A conversation with Mark Kohler, Head of G500/G600 development, Gulfstream
The roller coaster first quarter of 2016, where the major stock markets first fell like a stone then more than recovered their losses, has not been great for business aviation. But it has not stopped Gulfstream from increasing its order book for new models.
Mark Kohler heads up the G500 and G600 development programmes at Gulfstream and he is very confident that these new models will keep the orders momentum going. “With all our new products, we keep adding new technology that we believe adds value for our customers and enhances the safety features of the aircraft,” he comments.
Kohler points out that Gulfstream is always looking to be more efficient from a fuel burn standpoint with every new model it brings out. Success here, of course, is partially dependent on the engine OEMs doing a great job introducing new, lean burn technologies in their turbines, and succeeding in building new engine platforms that lower both noise and pollutants. However, there is much the airframe OEM can do as well from an aerodynamic design perspective.
“The engine OEMs are very important but we need to work with them to take an engine and match it to the airframe while ensuring that we optimise all possible efficiencies,” he comments.
Gulfstream has been very canny in its approach to designing new models. Even with ‘clean sheet’ models it works hard to keep a commonality of design as far as the flight deck is concerned, even if the range of the various models varies enormously. The G600, for example, has a new wing that in part leverages the G500 wing to enable it to carry the fuel load it needs to achieve the desired range.
Kohler points out that while the G500 and G600 cannot be termed short field aircraft, since they require 5,200 feet and 5,700 feet, respectively, for a balanced field length, the designers have
worked hard to balance high speed performance against the length of runway required. “The aim is to ensure that you can connect the city pairs that are of primary interest to our customer base,” he notes.
Gulfstream attaches a great deal of importance to the feedback it gets from its advanced technology customer advisory team, which is part of its customer advisory board. “We reviewed potential configurations of the G500 and G600 with the customer base and that brought a great deal of positive feedback on these two new products,” he comments.
“One of the things that came out most compellingly from the customer base was that they liked the speed on the G650 and wanted to see the same capabilities on the G500 and G600. They also provided very positive feedback on the new, larger cabins. These cabins are only seven inches less in width than the cabin on the G650 and provide a very spacious interior,” Kohler adds.
Another important plus was the large windows. “We lead the industry in the size of the window that we offer. This is important because the window size also sets the pitch, from a design perspective, between the seating groups. We also worked with customers to look at new cockpit technology and we introduced the new active control sidesticks into the cockpit,” he adds.
Another change in the cockpit with these two new models is the increase in resolution of the enhanced vision system. Kohler notes that this is a strong safety feature, giving the crew a better feel of the terrain and of the approach path to airports. “This is based on the Honeywell EPIC system and has been very well received by our test pilots and by customers,” he says. Touch screens in the cockpit are another major feature.
“On the completions side, one of the things we developed in Savannah is a cabin integration test facility for both the G500 and the G600. This includes a complete interior, including seats, tables, window shades, divans and galley. Literally 100 feet from where my team sits, there is a fully outfitted interior, so that gives us a real environment to work with. We can take the advanced technology customer advisory team and let them experience that interior. They can get a real feel for the cabin and evaluate things like the comfort level and lighting environment. They provide valuable feedback to us about their views of that experience and that helps us to deliver the highest quality levels,” he comments.
The G650 introduced Gulfstream’s new electric seats with multiple seating configurations and the two new models will incorporate this technology as well. The cabin entertainment side of things has now shifted from stand-alone monitors at each seat to an approach that allows customers to use their own iPads or tablets to stream video direct to their choice of device. “People are used to high-definition streaming video in their home and we look to provide them with the same experience in the aircraft,” he adds.
The fourth test aircraft in the G500 programme had its maiden flight in February this year, which puts that programme well on track to meet its delivery targets. The G600 is now in major assembly and in March the fuselage and wings were joined, with flight testing scheduled for later in 2016.