Gulfstream ditched a plan to fly the G500 business jet to display at EBACE in order to focus on completing flight tests as quickly as possible, with an eye on delivering the first aircraft ahead of schedule, says chief executive Mark Burns.
“If we can get G500 to market a little sooner than we said and G600 to market a little sooner than we said, I think that bodes well for our growth,” Burns says in an interview with Flight Evening News.
Gulfstream yesterday announced a plan to accelerate first flight of the G600 from early 2017 to the fourth quarter of this year. The G500, which entered flight testing 12 months ago, remains on schedule to complete certification in 2017 and enter service in 2018, but flight test results so far give Gulfstream executives hope of beating that timeline.
“I think the flight test is going better than we expected, faster than we expected. There’s always some uncertainties when you’re flight-testing an airplane. But right now things are going well. The fact that we believe we can fly the G600 a little early hopefully bodes well for the whole programme,” Burns says.
The G500 and G600 are designed with Gulfstream’s widest cabin, Pratt & Whitney Canada PW800 engines, fly-by-wire controls and an industry-first application of active control sidesticks in a commercial aircraft. Despite the injection of new technology, the programme is running ahead of schedule, with the G500 already compiling more than 1,000 flight hours on 250 flights.
At the same time, Gulfstream is counting on the G500 and G600 to restore eroding demand for the G450 and G550. Last year, Gulfstream ramped up production of the G650, but those gains were offset by sharply lower deliveries of older models. Gulfstream also counts 17 used G650s for sale on the used market, but so far that hasn’t reduced demand for the ultra-long-range jet, Burns says. The outlook is not “doom-and-gloom”, he adds, but there remains much uncertainty.
“Being in a cyclical business that’s so tied to the global economy, 2017 is hard to predict,” Burns says. “It’d be hard to even consider what’s going to happen that far out to us.”