Gulfstream G650 Completes First Flight -- Simulated, That Is

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We're used to reporting the first flight of new aircraft designs, but this week, Gulfstream announced the first simulated flight of its G650 bizjet -- a less satisfying milestone, perhaps, but nonetheless significant. "This achievement demonstrates the successful integration of numerous cockpit systems, including those designed by Gulfstream and those provided by our suppliers," said Gulfstream spokesman Pres Henne. The first flight was conducted on Dec. 15 in Savannah, Ga., by the project's lead test pilots, although a team of engineers and other pilots also got a chance to try out the controls during the simulation -- a chance they are unlikely to get when the non-simulated first flight occurs. The G650 simulator, which was developed in-house by a team of Gulfstream engineers and technicians, comprises a full-scale cockpit with avionics, hardware and sensors, as well as a full-scale cabin mock-up with a galley. The simulator enables all aircraft systems to be thoroughly evaluated and tested by engineers and pilots in a controlled lab environment well before the aircraft makes its maiden flight, says Gulfstream.

The G650 will be Gulfstream's biggest-ever jet, carrying up to 18 passengers as far as 7,000 nm. With a max operating speed of 0.925 mach, it aims to displace Cessna's Citation X as the fastest civil aircraft flying. The first flight in our real world is expected by the end of this year. Certification by FAA and EASA is expected in 2011, with customer deliveries to start in 2012, at about $60 million per copy. Click here for a guided video tour of the cabin mockup from EBACE 2008.