SAVANNAH, Georgia – Gulfstream Aerospace’s new G500, which rolled out before an audience of 3,000 under its own power Oct. 14 alongside the mockup of the G600, is already capturing significant orders and options, including from the former Bombardier-owned Flexjet.

Fractional ownership provider Flexjet, in a major departure from its all-Bombardier fleet, is turning to rival Gulfstream to launch Gulfstream’s all-new G500 aircraft. The Flexjet sale includes orders and options for up to 50 G450s, G500s and G650s and a long-term support agreement.

Gulfstream held a signing ceremony during the unveiling event at its headquarters here. At the same time, the manufacturer also announced a memorandum of understanding with Qatar Airways for up to 20 of the 500 and recently certified G650ER.

Gulfstream did not reveal the values of either contract, but they could easily combine for several billion dollars if options are exercised.

For Flexjet, which operates 150 Bombardier business aircraft, the sales mark the first major deal since Directional Aviation Capital acquired the fractional operator at the end of 2013. As part of the sale to Directional, Flexjet had already agreed to acquire up to 245 Bombardier jets valued at $5.6 billion.

But Directional chief Kenn Ricci, who is type rated in several Gulfstream models, notes that he has had a "long love affair with Gulfstream," and that a deal with Gulfstream has been in the works for years, long before he acquired Bombardier. He also quipped that his wife wanted to know why he hadn’t ordered Gulfstream aircraft and "I always do what my wife tells me."

It also marks the continuation of a shift between Flexjet, which draws more corporate clients, to new aircraft, while moving Flexjet’s sister fractional operations Flight Options back to its roots of more of a "value proposition."

The Flexjet deal includes 22 firm orders – 10 450s and six apiece of the 500 and 650. Delivery of the 450s will begin in 2015, followed by the 650 in 2016. Flexjet will take delivery of the new 500 in 2018. The service agreement, meanwhile, extends 10 years.

The deal also expands Gulfstream’s presence in the fractional market. "This agreement represents a significant milestone in the history of our two companies and ushers in a new era of fractional ownership for our G450, G500 and G650 aircraft," says Scott Neal, Gulfstream senior vice president, worldwide sales and marketing.

Gulfstream’s agreement with Qatar Airways is also the first between the two companies, and comes while Qatar’s private aviation services are rapidly growing. Qatar founded its Qatar Executive unit in 2009.

With the two major contracts in hand and a "real airplane" to display, the new 500 and the larger 600 is already receiving a strong reception by Wall Street. Robert Stallard of RBC Capital Markets notes that the G500 rollout under its own power shows "how far this project has already progressed." Gulfstream is estimating first flight in 2015, followed by certification in 2017 and deliveries in 2018. The G600 would follow between 12-18 months later.

While the G500 has already secured launch orders, Stallard notes "With NBAA [Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition] coming next week, we’ll quickly be able to gauge the response in the market, and brisk new order activity would bode well for Gulfstream, but also the wider bizjet arena."

General Dynamics Chairman Phebe Novakovic announced the models along with Gulfstream President Larry Flynn. Included in the 3,000 attendees were a number of current and past Gulfstream notables, including former President Bryan Moss.

The addition of the models will mean a continued ramp-up in research and development dollars along with two new manufacturing facilities for the aircraft. But Stallard believes that the risks of the program are already minimized by how far along development has progressed, as well as changes in the supply chain.

Gulfstream designed and is manufacturing the wings for the new aircraft, which gives Triumph and Spirit less of a role, Stallard points out. Gulfstream also switched from Rolls-Royce, which has powered every other large-cabin Gulfstream jet, to Pratt & Whitney’s new PW800. Honeywell returns as an avionics provider with its touchscreen Primus Epic system.

The three-cabin-area G500 will fly 5,000 nm at Mach 0.85. The G600, with four cabin areas, has a range of 6,200 nm at Mach 0.90

Before Gulfstream took the wraps off its new aircraft, they had long been believed to be the successors of the 450 and 550. But both new aircraft have larger cabins and fly longer and faster.

Gulfstream had previously delivered 10 aircraft called "G500." Those aircraft, however, were actually GV-SP jets with a different model designation.

– Fred George ( and Graham Warwick ( contributed to this report.