Improving Service & Shrinking the World
Gulfstream has improved its service offering in Europe and Asia, and added to its senior leadership team in Savannah. Meanwhile, the flagship G650ER has been streaking across the world, setting a new series of seven records
With the dramatic new-technology G500 in service and the similar, though larger G600 on the cusp of first delivery, Gulfstream has turned its attention towards strengthening its global customer support infrastructure. After the excitement surrounding entry into service of any new jet fades, it’s a manufacturer’s ongoing support package that generates loyal customers, a fact far from lost on Gulfstream.
At the same time though, while the superlative G500 and G600 have won the lion’s share of attention over the past couple of years, Gulfstream considers the G650ER the brand flagship. It’s the largest and longest-ranged aircraft in its catalogue, and the manufacturer has proven its pre-eminence with a series of seven record-breaking flights, culminating in a 13-hour 37-minute run between Singapore and San Francisco.
Gulfstream announced the latest G650ER record on 19 February, two months after the 18 December 2018 flight. The jet had launched from Changi Airport at 1058 local time and touched down in San Francisco at 0845 local, completing the 7,475nm (13,843km) route in the shortest time ever for an ultra long-range aircraft.
The manufacturer’s own figures record the G650ER’s maximum range as 7,500nm (13,890km), achieved at Mach 0.85 and yet the February press release noted an average of Mach 0.87 over a distance just 25nm shorter. Those numbers ought to suggest this was a prepared aircraft, perhaps lightened for the record and flown using special procedures by a Gulfstream crew especially familiar with the G650ER. And if not, perhaps the weather was ideal, with optimal winds assisting with the high cruise speed?
EVA put these questions to Heidi Fedak, Gulfstream’s Director of Corporate Communications. Her response was matter of fact: “The leg was chosen to showcase the aircraft’s performance capabilities but required no specific procedures or actions. Nor was it the perfect day, wind-wise, to break a record. The typical G650ER operator cruises between Mach 0.87 and the aircraft’s maximum operating speed of 0.925 – our normal cruise speed is 0.90, for a range of 6,400nm, which is unparalleled in the class. The entire Singapore-San Francisco trip was flown at Mach 0.87, the ideal speed for the long-range mission distance, so this was a flight any crew could have accomplished.”
Fedak also confirmed the aircraft was in standard configuration and the mission completed with three Gulfstream pilots and one passenger. “Our pilots described it as an ‘easy mission for the G650ER’, and it arrived in San Francisco with 4,500lb of fuel – about 50% more than IFR reserves.” Even after almost 14 hours, the crew and passenger reportedly landed in San Francisco with minimum fatigue, the flight deck having proven ‘extremely accommodating’ throughout; they also appreciated the cabin’s low altitude and air quality. In fact, it seems there’s no escaping the fact that the exercise summed up everything long-range, high-speed business aviation is about.
While the G650ER was off shrinking the globe, Gulfstream was actively expanding its global service network. Most recently it announced new developments in facilities and personnel in Asia and Europe.
Expansion in the latter region centres on Paris Le Bourget, where Gulfstream has secured 16,500sqft (1,533m2) of hangar space, adding to the support offered by its Field and Airborne Support Teams (FAST) unit, located at the airport since 2017. The three European Aviation Safety Agency-trained FAST technicians are managed out of Gulfstream’s London Luton Airport service centre and specialise in aircraft-on-ground situations. The European offering is further augmented with the appointment of Clarke Mouncher, Managing Director of Customer Support for Europe, the Middle East and Africa; Mouncher will be closely involved with Gulfstream’s expanding Farnborough, UK site.
Elsewhere, Gulfstream, Jet Aviation and Hawker Pacific, now share General Dynamics parentage, which is good news for Asia’s Gulfstream operators. “We have more geographic territory covered than ever before with Gulfstream Beijing, Jet Aviation Singapore and Hong Kong, and Shanghai Hawker Pacific,” Barry Russell, Vice President, Customer Support Sales and New Business Development, confirms. “There are knowledgeable, well-trained Gulfstream technicians at all four locations, providing customers with the benefit of having options for their maintenance.”
A fleet of approximately 340 Gulfstream aircraft operates in the Asia-Pacific region, in excess of 290 of them large-cabin models and almost 60% of the total based in China and Hong Kong. Also Hong Kong-based, Ernest Tai is the newly appointed Managing Director of Customer Support for Asia, a job mirroring Mouncher’s European position.
Russell explained the role: “He engages directly with in-region customers and coordinates with Gulfstream, Jet Aviation and Hawker Pacific to provide support. To a large extent, he develops and drives the support capabilities in the region. He also partners with sales to increase market penetration by showcasing customer support, Jet Aviation and Hawker Pacific’s service and delivery capabilities.
“He won’t necessarily deal with issues related to an aircraft-on-ground situation. Gulfstream has ten field service representatives in Asia-Pacific – four in Hong Kong, two in China, and one each in Singapore, Japan, Australia and India – and several FAST technicians in the region – Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok – who would more likely interact with a customer facing that scenario.”
Better in Beijing
In a further commitment to Asia-Pacific, Gulfstream has added capability at its Beijing facility. Its technicians have earned Civil Aviation Administration of China approval for 96-month inspections on the Gulfstream G550 and G450; 72-month inspections on the G280; and 144-month inspections on the G200.
Russel notes that since it opened in November 2012, Gulfstream Beijing has serviced more than 1,050 aircraft visits, including road trips to the region’s airports. “Employing approximately 50 personnel, including around 20 technicians, the facility has in the region of 70,000sqft/6,503m2 of hangar, shop and office space. Plus, an on-site warehouse includes a stock of close to US$2.5 million in parts and materials.”
Back in Savannah
Recent senior leadership changes at Gulfstream’s Savannah, Georgia headquarters are also significant. It says the appointments: “…meet the company’s growing number of aircraft programmes, manage its worldwide supply chain and innovate for the future.”
The areas into which the executives are appointed are particularly relevant in that context, as Colin Miller becomes Senior VP, Innovation, Engineering and Flight after Gulfstream veteran Dan Nale retired as Senior VP of Programs, Engineering and Test. Greg Collett is made Senior VP, Manufacturing and Completions, replacing former Senior VP, Operations Dennis Stuligross, who becomes Senior VP of Program Management, Quality and Supply Chain.
Between them, these positions encompass almost the full gamut of Gulfstream capability, revealing a characteristic quiet confidence for the future. The company knows what it does well and works hard to build upon its own high standards, always with an eye on the next-generation technologies that are shaping tomorrow’s Gulfstreams today.