Gulfstream to start G650 production in September

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Gulfstream is close to starting production of the first G650 only six months after launching the new ultra-long-range, ultra-large-cabin business jet.

President Joe Lombardo says production of the first prototype G650 will begin by the end of September at a new dedicated facility at Gulfstream's Savannah headquarters. Gulfstream launched the programme in March, but Lombardo says work on the first aircraft needs to begin this year to meet the 2009 first flight, 2011 certification and 2012 entry-into-service targets. "There's a lot we need to do by 2012," Lombardo says.

The G650 will be manufactured in a similar set-up as the G450 and G550, with the green aircraft being assembled in Savannah. Lombardo says G650s will be completed at Gulfstream's facilities in Appleton, Wisconsin Brunswick, Georgia and Long Beach, California, as well as Savannah, where the first aircraft will be completed.

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Otherwise the G650 will not have much in common with its smaller predecessors. The G650 will be the first all-new aircraft for Gulfstream since the GII. Gulfstream executives say everything in the aircraft will be new except two cockpit parts. Executives also say new technology will allow them to build the G650 with 50% fewer parts and 50% fewer tools than the G450/G550.

The G650 will be the largest purpose-designed business jet and the fastest, cruising at Mach 0.90. Gulfstream is already predicting it will break several long-haul speed records with the G650.

The G650 production facility is part of a seven-year $400 million expansion programme that was launched in Savannah in early 2006. In the first phase of the project a service centre capable of accommodating 18 large-cabin aircraft opened last year. As part of the second phase, a new research and development centre opened in August. Lombardo says a paint hangar is now under construction and will be completed next year.

As part of the expansion, Gulfstream has hired 1,000 new employees over the past two years, including 500 engineers. "There's more to come. We're still in growth mode," says senior vice-president programmes, engineering and test Pres Henne.

Henne adds Gulfstream has not had any trouble attracting new engineering talent, saying it recruited locally as well as overseas. "What we do attracts people," Lombardo says. "They see this as a company that is growing for the future."