Karen Walker

Gulfstream has raised the stakes of the business jet sound barrier race by teaming with Lockheed Martin Skunk Works to embark on the first phase of a technical feasibility and marketing study for a supersonic aircraft.

Gulfstream president and chief operating officer Bill Boisture yesterday revealed the concept study programme and unveiled a model of what its supersonic business jet might look like.

"If someone is going to do this, then we will likely be the first to the market with it," he said.

The "starting point" for the programme, says Boisture, is an aircraft that will carry up to eight passengers in a cabin with stand-up room.

That points to something similar in size to the Gulfstream IV, says Moss. It will have a cruise capability of between Mach 1.6 and 2 and a range of more than 4,000nm (7,400km).

The first phase, to evaluate key technical and marketing issues, and costs, is expected to last between 18 and 24 months and may lead to and eight- or 10-years developmental programme.

Boisture says the company will allocate a "modest" amount of money to the project over the next two or three years. Gulfstream's board of directors has authorised up to $20 million to be spent on R&D.

"Everybody is concerned about security today and the time it takes to get to places," says Boisture.

"It leads you to say 'where do you look in the future?' and as there is almost nowhere you cannot go non-stop in a GV, you realise that range is not the issue. The new fontier is time."

Gulfstream's chief rival, Bombardier, dismisses the notion that a supersonic jet is economically viable, but Gulfstream will now be in a race with Dassault, which revealed a concept definition programme for a supersonic Falcon business jet earlier this year. Gulfstream's partnership with heavyweight Lockheed Martin, however, ups the stakes considerably.

Source: Flight Daily News