Gulfstream Rolls Out G650

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Click through for a guided tour of the Gulfstream G650, from EBACE 2008

Gulfstream rolled out the first example of its ultra-large G650 Tuesday in front of about 7,000 people at its plant in Savannah, Ga., and announced the program is on schedule with first deliveries planned for 2012. The aircraft has been spotted several times in recent weeks as it underwent engine start and low-speed taxi tests. The rollout on Tuesday presumably marks the beginning of the flight test program, although no date has been announced for a first flight. The rollout comes about two months after Cessna announced it was shelving its large-cabin Columbus intercontinental jet. "Simply put, the Gulfstream G650 is in a class by itself," said Joe Lombardo, the executive vice president of General Dynamics' aerospace group.

Announced in the heady days of massive backlogs, maximum production and seemingly boundless opportunity (about 18 months ago), the 650 was clearly presented as a flagship product intended to assert Gulfstream's dominance of the ultra-luxury market. It's the largest G ever built, with a top cruise speed of .925 Mach, a maximum operating altitude of 51,000 feet and a range (at .85 Mach) of 7,000 nm. It will carry up to 18 passengers, depending on cabin configuration, and includes a separate compartment for a second crew on those long flights.