Buoyed by positive trends in the large-cabin market, Gulfstream has kicked off a $500 million, seven-year programme to renovate and expand its business jet production and research and development facilities in Savannah, Georgia.

Filling those new facilities will be as many as 1,000 new employees, says Gulfstream, boosting its workforce by 15% to 6,500.

Earlier referred to as "Project X" on development drawings, the programme will see construction on a 64Ha (159 acre) parcel of land at Savannah/Hilton Head International airport.

"Our primary focus will be on research and development and manufacturing facilities," says Gulfstream, "but we will include the expansion of other existing Gulfstream operations as well." The company adds that the project is still in the planning phases.

While Gulfstream's backlog has steadily decreased from a high of about $25 billion in firm orders, potential options and aftermarket as of the third quarter 2008 to roughly $18 billion as of the third quarter this year, officials see reason to be optimistic.

"We are already beginning to see signs of a modest recovery," says Joe Lombardo, president of Gulfstream. "In the third quarter of 2010 we booked more orders than we had in any quarter since the downturn began in mid-2008. This expansion is necessary to meet the projected increase for new business jet aircraft and the maintenance that will follow."

Fresh programmes to occupy the new buildings are likely to be refreshers for the G450 and G550 jets, bringing the technology advances now being built into the fly-by-wire G650 back to the older-generation aircraft.

A hint as to what at least one of the new aircraft might be called can be found in the trademark applications with the US government. According to the latest update, Gulfstream has an unused trademark for which it applied in 2007 and has renewed five times to date - the G600.

Source: Flight International