Living on a jet plane!
We spend a day at Gulfstream’s facility and even take one for a spin!
That’s me that you can see though that left window there, bringing in Gulfstream’s G450 for a greaser of a landing at their Savannah facility in Georgia, U.S.A. Now I have a bit of stick time on a similar business jet which is why the folks at Gulfstream were kind enough to give me an hour in their large cabin, long range airplane. Okay, so I didn’t fly the real airplane, just the simulator at Flight Safety (Gulfstream’s training partners across the road) but they say it’s so close to the real thing, you can hardly tell the difference. Besides had I actually been flying that airplane, this is exactly what it would’ve looked like.
Now you might think that all business jets are alike and with regards to benefits, you would be right. Having an airplane at your disposal means you don’t have to stick to a schedule, can skip the long queues at security, have some quiet time on the airplane and go right past the baggage claim mess at your destination. But being small they lack the range of an airliner. So while they would be great for let’s say, travelling to Manila from Singapore, many would struggle to go much farther. Which is why, when you really want to travel Intercontinental you still are at the mercy of the airlines. Unless, you jump right to the top of the bizjet pyramid and arrive at Gulfstreams.
As you would know, Airforce One is any airplane which the President of the United States flies on. Generally that’s a Boeing 747-200. However the Boeing is pretty massive, (formerly the biggest passenger plane in the world) and a lot of the cities that the Prez might want to go to may not have a runway long enough to handle the Jumbo. Which is why it carries a “My other plane is a Gulfstream,” sticker at the back. Fine, I just made that last bit up, but the fact is that when the Boeing isn’t the White House in the sky, a Gulfstream is. And if it’s good enough an office for them, it’s good enough for anybody. And if that’s not enough for Gulfstream’s credibility let me tell you that an early Gulfstream II is used by NASA to train astronauts for the Space Shuttle landings. Impressed? Well you should be.
The good news that concerns you (or your wealthy uncle) though is that early this year Gulfstream received type validation from the DGCA for all the jets in its stable. Which means you can now own a Gulfstream in India. And while I may never be important enough to need one, a day at Savannah with the extremely helpful Communications Manager, Heidi Fedak, gave me an insight on what a blessed life that would be.
So let’s say you’ve made up your mind to get a G550 – the current top of the line Gulfstream, that’s good for a Singapore - Tokyo run at 45,000 feet flown at 87 per cent the speed of sound. Choosing the plane is the easy bit because after it comes the customisation. If you want to keep things simple, there are twelve basic floor plans to choose from. Essentially that’s where you decide how many people you would like to travel with and in how much comfort. If you want you could split the cabin with the front half for business and the aft half for pleasure. Needless to say, every single piece of wood, cloth and paint that goes on the airplane will be of your choice and tailored as per your needs.
The other resource while owning an airplane like this is the crew and to get your pilots up to scratch on these airplanes Gulfstream has teamed up with Flight Safety. These guys are the industry standard when it comes to flight training and they train not just the pilots but the stewardesses and the maintenance crew as well. Of course if you are going to have an airplane at your disposal, you want to have it ready to go, 24/7. But airplanes are complex pieces of equipment that occasionally need to be fixed.
However storing spares isn’t economical so what would be ideal is if you could have an airplane deliver the parts to you. That’s what N247PS is all about. It’s a G100 that has a dedicated staff of 8 pilots that’s solely meant for delivering parts within North America and the Caribbean. For Singapore, they will have the airplane fly to a hub that will have a commercial flight leaving for your city. Now that’s what I call customer support.
Now Gulfstream hasn’t gotten where it has today by just making really big airplanes and fitting really big windows to them. There is a great deal of innovation that they’ve been part of and some of it really needs to be experienced to be believed. Like the EVS or Enhanced Vision System. Meant to help pilots carry out an approach on a dark moonless night in rough weather, EVS helps them see things that just wouldn’t have been possible. Think of it as X-Ray vision. Then there is the Quiet Spike – an experimental boom that’s being developed in collaboration with NASA. What it aims at is reducing the effects of the sonic boom hence making it possible for supersonic flights over land. So don’t be surprised if the first business jet to go faster than sound is a Gulfstream.
But if all this is still not good enough, I suggest you wait for the G650. Slated to be the fastest flying non-military jet at 0.925 Mach, the G650 can climb to 51,000 feet high above airliner traffic and can travel between any two points on the globe with just one stop. Due to arrive in 2012 the G650 will be the airplane to have and the airplane to beat.