G550 Order and G650 Approval Boost Gulfstream Hopes In China
Last month’s decision by the Beijing Red Cross Emergency Medical Center to acquire a Gulfstream G550 jet for its new medical evacuation service was a timely reminder of the growing use of business aircraft in China. The announcement came a month after the news in February that the U.S. manufacturer had achieved type certification with the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) for its latest G650 and G650ER models.
The G550 will be used for disaster-relief and air-rescue services, and will be equipped for medical personnel on board to be able to perform emergency resuscitations. It will also provide easy access for examinations thanks to a bed that can be moved on tracks inside the cabin. The aircraft is also being fitted with the following special equipment: a medical bay, a powered gurney loading system on the aircraft stairs, fold-out seats for nurses to use while caring for patients, refrigerated medical storage cabinets, crew rest berths, and X-ray viewing equipment.
The Beijing Red Cross Emergency Medical Center, which was established in 2010, has more than 1,000 staff. The G550 will join its existing fleet of two helicopters and a Dassault Falcon 2000LX that was delivered in November 2015. It also has 300 ambulances.
The G550 can fly nonstop from Beijing to New York in just over 13 hours at Mach 0.83, or from Beijing to London at Mach 0.85. More than 500 of the aircraft are in service worldwide.
“The G550’s tremendous performance, outstanding cabin environment and interior flexibility are ideal for medevac missions,” said Scott Neal, senior vice president for worldwide sales at Gulfstream. “We are committed to working with customers to deliver an aircraft that exceeds their requirements, and this uniquely tailored G550 is no exception. The aircraft’s customizable cabin will serve as an example for future programs.”
On February 16, Gulfstream announced that its G650 and G650ER ultra-long-range twinjets have received Chinese type certificate validation, confirming the authorization previously given by the FAA, and removing the last barriers for an aircraft to be registered in China. The approval marks the 26th country approval for the G650 and the 16th for the G650ER.
“The G650 and G650ER demonstrate real-world capability that our customers value,” Neal commented. “As business aviation needs in the Asia-Pacific region continue to increase, we are pleased to offer our customers in China the safety, performance, and reliability [of] the G650 and G650ER.”
At Mach 0.85, the G650 offers a range of 7,000 nautical miles, while its longer-legged G650ER can travel 7,500 nautical miles. In February 2015, the G650ER set two city-pair speed records, during a one-stop, around-the-world trip, traveling 6,939 nautical miles from White Plains near New York City, to Beijing at Mach 0.87, and a 6,572-nautical-mile return from Beijing to Gulfstream’s headquarters in Savannah, Georgia, at Mach 0.89.
Gulfstream Growth In China
Today, more than 180 Gulfstream aircraft are based in Greater China (including around 60 in Hong Kong), which is more than nine times the number a decade ago. The number of Gulfstreams based in Asia exceeds 300.
The manufacturer has made significant investments in the country, where it now employs more than 75 people and has offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, and Singapore. In November 2012, it opened China’s first factory-owned service center in Beijing, boosting its product-support capability for the region, which also is served by eight field-service representatives in Asia (two in mainland China, four in Hong Kong, one in Singapore, and one in India). Around $54 million worth of spare parts are positioned in Beijing, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
“We see a mix of private individuals, corporations, and charter operators using our aircraft in China,” Neal told BJT sister publication Aviation International News. “The majority of these customers fly our large-cabin Gulfstream G550, Gulfstream G650, and Gulfstream G650ER due to their tremendous range and speed, which allow them to fly from China to Europe, Africa, or North America nonstop.”
According to Neal, China has made “significant strides” in facilitating the expansion of business aviation, including infrastructure improvements at airports and easing of airspace restrictions at lower altitudes. “We hope those trends continue, allowing China’s business aviation industry to see success through continued enhancements to the country’s aviation infrastructure, the possible easing of airspace regulations, and the potential for improved access to training for pilots, technicians, and mechanics,” he commented.
Gulfstream’s optimism about growth prospects in the Asian market is largely based on expected sales success for its new G500 and G600 long-range, high-speed jets, for which initial deliveries are, respectively, due to begin later this year and in 2018. Both feature wide cabins, improved fuel efficiency from their Pratt & Whitney PW814GA and PW815GA engines, and the Symmetry flight deck, including new active control sidesticks.
Both new aircraft offer a high-speed cruise of Mach 0.90 and a maximum operating speed of Mach 0.925. The G500 will be able to fly 5,000 nautical miles at Mach 0.85 or 3,800 nautical miles at Mach 0.90, enabling high-speed trips from London to New York or Dubai. The G600 has a range of 6,200 nautical miles at March 0.85 and a 4,800-nautical-mile range at Mach 0.90 that will enable high-speed flights from New York to Moscow or Sao Paulo.
The Symmetry flight deck uses 10 touchscreen control panels. This approach greatly reduces the number of switches in the cockpit, reducing pilot workload and making the aircraft more intuitive to fly.
Any movement of the active control side sticks by the pilot in command of the aircraft is seen and felt by the non-flying pilot on the opposite side of the cockpit. According to Gulfstream, this makes operations significantly safer by improving situational awareness and coordination between the pilots, and also improves efficiency.
The most recent development in the certification program for the new aircraft is that the second G600 flight-test aircraft completed its first flight on February 24, spending four hours and 26 minutes in the air. The aircraft reached a maximum altitude of 51,000 feet and a top speed of Mach 0.87, confirming Gulfstream’s confidence in the aircraft performance and the investment it has made in extensive ground testing. The two G600 test aircraft have logged more than 200 flight hours.
The five G500 test aircraft, including a fully outfitted production aircraft, have surpassed 2,360 flying hours over nearly 600 flights. They’ve completed development testing; company testing is under way; and FAA certification testing has started.