Gulfstream's iconic large-cabin jets combine speed, range and comfort

Theme of perfection in private air travel is evident in past achievements and future plans.

Gulfsteam IIIs (of which 198 were built) proved to be highly successful in government and special mission operations. Shown is NASA variant.

Perhaps the most iconic feature of larger Gulfstream business jets are the big trademark elliptical windows.

It was operator requests for additional cabin visibility back in GI market survey days that led to the large elliptical windows that have remained a feature on every large cabin Gulfstream aircraft since. These windows were big enough to do double duty as over wing emergency exits.

The Gulfstream airstair—from day 1 to today—was another well de­signed feature operators appreciated. Robust APUs have been important elements of every Gulfstream model as operators take their aircraft all over the world and need ability to be independent of ground support.

Cabin volume has evolved, over the years, from a 33.00 x 7.50 ft (1269 cu ft) habitation space on the GI to 46.75 x 8.50 ft (2138 cu ft) airborne real estate aboard the G650.

Range, and relatively short field capabilities, have been Gulfstream strengths from the beginning. GI boasted range of more than 2400 sm (with payload in excess of 6000 lbs) while the GII offers 2700 sm.

As the product line progressed range of large cabin Gulfstream aircraft continued to set industry standards—3600 nm for the GIII, 4220 nm for the GIVSP, 6750 nm (at Mach 0.80) for the G550 and 7000 nm (at Mach 0.85) for G650.

BMW/Rolls-Royce BR710s gave the GV unprecedented fuel efficiency and power while setting a new standard with 6500-nm range.

The 91,000-lb MTOW G550 covers the globe easily with 6000-nm range at normal cruise of Mach 0.85. At a selling price in the $60-million range the G650 ups the ante considerably and was the first civil aircraft to receive FAA type certificate including enhanced vision system (EVS) as standard equipment.

At an MTOW only 8600 lbs more than the G550 the G650 offers 28% more volume, a 1 ft wider cabin, and 1000 nm range boost at normal cruise speed of Mach 0.85.

GIII debut

By the mid-1970s international business flying was on the increase and there was demand for more range and cruise speed than the GII offered. Gulfstream Project X (as original GIII concept was known) was announced in 1976 with anticipated 4400-nm range, Mach 0.84 cruise speed, supercritical wing and modified Spey engines.

Project X was scrapped in 1977 due to development costs and estimated per unit selling price of $12 million. A 2nd GIII concept, based more closely on GII, took shape in 1978 with 3600-nm range, Mach 0.75–0.80 cruise speed and fuel efficiency 15–20% better than GII. Gone was the supercritical wing, although winglets were added and sweep increased from 25 to 28°.

The GIII, with first flight Dec 1979 and $7.4-million initial price tag, launched an era of 3600-nm-plus capable business jets. Special mission applications were extensive and US Air Force selected the GIII for its C20 project. Gulfstream built 206 GIIIs and upgraded 40 GIIs to GIIIBs (program was FAA certified in 1981) by fitting GIII wings to GII fuselages.

Under ownership of Allen Paulson (who bought the company first time around in 1978) Gulfstream had ambitious plans to grow beyond what many thought possible.

Brand evolution

Gulfstream Aerospace expanded product lineup in 2001 with a selection of offerings—(from top) GV, GIVSP, G200 and G100—each featuring best range and/or cabin comfort in class.

The Rolls-Royce Tay (conceived for Fokker 100) was the breakthrough needed to make the GIV a success. In 1982 Paulson had considered a 4-engine airplane using Rolls-Royce RB401s—a smaller, quieter and cleaner engine than the Spey—but this would have involved almost total redesign of the aircraft.

The Tay, at 13,850 lbs thrust, gave the GIV 4220-nm range (at Mach 0.80) with 19% improved fuel efficiency over GIII.

GIV, with first flight Sep 1985, sported a new wing, with 1000 gal more fuel capacity, and industry's first all-glass flightdeck. More than 80 orders were received while the GIV was under development.

Paulson set 11 world speed records flying a GIV around the globe in 1988, eastbound in just over 36 hrs. In 1992 the GIVSP, with 53% higher useful payload, replac­ed the GIV. The feeling at the time was, "Can the airplane get any better?"

In 1989 Gulfstream and Russian aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi cooperated on initial design for a supersonic business jet. Under the deal Sukhoi was to design and build the airframe with Gulfstream responsible for systems integration.

Later, under Forstmann Little ownership, Gulfstream launched the GV program with first flight Nov 1995.

As with earlier models there was concern whether sufficient market existed for the more expensive, more capable, GV. But, once again, the latest Gulfstream incarnation proved to be a dazzling success. After considering, and rejecting, 16 different concepts Gulfstream settled on a firm GV design.

BMW/Rolls-Royce BR710s, at 14,750 lbs thrust, improved fuel efficiency 11% at Mach 0.80, compared to the Tay, and maintained traditional Gulfstream power reserves.

With range of 6500 nm the GV—with new wing, new empennage and longer fuselage—would be 24% better than the GIV in overall performance efficiency.

In Mar 2008 Gulfstream announced introduction of its all-new G650 with longest range, fastest speed, largest cabin and most advanced flightdeck in the Gulfstream fleet. G650 made first flight Nov 25, 2009 and received provisional FAA type certificate in November last year.


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