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Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation is a wholly owned subsidiary of General Dynamics. Gulfstream designs, develops, manufactures, markets, and services business-jet aircraft. Gulfstream has produced more than 2,000 aircraft since 1958. Gulfstream's fleet consists of the following models: G150, G280, G350, G450, G500, G550, and G650.
The company that evolved into Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. started in the late 1950s when Grumman Aircraft Engineering Co., known for military aircraft production, developed a marketable business aircraft at its facilities in Bethpage, N.Y. Dubbed the Grumman Gulfstream I (GI). The GI could seat 12 passengers, had a maximum speed of 350 mph (563 kmph) at 25,000 feet (7,620 m) and a range of 2,200 miles (3,541 km). The new aircraft, the first of its kind designed specifically for business travel, was a success, prompting Grumman to develop the jet-powered Grumman Gulfstream II or GII.
At the start of the GII program, Grumman officials separated the company’s civil and military aircraft production to improve efficiency. In 1966, they relocated the civilian component to Savannah, Georgia where they found a supply of skilled labor, an airfield adjacent to the plant and sufficient acreage for expansion. Transportation facilities suitable for heavy equipment and machinery as well as weather favorable to year-round flight-testing and flight-training operations enhanced Savannah’s appeal. The new building opened in June 1967 and was dedicated on Sept. 29, 1967. It housed production and flight testing for the GII. The 100-person work force that built the GII was 90% local, and grew to over 1,700 within a few years.
In 1972, Grumman merged with light-aircraft manufacturer American Aviation Corp. The 256th and final GII delivery took place in 1977. One year later, the Gulfstream line and the Savannah plant were sold to American Jet Industries, which was headed by entrepreneur Allen Paulson.
Paulson became the president and CEO of the company, renaming it Gulfstream American. He made a priority of developing the Gulfstream III, a new aircraft designed to achieve greater range and speed than the GII. The GIII made its first flight in December 1979, with the first delivery in 1980. It was the first business jet to fly over both poles.
In 1981, Gulfstream introduced the Gulfstream GIIB. The GIIB had a modified GII fuselage and the GIII wings, complete with winglets. The variant offered weight and performance characteristics similar to the GIII, but with the shorter GII fuselage. Gulfstream completed and delivered approximately 40 GIIBs.
Under Paulson the Savannah work force grew to 2,500 by the spring of 1982. Also in this year, the company’s name changed to Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. to reflect its worldwide scope, and a new plane, the Gulfstream IV, was conceived. The following year, Gulfstream offered 8.8 million shares of stock to the public. In 1985, Chrysler Corp. acquired Gulfstream as part of the automaker’s plan to diversify into high-tech industries. This was also the year that Gulfstream first appeared on the Fortune 500 list, at No. 417. Two years later, the 200th and last Gulfstream III was delivered, and the first delivery of a Gulfstream IV took place. The GIV was the first jet in business aviation to have an all-glass cockpit. In 1989 Chrysler decided to sell Gulfstream, and Paulson teamed with Forstmann Little & Co. – a private equity firm specializing in leveraged buyouts – and bought Gulfstream back.
The decade that followed the 1989 repurchase was a time of significant advancements for Gulfstream. The company signed a five-year contract with NetJets in 1994. It completed the Gulfstream V Integration Test Facility and rolled out the GV – the first ultra-long range business jet – in 1995. The opening of a $16 million Savannah service center with 136,000 square feet (12,635 sq m) of hangar space followed in 1996. In 1997, Gulfstream began the simultaneous manufacture of two different aircraft models – the GIV-SP and the GV. Within a few months of the GV’s first delivery in June 1997, it set nearly 40 city-pair and/or speed and distance records, and its development team was awarded the 1997 Robert J. Collier Trophy, the highest honor in aeronautics or astronautics in North America.
At the end of the 1990s, General Dynamics purchased Gulfstream. The company focused on enhancing product performance and lowering costs. It opened a $5.5 million aircraft refurbishment and completions support facility in Savannah in 2000. In 2001, it acquired Galaxy Aerospace and with it, the mid-size Astra SPX and super mid-size Galaxy, which were later rebranded the Gulfstream G100 and Gulfstream G200, respectively. Also in 2001, Gulfstream purchased four U.S. maintenance facilities in Dallas; Las Vegas; Minneapolis; and West Palm Beach, Fla. Those service centers, along with a Gulfstream facility in Westfield, Mass., formed General Dynamics Aviation Services, which maintained and repaired Gulfstream and other business-jet aircraft.
In 2002, Gulfstream renamed its products, using Arabic numerals instead of Roman numerals to differentiate its aircraft. At the time, the company’s heavy-hitting lineup included the ultra long-range Gulfstream G550 and G500, the long-range Gulfstream G400, the mid-range Gulfstream G300 and G200, and the high-speed G100. 2002 was also the year that Gulfstream introduced its Airborne Product Support aircraft, a specially equipped G100. It is used to deliver parts and provide any-time service to Gulfstream customers in North America and the Caribbean who are operating aircraft under warranty. In 2003, Gulfstream acquired a service center at the London-Luton Airport, the first Gulfstream-owned service center to be operated outside the United States. Also, in 2003, the long-range Gulfstream G450 was introduced. The large-cabin, mid-range G350 was presented a year later. In 2004, Gulfstream was awarded the 2003 Collier Trophy for the development of the G550. It was the second time in less than a decade that Gulfstream had won the award. The G550 is the first civil aircraft to receive a Type Certificate issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that includes an Enhanced Vision System (EVS) as standard equipment on an aircraft. The aircraft also contained the first cockpit to incorporate PlaneView®, an integrated avionics suite featuring four 14-inch (36 cm) liquid crystal displays in landscape format.
In 2005, Gulfstream began to offer an in-flight, high-speed internet connection – its Broad Band Multi-Link (BBML) system. Gulfstream also designed and developed a means of reducing the sonic boom caused by an aircraft “breaking” the sound barrier – the Quiet Spike. The Quiet Spike is a telescopic nose device that softens the effect of the sonic boom by smoothing the pressure wave created by flying at the speed of sound.
In 2006, the 22-year production run of the G100 ended, and the Gulfstream G150 entered service to take its place. The G150 was the first business jet to be certified by the FAA for Stage 4, the industry’s most stringent noise standards. Also in 2006, Gulfstream announced plans to expand its manufacturing and service facilities in Savannah. The seven-year, $400 million Long-Range Facilities Master Plan included the creation of a new 624,588-square-foot (58,026 sq m) service center, an independent fuel farm, a 42,600-square-foot (3,958 sq m), state-of-the-art paint hangar and the addition of a new Sales and Design Center. As a result of the expansion, employment at the facility was expected to grow by some 1,100 jobs. To meet the immediate need for engineering office space, Gulfstream opened a Research and Development Center (RDC). The RDC accommodates approximately 750 technical and engineering employees.
In April, 2007 Gulfstream broke ground for a new business-jet manufacturing building at its headquarters in Savannah. The following month, the company signed a nine-year lease with North Point Real Estate for a second Research and Development Center. The RDC II consists of an office building, which can accommodate some 550 employees, and a Laboratory Building, which is designed for 150 employees and test equipment used in Gulfstream’s research and development efforts. Gulfstream completed the new Sales and Design Center addition in June and officially opened the first phase of the new Savannah Service Center in August. In 2007, Gulfstream also tested its Synthetic Vision-Primary Flight Display (SV-PFD) and EVS II together for the first time. The SV-PFD is a dramatic enhancement to the Gulfstream PlaneView flight displays. It features a three-dimensional color image of terrain overlaid with the primary flight display instrument symbology, which are arranged on the screen to create a large-view area for terrain. By early 2008, the FAA had certified both EVS II and SV-PFD.
On March 13, 2008, Gulfstream announced the introduction of an all-new business jet: the Gulfstream G650. The G650 offers the longest range, fastest speed, largest cabin and most advanced cockpit in the Gulfstream fleet. It is capable of traveling 7,000 (12,964 km) nautical miles at 0.85 Mach or will cover shorter distances at a speed of Mach 0.925, making it the fastest civilian aircraft flying. It can climb to 51,000 feet (15,544 m), allowing it to avoid airline-traffic congestion and adverse weather.
On Oct. 5 of the same year, Gulfstream announced another addition to its business-jet fleet: the large-cabin, mid-range Gulfstream G250 (later renamed the Gulfstream G280). The G280 offers the largest cabin and the longest range at the fastest speed in the super mid-size class. It is capable of traveling 3,600 nautical miles (6,667 km) at 0.80 Mach and has a maximum operating speed of 0.85 Mach. It can reach its 41,000-foot (12,497 m) initial cruise altitude in just 20 minutes and can climb to a maximum altitude of 45,000 feet (13,716 m).
In 2009, the company conducted two powered rollouts one week apart. The Gulfstream G650 officially rolled out of the Savannah manufacturing facility under its own power on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2009. The G280 followed just one week later.
As Gulfstream promised when the aircraft were announced, both the G650 and the G280 flew before the end of 2009. The G650 took its first flight on Nov. 25, while the G280 went up for the first time on Dec. 11.
In November 2010, Gulfstream announced an expansion of its Savannah facilities through a $500-million, seven-year plan to ensure that the company is well-positioned to meet future demand for business-jet aircraft and support services. The growth resulted in 1,000 additional Gulfstream jobs, an increase of more than 15 percent.
In addition to the Savannah expansion, Gulfstream’s sites in Westfield, Mass., and Luton, England, also grew in 2011. In October, Gulfstream announced an expansion of its service center at the Barnes Regional Airport in Westfield, Mass. that will result in 100 additional Gulfstream jobs, a nearly 80 percent increase over the size of Gulfstream’s Westfield workforce. The Luton, England, service center also relocated to a 75,000-square-foot, more modern hangar. The hangar and accompanying office area nearly doubles space at the site, allowing Gulfstream Luton technicians to more efficiently service Gulfstream’s entire fleet, including the all-new G650, the company’s flagship aircraft.
Gulfstream suffered a major setback on April 2, 2011, when one of its G650 ultra long-range business jets crashed on the runway at Roswell, NM, fatally injuring the two test pilots and two flight test engineers on board. The FAA said the accident happened after the jet attempted to lift off, struck a wingtip on the runway, which caused the gear to collapse and the large jet to burst into flames as it slid down the runway. It came to rest just 200 feet from the control tower, according to the FAA’s preliminary report. The report said the G650 was performing a take off with a simulated engine failure to determine take-off distance requirements at minimum flap setting.
In November 2011, in spite of the accident earlier that year, the Gulfstream G650 received its provisional type certificate (PTC) from the FAA. This clears the way for the company to begin interior completions of the ultra-large-cabin, ultra-long-range business jet in preparation for customer deliveries in the second quarter of 2012, as originally planned.
In January 2011, General Dynamics Aviation Services was rebranded as Gulfstream to simplify its brand identity in an expanding global market. Gulfstream now owns and operates nine service centers worldwide, plus one component repair facility.
Gulfstream continues to study enhancements to its existing product line that provide value to the customer.
Today, Gulfstream employs more than 11,500 people at 11 major locations: Savannah, Ga.; Appleton, Wis.; Brunswick, Ga.; Dallas; Las Vegas, Nev.; Lincoln, Calif.; London, England; Long Beach, Calif.; Mexicali, Mexico; Westfield, Mass.; and West Palm Beach, Fla.
(Sources: Gulfstream Aerospace Archives and “The Legend of Gulfstream” by Jeffrey L. Rodengen)
Government and special mission aircraft
From the very first days, Gulfstream aircraft have been adapted for government and military use. Today, nearly 40 countries operate Gulfstream jets. In addition to their traditional role of executive transportation, Gulfstream aircraft have also been reconfigured and equipped to serve and be involved in missions as diverse as priority cargo and personnel transportation, maritime and aerial reconnaissance, medical evacuation and pilot and astronaut training. The aircraft’s performance and reliability has earned Gulfstream the distinction and privilege of serving all five branches of the U.S. military. The advanced technology, safety, reliability and adaptability of the aircraft make them as attractive to government and military operators as they are to international and Fortune 500 corporate operators.
|Gulfstream G550 AEW&C|
|Hi-res publicity photo of G550 AEW&C and SEMA by Gulfstream Aerospace.|
As of 2011, Gulfstream currently produces the following models of private aircraft:
- Gulfstream G150—based on the IAI Astra SPX
- Gulfstream G280—based on the G200
- Gulfstream G350/G450—based on the Gulfstream IV-SP
- Gulfstream G500/G550—based on the Gulfstream V
- Gulfstream G650—new ultra-large-cabin, ultra-long-range business jet
- Gulfstream G100—twin-engine business jet
- Grumman Gulfstream I—twin-turboprop business aircraft
- Grumman Gulfstream II—twin-engine business jet
- Gulfstream III—twin-engine business jet
- Gulfstream IV—twin-engine business jet
- Gulfstream V—twin-engine business jet
- Gulfstream G200—based on the IAI Galaxy
- Gulfstream G300—twin-engine business jet
- Gulfstream G400—twin-engine business jet
- Mary Carr Mayle. "Gulfstream: The Four We Lost". Savannah Now.
- "Gulfstream G650 Crashes — Four Lost". Flying Magazine.
- NBAA: Gulfstream 'very close' to supersonic business jet design – Flight Global
- Gulfstream reveals new supersonic aircraft, inlet designs in patent filings – Flight Global
- Gulfstream Products page
Articles about the April 2011 G650 Crash:
- The Wall Street Journal "Four Killed as Gulfstream Jet Crashes" (April 3, 2011)
- ABC News "Gulfstream IDs 4 Killed in NM Crash of Test Flight" (April 3, 2011)
- Flightglobal "NTSB Releases First Shots of Crashed Gulfstream" (April 4, 2011)
- Atlanta Business Chronicle "NTSB: Gulfstream Crash Came During Simulated Engine Failure Test" (April 7, 2011)
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