General Dynamics hints of new widebody Gulfstream business jet by year-end

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By Graham Warwick in Washington, DC

Industry says larger business jet is in pipeline

Gulfstream could launch a “widebody” business jet larger than the G550 later this year, according to sources within rival manufacturers and potential suppliers. The company declines to comment, but its parent, General Dynamics, has provided the strongest hints yet that new products are in the pipeline.

“We like to launch either new or evolved products every seven to eight years,” GD chairman and chief executive Nick Chabraja told analysts last week. “And when we do, they will fly further, faster, with greater cabin comfort than predecessor aircraft.” The ultra-long-range G550 was launched in 2000 as an upgrade of the GV.

“Significant work is apace. We’re funding it and it involves several products,” said Chabraja, who told analysts that the redevelopment of Gulfstream’s Savannah, Georgia campus now under way will include a new operating facility where its next-generation products will be manufactured from early in the next decade.

Gulfstream, meanwhile, delivered 18 large business jets in the first quarter, up from 14 in the same period last year, and is on track to produce 72-73 this year, and up to 80 next year. The company also delivered seven mid-size aircraft, and total “book-to-bill” ratio for the first quarter was 0.95 in dollar terms, said Chabraja. Gulfstream expects to deliver a total of 111 aircraft this year and 127 in 2007.

Cessna delivered 67 Citations in the first quarter, and booked orders for 111, compared with 55 and 73 respectively in the same period last year. The company, which is on track to deliver 295-300 Citations this year, has also been hinting it could launch a new jet. Cessna has acknowledged interest in both a super mid-size aircraft larger than the Citation X and a smaller version of the Mustang very light jet.