Gulfstream's flagship G650, which is touted to be the world's fastest business jet, is making significant progress structurally with the first fuselage assembled in Savannah, Georgia. The company expects the first set of completed wings to be delivered from Spirit Aerosystems in Tulsa, Oklahoma "in a week or so," says Pres Henne, VP of product development.
In addition, the Rolls-Royce BR725 engines have been podded and Gulfstream has already undertaken "first flight" in the aircraft's simulator and integrated test facility (ITF), which came online earlier this year. In addition to the ITF, Gulfstream has set up an "iron bird" to test the systems integration of the G650 ahead of installation on the first aircraft.
For the smaller G250, which will undergo final assembly in Tel Aviv, Israel, progress has also been swift. Israel Aircraft Industries announced in March that the first G250 fuselage had been mated and Gulfstream announced today that the first wings, also built by Spirit, were shipped to Tel Aviv this past weekend.
The aircraft has undergone its first power on and the G250's flight deck has been "fired up" for the first time, says Henne.
First flight for both the G650 and G250 is expected in the second half of 2009.
Even as progress advances for these new products, Gulfstream, along with the business aviation industry at-large, has faced an onslaught of negative publicity and difficult economic conditions.
The company suffered a particularly bad February with many customer defaults, though there were signs of hope in recent months on the sales side as Gulfstream saw movement in the large-cabin market. CEO Joe Lombardo stressed that one month does not necessarily indicate a trend, though he felt it could signal a bottom to the current negative market conditions.
As a result, Gulfstream has already instituted production cuts, a hiring freeze, layoffs of 1200 employees and furlough of a further 1500. Even under these conditions, the company remains committed to product development, and is "not backing off at all," says Lombardo.
Lombardo was visibly frustrated by the tone of discussion of business aviation calling the recent comments about business aviation by public officials "unfair, unnecessary and irresponsible."