By Glenn Pew, Contributing Editor, Video Editor
Marketed as the "most technologically advanced" business aircraft with the largest, "most comfortable" cabin in its class, Gulfstream's G650 has earned its type certificate and is entering a business jet market that has seen a half-year surge. The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) last month released figures for the first six months of 2012, finding that business jet deliveries are up 13.1% year over year. Some analysts cited improvements as high as 20 percent with an even higher resurgence in Europe. The fly-by-wire G650 will enter that market as Gulfstream's standard-bearer for performance, range, speed and comfort. It has not reached this place without challengers and adversity.
During testing on April 2, 2011, a G650 test aircraft crashed at Roswell, N.M., killing two pilots and two flight test engineers. The aircraft was one of five jets then participating in the FAA EASA certification program. The NTSB has not released its final report on the crash. Among its achievements, the G650 is on track to briefly hold the title of world's fastest production civilian aircraft, speeding along at .925 Mach. It recently lost the overall crown to an upgrade to Cessna's Citation X, which now reaches .935 Mach, but the G650 has beaten that jet to certification. The G650 offers a low cabin altitude of 4,850 feet for occupants flying at FL510 and for pilots it offers "the most advanced flight deck in general aviation," according to the company. Gulfstream's G650 is expected to see delivery soon. The jet can cruise for 7,000 nautical miles carrying eight passengers and four crew but can be configured to accommodate up to 18 people. And it will do that out of 6,000-foot strips. Presently, the G650 carries a price tag of roughly $65 million per copy, and a waiting list for deliveries stretches years into the future.