Around the World, Twice, in 184 Hours

posted on 20th March 2023
Around the World, Twice, in 184 Hours

As the NBAA-BACE show in Orlando wound down, Gulfstream was winding up for its G700 world tour. The two jets flew a distance greater than twice around the world and were back in time for Christmas. Scott Evans, Gulfstream’s Head of Flight Operations, explains how it worked

It was still early in Savannah when EVA caught up with Scott Evans, Gulfstream’s Head of Flight Operations, yet his enthusiasm for telling the story of last year’s G700 world tour was tangible. “I did 24 days of the tour,” he begins. “The first aircraft, P1, departed Savannah on Saturday, October 22 and came back during the third week in December. I flew with the second one, P2, which we launched for South America about 22 hours later, on the 23rd. It mostly covered Africa and the Middle East while I was with it. P1 was also in the Middle East, but primarily went out into the APAC region.”
Between them, the two G700s visited 22 countries in almost 184 hours of flying. In that time, they covered 54,000nm, equivalent to two and a half times around the equator. Evans says, “We were sprinting. It was really busy. We were privileged to be the ones driving these amazing time machines – there was a lot of logistics behind us to keep everything moving, all so we could put the airplane in front of our customers.”
Undertaking so ambitious an operation with a very new jet demonstrated Gulfstream’s confidence in its product and Evans confirms the aircraft performed as expected. He also notes that had problems arisen, the OEM’s global service network could have helped out, even though the model has not yet entered service. “One of the major benefits of our new family of airplanes is that we’re building on things we know, things that are already very mature. The G700 and 800 build on the G650’s core systems, adding G500/600 technology, including the Symmetry flightdeck, active control sidesticks, data concentration network and touchscreen interfaces. All of that means we can very easily support the G700 around the world.
“Of course, we were flying as experimental airplanes, using the first two G700s with cabin interiors, and that did entail additional logistics. We had to notify every country whose airspace we flew into that we were an experimental airplane, to get special permits and landing permits. In fact, we met every time and leg without issue on the tour; I believe in having a back-up to the back-up plan, so we had two or three plans in place to keep us moving, but we never deviated from Plan A and that’s awesome.”
Gulfstream’s planning took four months and was sufficiently comprehensive to factor in weather and other variables outside its control. And while it is easy to focus just on the two jets, Evans draws attention to the wider effort: “That included our marketing, corporate communications and security teams, flight crews, maintenance technicians, sales people and sales engineering, pretty much every aspect of Gulfstream.”
Flight crews were pre-positioned and swapped out every eight to ten days, and with all of them based in Savannah the process added an extra layer of logistics involving scheduled airline flights and hotel accommodation. All the corporate communications and maintenance personnel also worked out of Savannah, although some of the sales team were locally based. “Savannah is our headquarters, it’s what makes the Gulfstream world run every day,” says Evans.
“And don’t forget this isn’t our first rodeo. We did a world tour for the G500, as part of the 1,500 hours we flew on it as an experimental airplane with an interior, and another 1,000 hours with the G600. So, we had a base plan that we built on for the G700, but it was still the first time an OEM had launched two experimental aircraft in support of activities around the world. Altogether, it involved a little over 90 people either directly in the execution or the planning.”

Company mindset
Gulfstream’s intention with the tour was to place the G700 before as many customers as possible. Having identified the optimal locations for that, the plan was set in train to make it happen and pause when the aircraft landed because, in some instances, where it parked was going to be critical. Visiting a Gulfstream support centre or FBO was relatively simple but tradeshows require careful negotiation because a jet hemmed into the static display isn’t going anywhere until the end of the show.
“We started the tour on the Saturday after NBAA-BACE finished on the Thursday and we owned the logistics for those airplanes from Orlando all around the world. Some stops were at our facilities where we controlled everything, but most were at FBOs where we pre-coordinated getting people out to the airplanes. Gulfstream is big on logistics and execution perspectives, and this was a culmination of that mindset,” Evans continues.
The G700s were flown as a customer might fly them. Crew bags, Gulfstream merchandise, engine covers and other prosaic necessities went in the baggage compartment and no other aircraft flew in support. “We welcome the opportunity,” Evans enthuses, “to learn lessons from that, helping us continue improving the platform.”
Some stops included the G500 demonstrator, which set five city-pair speed records as it flew around on its own tour. The G700 meanwhile, set an astounding 25 records. “We love speed records,” Evans says. “Not from the fact of setting a record, per see, but because we make an effort to fly those missions exactly as a customer would, from wheels off to wheels back down on the ground. That way we show them what performance they can expect for those city pairs or similar distances.”
Records require accreditation and that brings its own set of logistics. Evans explains: “The National Aviation Association provides accreditation domestically and we have to pre-plan and pre-apply for each record, providing documentation about the airplane and how we’ll fly the mission. We’ve worked with them on the technology so the airplane self-reports on our off time and on time.”
Sustainability was inevitably important to the tour. Evans confirms that SAF was used wherever possible and advises that more news on the subject will emerge. He also notes that while one or two minor niggles occurred with what are, in fact, extraordinarily complex machines, neither G700 suffered anything but a very minimal fault. Was he surprised at their reliability? “No, not all. They build on the maturity of the platforms that came before and I had great confidence going into the tour that it was going to be successful.”
Much like a proud parent though, Evans was always going to be impressed. What did the customers and other visitors who saw the jets think of them, both on first impression and then stepping inside? “I’m obviously biased by 24 years at Gulfstream and being project pilot on many of the aircraft, but I believe there is a look and feel as you walk up to a Gulfstream. The wing is very clean and that resonates with folk. And I heard people commenting on those ten huge windows, then stepping into the cabin and looking right. The word I heard a hundred times at that point was: ‘Wow!’ Especially on P1, which has the huge 10ft galley on the left hand side.
“And then there’s the experience of flying it. Last week I was flying it back from California at 51,000ft, running at Mach 0.90. I get excited every time I’m around the airplane. On this flight I checked onto a new ATC frequency and reported: ‘Experimental Gulfstream seven-oh-two Golf Delta, Level five-one-zero.’ ATC checked in and then someone asked: ‘Who’s at 51,000?’ It happens maybe one in every three checks.
“You know, the G700s departed Savannah less than 24 hours apart and sprinted in different directions, into different time zones. But they are designed to make the world a very small place. What’s the one commodity we all want more of? Time. And these airplanes give that to our customers.”