core computing system on the Boeing 787, hosts avionics and other systems using multiple communications protocols on an ARINC 664-standard Ethernet backbone. The network will be a “common theme” of Gulfstream aircraft going forward. “Now this airplane is configurable; you basically connect new equipment to the network,” Neal says.
- Another advancement in the new generation of jets will be cabin pressurization. The cabin altitude on the G400 at 41,000 ft. will feel like 3,255 ft. above sea level, Gulfstream says. The “feels like” cabin altitude on the G700/G800 will be 2,916 ft. at 41,000 ft., besting the 3,200 ft. advertised for the G650. Cabin air will not be recirculated; it will be 100% fresh.
Slotted between the super-midsize G280 and large-cabin G500/G600, the G400 is powered by twin Pratt & Whitney PW800-family turbofans and will have a maximum range of 4,200 nm at Mach 0.85 with eight passengers, three crew and NBAA instrument flight rules (IFR) fuel reserves. The base price of the new aircraft, scheduled to enter service in 2025, will be $34.5 million plus options.
Gulfstream describes the G400 as an entry-level large-cabin business jet. The G400 takes over from the 4,070-nm range G450, which Gulfstream stopped producing in 2017-18 to launch the G500. “That large-cabin, entry-level point has long been kind of abandoned by most of the marketplace,” Burns says. “We’ve looked at that for quite some time. We believed we could build an airplane to fit in that market.
“[The G400] will take advantage of everything we have learned on the 500 and 600 to be able to apply it back to efficiently build this airplane,” Burns adds. “We think the price point is right. We think the performance is even a little better than maybe the market demands at that point. We set out to build a 4,000-mi. airplane—it’s a little better than we anticipated.”
The G800 will be 10 ft. shorter, but it is a longer-legged sibling of the 7,500-nm-range G700 and will ultimately replace Gulfstream’s G650 large-cabin jet at the higher end of the product line. Powered by Rolls-Royce Pearl 700 engines, like the G700, the G800 will fly to a “theoretical” range of 8,000 nm at Mach 0.85 with eight passengers, four crew and NBAA IFR reserves. Scheduled to enter service in 2023, it is priced at $71.5 million plus options. The G700 is priced at $78 million plus options.
“This will be the longest-range airplane we have ever built,” Neal says. Pointing to a map that shows New York within range of a flight departing Hong Kong, he says “This airplane really now gives you the capability to decide if you want to go left or right and get to the same place.”
Unveiled in 2019 during the last NBAA-BACE convention, the Gulfstream G700 remains on track for first customer deliveries in the fourth quarter of 2022, Gulfstream says. The G700 will be the largest of Gulfstream’s large-cabin jets, poised to compete against Bombardier’s in-service Global 7500 and the recently unveiled Dassault Falcon 10X.
“As we announced the G700, we were actually working on the G700 and G800,” notes Burns. “This is very far along. We are working in earnest [through] the final months of G700 certification, then will roll right into G800. In fact, many of the things can be done in parallel.” Two of three planned G800s are in the test program, which is “well along” with instrumentation and calibration testing underway, he says.
The G800 will take over from the G650, which is priced in the low $60 million range, but Burns says Gulfstream will “likely build the 650 longer than anticipated” based on its backlog. “It’s the most active product that we have,” so the company has ramped up production and plans to further increase it next year, he adds.
Gulfstream’s current manufacturing capacity allows it to build up to 100 long-range aircraft and up to 100 large-cabin aircraft per year, but it has additional space if needed. Burns says manufacturing capacity is not a concern even if there is a surge in demand.
While the G280 is not part of Gulfstream's newest aircraft families, Burns stresses that it will continue being part of the portfolio.
To support the growing fleet, Gulfstream also is expanding its service center capacity. “When you endeavor to do something of this magnitude—build multiple new aircraft platforms—you must think through the whole life cycle . . . [and] make sure we can support the aircraft for 40-50 years,” Burns says.
“The service vision is simply: I would like Gulfstream to be the service provider for every Gulfstream owner. That’s a massive undertaking and a major responsibility, but if we provide the right level of service and the right facilities, customers will use Gulfstream service throughout the world,” he says.
The company is building a new service facility at the Fort Worth Alliance Airport that will open in the spring of 2022, he tells Aviation Week. “And hopefully we’ll have more announcements as we go into the fourth quarter.”
But do not expect a G900 announcement anytime soon. During the Oct. 4 unveiling of the two new models, Burns called the G800 the “capstone.”