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G Whizz

Posted 23 July 2018 · Add Comment

An extraordinary experience awaits those private jet passengers who are buying or chartering Gulfstream’s latest masterpieces – the G500 and G600. Dave Calderwood reports.

Both the G500 and G600 are on course for type certification with the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) this year.
The G500 is imminent, while the slightly bigger G600 is due later in the year.
Every area of the G500/600 is new and state-of-the-art. These jets are the pinnacle of current passenger jet design and technology from the avionics-packed nosecone to the fly-by-wire operated rudder.
Nothing has been left to chance by Gulfstream to make them the best performing private jets, for passenger experience, for pilots flying them, and for the operators.
When a slight delay in the type certification process occurred last year – a supplier got a little behind with the paperwork for EASA (now sorted out) – Gulfstream took the opportunity to add a little more performance, announced at last year’s NBAA show.
The G500 gains an extra 200nm range at its long-range cruise speed of Mach 0.85, now offering operators a maximum range of 5,200nm. The G600 gains 300nm and can now fly a maximum of 6,500nm at Mach 0.85.
“As we methodically moved through our concurrent flight-test programmes, which are going exceptionally well, we recognised we had both the time and ability to enhance G500 and G600 performance and give our customers a business-jet family that’s better than the one we had promised them,” said Mark Burns, president, Gulfstream.
“Extracting more capabilities from our aircraft has become a Gulfstream hallmark, the result of creating and maintaining a culture committed to continuous improvement, listening to our customers and exceeding our promises.”
A more recent update confirmed the aircraft were on track. By February’s Singapore Air Show, the five G500 test aircraft had accumulated more than 4,250 flight hours over more than 1,175 flights. The G600 had amassed more than 1,395 flight hours during more than 360 flights.
Welcome though the extra range is, what passengers will appreciate most is the incredible cabin Gulfstream has created.
Simply put, it’s the quietest in the industry – so quiet, apparently, that you can’t hear the engines at all in the cruise. It’s also the brightest, with the same large oval windows used in the range-topping G650ER, and a cabin altitude of 4,850 feet at its maximum operating altitude of FL 510.
There are five basic designs that buyers of the $44.65 million G500 can choose from and Gulfstream provides an iPad app that allows people to play around with all of the options, adding, removing, varying, to their heart’s content.
Divans, hidden TVs, options such as floor finishes (including stone if you want), and even a shower, are all possible. Locate the galley fore or aft, add connectivity and entertainment options – it’s all possible. Iridium and Inmarsat satellite communication systems are standard, and various broadband options will be offered.
The five basic designs reflect a wide range of tastes, although the two designers, Tray Crow and Vicky Amores, leading the team behind the G500/600 cabin, say they’ve employed a ‘less is more’ rationale. The five designs are classic, layered, sport, minimalist and next gen.
Classic is a traditional look and will probably find favour with US corporations.
Layered is a step sideways from classic to make the cabin more like a home than an office.
Sport is a bit more ‘in your face’ with high contrast finishes, including carbon fibre, just like the latest yachts and high-end cars.
Minimalist is probably more European or even Asian, with a focus on tones and textures to emphasise an architectural look.
Next gen is more colourful and playful, shaking off usual design concepts. It sounds like it could be almost anything.
Gulfstream is picking up on a distinct trend among current large jet buyers that it’s really all about the cabin. And so, it has dedicated one of its five G500 test aircraft simply to getting the cabin right, testing all the finishes and technology in flying conditions. Nothing is being left to chance.
Of course, that goes for the rest of the aircraft too. The G500 and G600 are very similar, though the G600 has a slightly bigger wing and longer fuselage. Pilots will only need one type rating to fly both aircraft. The type rating is taken at FlightSafety’s centre at Savannah International Airport – also home to Gulfstream.
Pilots will love the G500/600 cockpit. Just looking at the demo aircraft gives any pilot, jet-rated or not, a thrill with its high-tech array of four screens and touch-controls, and clean, uncluttered environment.
The design philosophy here starts with the side-sticks, which are works of art in themselves. Side-sticks are universally loved by pilots after a few minutes to get used to them. They free up space in front of both pilots. They fall naturally to hand and it’s easy to apply the relevant force and direction.
Gulfstream is not the first to employ side-sticks. Airbus uses them, as does Cirrus, Dassault and Embraer. But Gulfstream is the first to have what it calls ‘active control’, giving feedback through the side-stick. That means flying the G500 will feel like flying a normal aircraft with direct controls, making it far more intuitive.
That’s a big-plus for fly-by-wire controls, which can feel a bit lifeless. Through operating the side-stick, the pilot is telling the computer where he wants to go, then the computer calculates the best way of achieving just that while staying within safe flying parameters. It’s almost foolproof, and even if the captain (left seat) and co-pilot (right seat) put in opposing inputs, the system will default to the captain’s choice, just as it should be.
Gulfstream has also built in what it calls ‘intelligence-by-wire’, which links the active-control sidesticks and touchscreen avionics with the autopilot, auto-throttles, autobrakes and automatic emergency descent, to protect against lost cabin pressurisation. It is continuously making tiny corrections to keep the aircraft optimised, which gives a smoother flight and better passenger experience.
It’s also next to impossible to stall the aircraft, automatically staying within limits.
Gulfstream calls the G500/600 cockpit ‘Symmetry’. It is based on the Honeywell Primus Epic suite, which also forms the basis of Dassault’s EASy III cockpit and integrates a third-generation enhanced vision system (EVS).
A vastly improved camera on the nose of the aircraft has 400% better resolution and a wider field of view. It is linked to the head-up display to allow pilots to see through low and obscured visibility conditions, and ultimately for lower minimum decision heights during an instrument approach.
The four displays are not touch-screen but the 10 other displays are. Because of the constant interaction with pilots’ fingers, touch-screen can occasionally fail but Gulfstream has made them easily swapped by the pilots themselves. There’s no need to involve an engineer or have an aircraft stuck on the ground.
No doubt some pilots will hang on to their precious sheep-skin seat covers, but many will revel in their immaculate, perforated leather standard seats. This cockpit is more like a top-of-the-range British or Italian supercar than the crammed, uncomfortable ergonomic nightmares of old.
So, what else is new? The power units, obviously. Gulfstream has departed from its usual engine supplier, Rolls-Royce, with the G500/600 and chosen Pratt & Whitney’s PW800 turbofans.
Gulfstream says the aircraft will have the best fuel efficiency in the class, the lowest noise footprint, and, important for operators and for costs, a 10,000-hour time before overhaul (TBO) interval with no mid-life inspection.
The PW800s are based on airline engine technology, where dispatch reliability and low operating costs are absolutely key.
So, despite the business jet market still not having recovered to the heady levels of 2008 – although it’s improving rapidly now – manufacturers like Gulfstream continue to invest and innovate and create simply wonderful aircraft.
 

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