Birds Of Passage

Long-range business jets are able to make round-the-world travel with only three refuellings. This aircraft can hold up in the sky for about 12-14 hours, and will be rather interesting to those who flies for long distances. Quite a spacious cabin and an opportunity to carry on board up to 19 passengers make top Jets attractive to both private individuals and corporations.

And though the number of models of “hauliers” is not as great as, for example, airplanes of large- and middle-class, it’s still difficult to make a choice. Within the race of technology, each manufacturer tried to take into account the successes of the opponent and create new, more sophisticated systems.

In this article we will dwell on one of the long-range business jets — Gulfstream G550.We will tell the fascinating story of his conquests, show differences from classmates and represent the first detailed calculation of operating costs and loan payments.

Launch

Gulfstream G550

On the Congress of Business Aviation NBAA in 2000, aircraft manufacturers from Savannah announced the beginning of work on Gulfstream of the new generation. The new model was meant to be not only the new flagship of the company, but also the most advanced aircraft of business aviation in terms of technique.

Grounding on famous GV, constructors arranged the cabin space in different way: they mounted four additional seats, and increased the luggage compartment by quarter. The aerodynamics has been improved and for the sake of reduction of head resistance the designers took into account every single detail down to the location of antennas.

The efforts returned a hundredfold: G550 surpassed its predecessor in flight range by 463 km. Later on the aircraft caused a real furor due to excellent performance. In less than two weeks after startup (in 2003), G550 has connected Seoul and Orlando, breaking the 13,521 miles in 14 hours and 30 minutes. A bit later it flew between Shanghai and Dallas (12,350 km) in record 13 hours and 2 minutes. Employees of Vnukovo airport remember flight from Sao Paulo, October 3, 2005, when the “five hundred and fiftieth, covered 12,060 miles, reached the capital in 14 hours and 12 minutes. That day the technical services of the airport were immensely surprised as they found in tanks of the “haulier” after its landing the fuel for another hour and a half flight. Only during the first five years of operation G550 has established 39 records.

Without an exaggeration, Gulfstream Aerospace engineers made a true technological breakthrough. Ultramodern electronics of G550 — PlaneViewTM — with improved vision systems and flight information display on the windshield of aircraft, has been recognized by the National Aeronautical Association of USA (National Aeronautics Association) the most important device to improve safety. In 2003, G550 was awarded to the prestigious annual award Collier Trophy as the greatest achievement of the American aircraft industry.

Race Of Technologies

Aviation community has applauded the pioneers long two years, while competitors were gathering up with forces to prepare a counterstrike. In November 2005, Bombardier Global Express XRS came into operation, which ended the hegemony of the “five hundred and fiftieth” on “high-tech Olympus”. Canadians have developed their own version of improved vision BEVS equipped with a more sensitive infrared camera, which together with good electronics based on avionics Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion seemed like very attractive proposition.

In 2007 aircraft manufacturers from Dassault Aviation interfered in the market sharing by presenting their version of long-haul aircraft Falcon 7X. European engineers have created the first in the history business jet, equipped with an electroremote control system. In FBWCS (fly-by-wire) control signals from the pilot are transmitted to the actuators in the form of electrical pulses, the direct mechanical links (cables, levers, rods) are simply not available. The pilot does not have to worry about too large angles of attack, or stall: on-board computer will determine the allowable deviation from the ratings. Of course, FBWCS is a giant step forward to increase the reliability and maintainability of aircraft.

However, the Gulfstream is not static and constantly modifies its products. Open architecture of PlaneViewTM allows to “build” the possibility of electronic equipment and adapts to any future needs of pilots. The instrument complex is easy enough to upgrade and update functionally: obsolescent components are simply replaced by new ones and the improved software is loaded.

Manufacturers of aircraft constantly play in “catch-up”: one company “shoot” with a new product then another surprises customers and rivals. For example, engineers from the Savannah implemented a system of artificial vision (SV-PFD), which creates on the screen three-dimensional image of the surface according to the preset base of landscapes. At Bombardier engineers have successfully made up for technical backwardness, constructed their own version, while the French are only threatening in the near future to receive an approval for the installation of the “seven” analog. There are quite a lot of such examples, including the service.

High Relations

Gulfstream Aerospace has taken care of making technical service quicker and more qualitative. The company introduced to customers the system called PlaneConnectTM, which transmits status data of aircraft in flight directly to the service center. In case of a malfunction, the system allows to diagnose the problem remotely, and decide on the need of replacement of the equipment or parts. It shows to which extend the interference of the technical personnel is needed, and parts from the nearest warehouse can be sent to the place of landing. So, sometimes it's possible to proceed to repairing immediately after landing without any kind of delays. Besides, using PlaneConnectTM one can keep the statistics of failures, therefore, as soon as possible take the appropriate measures, up to the quickest modification of the most frequently breaking down aggregates.

Bombardier bridged the gap at the expense of a system of OMS (Onboard Maintenance System) with the similar features. European engineers have confined themselves to the program Falcon E-Maintenance for a while. It operates solely on the ground, but can arrange a teleconference between engineer, aircraft repairers and service center.

Service Centers

Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation has a very extensive network of aircraft maintenance, though not as extensive in Europe, as Dassault Falcon does. It’s possible to go through the routine maintenance in five of the company’s own service centers in the U. S., as well as in Luton Airport near London. If desired, customers can use the services of General Dynamics Aviation Services, or repair the aircraft at authorized service centers of Jet Aviation in Basel, Geneva, Dubai, Singapore, on areas Metrojet in Hong Kong or CorJet Maintenance Europe in Madrid.

In Russia there is no service center yet, but it’s planned to open it. A technical representative of Gulfstream Aerospace always works in Vnukovo-3 together with Jet Aviation engineers. He can find out on the spot what happened to the airplane and what measures should be taken.

Owners of “five hundred and fiftieth” should plan the visit to the service center every 12 months or after 500 flying hours. Monthly routine maintenance can be conducted without reference to the airport. The chassis are required to be lubricated every four months. In winter time for the lubrication of components and aggregates, hangar is needed.

In Operation

As noted by a leading engineer of Petroff Air Kirill Trushkovsky, for two years of operation of G550 only one emergency (AOG) has appeared, caused by defective parts installed in the customer service center. According to him, the plane “has subdued with its concept and doesn’t bring any problem concerning iron. “One and the same companies are developing parts for aircraft, but Gulfstream managed to integrate them qualitatively into the airplane; do a bit more than other aircraft manufacturers” — adds Kirill.

Key clients manager of Jetalliance Michael Rusetsky (operate three G550 since 2005) confirms that no breakages happened during the years of operation.

Like other business jets in this class, “five hundred and fiftieth” possesses a sufficient frost resistance. Kirill Trushkovsky says, “With the right approach, nothing freezes. If the aircraft neatly served after the flight with a proper attention to nuances and duly prepared for the flight, then it works fine”.

Aircraft “reliably behaved in the winter in harsh Russian conditions — continues Michael. — It can be described as „Russian Kalashnikov„: wherever it’s been used, it flies everywhere“.

Comparing The Choice

Hauliers” can boast fairly roomy, spacious and high cabins. More impressive parameters refer to business-liners and another price range. If the shower, king size bed king-size, dining table for 10 persons are not a priority, then the dimension of long-hauls is what you need for comfortable stay of the passengers on board during the flight.

Gulfstream 550 Global Express XRS Dassault Falcon 7X
Gulfstream G550 Global Express XRS Falcon 7X

Out of the three considered business jets Global Express XRS has the highest and widest cabin: by 3 cm higher and by 15-25 cm wider than the competitors have. It would seem the difference is not significant, but it’s enough to cause a feeling of greater spaciousness. On the other hand, seven panoramic windows in the G550 expand the space visually and make the cabin more lit. G550 has the longest cabin. The length of the dwelling part of the “five hundred and fiftieth” is 13.39 m, not including the luggage compartment, wardrobe and toilet which are located in the tail section. All the three business jets can carry up to 19 passengers, although at a full load it’ll be a bit crowded. In the Global Express XRS can be organized up to 10 beds, in the G550 — up to nine, and in Falcon 7X — is not more than seven.

G550 suits a little better for flights of large delegation, because the volume of its luggage compartment exceed those of Global XRS by around 14% (four large suitcases) and by 38% larger than the trunk size of Falcon 7X.

Up to an altitude of 9,449 m passengers and the crew of the G550 can enjoy the usual atmospheric pressure, which decreases slightly only when climbing to higher echelons. However, the pressure in the cabin does not go below the pressure at height of 1829 m above sea level. Falcon 7X posesses Similar indicators. In the passenger compartment of Bombardier Global Express XRS up to an altitude of 13,720 meters a pressure is equivalent to 1,372 meters, and at higher altitudes correspond to 1731 m.

The Maximum altitude gives all the three “hauliers’ the ability to fly over dangerous thunderstorms and overloaded passenger routes. Cruising speed of G550 at long distances is slightly lower, while the maximum one is comparable with competitors.

With eight people on board G550 will cover by 1100 km and 1500 km further, than the Global Express XRS and the Falcon 7X respectively. A weighty advantage. Over the period of time that “Five hundred and fiftieth” will take passengers from Moscow to Perth, Global Express XRS will reach just the north (Darwin) or north-west coast of Australia (Port Hedland), while the Falcon 7X will have to make a stopover in the south of Indonesia.

At the same time, the Falcon 7X due to improved aerodynamics and a lower take-off weight possesses a more attractive performance and less fuel consumption. Even kerosene is taken about a quarter less than in case with its competitors.

It’s possible to plan the flights on long-range jets even in medium-sized airports. Falcon 7X is the least demanding to the length of the runway. G550, like its rivals, is able to cope with short “concrete runway” of airports of nearly all the popular European ski resorts. It will land in Zion, Chambery, Innsbruck, but with the flight to Annecy (runway length 1,630 m) problems may arise. "On the “five hundred and fiftieth “usually fly to China, Vietnam, Phuket, London, the Maldives and other islands as well as in Europe,” — said Irakli Litanishvilithe, managing director of Ocean Sky in Russia and CIS.

On The Market Today

According to JETNET, Gulfstream Aerospace sold 30 of “five hundred and fiftieth” for the previous year (beginning in August 2009 ) - an excellent result for the post-crisis period. Today G550 is one of the best selling types of Gulfstream in Russia. Ordering a business jet now, customers can expect delivery in 2012.

If to speak about sales, according to statistics of JETNET G550 owners are in no hurry to part with their machines. Over the past year on average only 16 proposals per month could be found, which represents approximately 6% of all ever issued aircraft of this type. The average age of business jets for sale is four years, although the aircraft of 2008 and later years of release are in real demand.

Even after the announcement of the program of developing a new “haulier” G650, demand for “five hundred and fiftieth” has preserved, which is explainable. As the head of sales and marketing of GTA Green Trade Aviation Carlos Romero noted, “besides unbeaten flight range, G550 corresponds to the major standards of reliability and safety as well as retains a high residual value”.

Dmitry Fedotov

The Article published in abridged form. Read the full article in the Top Flight № 7 (19), 2010

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