G500 Makes First Flight

By Ray Jaworowski, Senior Aerospace Analyst, Forecast International.

Gulfstream’s G500 business jet completed its first flight on May 18.  Unveiled in October 2014, the G500 is part of Gulfstream’s new family of clean-sheet, long-range business jets, which also includes the G600.

The G500 (N500GA) took off at 10:39 am local time from Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport in Georgia.  The aircraft climbed to an initial altitude of 3,200 meters (10,500 ft), and reached a maximum altitude of 4,572 meters (15,000 ft).  It achieved a maximum air speed of 194 knots.

The flight lasted two hours and 16 minutes, during which the crew performed various tasks.  These included exercising the primary flight control systems, evaluating the aircraft’s handling qualities in takeoff and landing configurations, and performing a simulated approach and go-around.  The crew also checked all aircraft systems using the touchscreen controllers on the G500’s Symmetry flight deck.  The aircraft landed in Savannah at 12:55 pm local time.

Gulfstream rolled out the initial G500 during the October 2014 product announcement ceremony.  At the same time, the company displayed a mock-up of the G600.

Gulfstream intends to build a total of five G500 flight test aircraft.  U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency certification are planned for 2017, with initial deliveries in 2018.

The G600 flight test program is slated to begin in 2016.  Four G600 flight test aircraft are to be built.  Service entry of the G600 is scheduled for 2019.

The G500 can fly 9,260 kilometers (5,000 nm) at Mach 0.85, or 7,038 kilometers (3,800 nm) at Mach 0.90.  The G600 is capable of traveling 11,482 kilometers (6,200 nm) at Mach 0.85, or 8,890 kilometers (4,800 nm) at Mach 0.90.  The maximum operating speed for both aircraft is Mach 0.925.  Both can carry up to 19 passengers.

The G500 and G600 are powered by versions of the new Pratt & Whitney Canada PW800 turbofan engine.  This is a departure for Gulfstream, which has previously powered all of its large-cabin business jets with Rolls-Royce engines.  The G500 is powered by a pair of 15,144-lbst PW814GA engines, while the G600 is powered by two 15,680-lbst PW815GA powerplants.

Gulfstream has positioned the G500 and G600 in somewhat different niches within the long-range business jet class.  The G500 competes for sales against the Dassault Falcon 900LX and Falcon 5X, while the G600 competes in the global-range subclass against the Bombardier Global 6000 and the Dassault Falcon 8X.  As these are the niches also occupied by Gulfstream’s own G450 and G550, respectively, the G500 and G600 can be expected to pose a significant in-house competitive threat to these existing Gulfstream aircraft.  The G550 seems particularly vulnerable in this regard, squeezed as it is between the G600 and the G650.

Gulfstream, however, insists that the G500 and G600 are not replacements for any of its existing products, but rather are additions to the company’s product line.  The firm intends the new family to fill the gap between the G450/G550 on one side and the ultra-long-range G650/G650ER on the other.  Gulfstream plans to produce both the G450 and the G550 alongside the G500 and G600.

However, too much market overlap exists for this situation to continue indefinitely.  The G500 and G600 will certainly appeal to existing G450 and G550 operators that are looking to move up in cabin size and performance.  But they will also appeal to prospective customers that might otherwise purchase a new G450 or G550.

In time, the G600 can be expected to essentially supplant the G550 in the Gulfstream product line, with the G500 doing likewise to the G450.

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