Turbine Pilot

The Ultimate Bargain Jet?

December 1, 2000

Gulfstream's G-II is now entering the "affordable" arena

To many pilots, the Gulfstream II is about the sexiest, most graceful jet on the planet. Standing on tall legs with its distinctive 24-foot, 6-inch T-tail; its sharply swept 68-foot wing; and lithe, lean fuselage, it certainly turns heads wherever it parks. Those good looks have captured many a CEO's heart since the Gulfstream hit the corporate aviation scene in the late 1960s.

Once the prized party barge of only the corporate elite, the G–II has now settled into the price range where even mere mortals and smaller companies can afford the "ultimate business jet."

Prices for the early serial number airplanes are now in the $5.5 million-to-$7.5 million range, according to a market survey by Jay Mesinger of J. Mesinger Corporate Jet Sales Inc., who sells Gulfstreams and other corporate jets from Boulder, Colorado.

"The low end of the market right now is in the mid-$5 million range; high end is around mid-$6 million. The upper end of the price range would buy a real nice airplane with winglets and a hush kit," Mesinger says. There are also a few airplanes on the market in the mid-7 million range that would likely have the hush kit, winglets, EFIS, and very low time. At the time of this survey, the high-time airplane on the market had 17,428 hours; the lowest was a real cream puff with only 4,814 hours.

Mesinger tracks sales trends of corporate jets and publishes those findings on his Web site ( www.jetsales.com). In early October, there were 36 G–IIs on the market, and another half-dozen that could probably be bought, though they were not listed anywhere. Of the 258 G–IIs manufactured, there have been as many as 40 G–IIs on the market in the past 18 months, according to Mesinger, and that means good bargains can be had. Your $5 million-to-$7 million investment buys a lot of jet for the money: a large cabin, transcontinental range, good speed, reliability, excellent manufacturer support…and those killer looks.

Compare these prices to a used G–IV at $15 million to $22 million, a 15-year-old Cessna Citation III at about $5.5 million, or even a new G–V at $42 million to $48 million, and you can see why these earlier airplanes have become such good buys in the large-cabin bizjet market.

We flew an early Gulfstream G–II, serial number 21, for this report. It is operated, like many Gulfstreams, on an FAR Part 135 charter certificate for Aerodynamics Inc., of Oakland, Michigan. Accompanying me on the flight was Aerodynamic's director of operations, Capt. Bob Ruffli, and the company's director of training, Capt. Gary Lafon. Both pilots have a wealth of Gulfstream experience and operate both this G–II and the company's G–III 500 to 600 hours a year.

Preflight walkaround on a Gulfstream is simple and straightforward, but you quickly get an appreciation for the airplane's size. This size, according to at least one pilot we interviewed, is significant when readying the airplane for flight or putting it to bed at the end of the day. "It takes a lot more time to get this airplane ready than the Learjet we used to operate," he laments. During our preflight, Lafon mentioned that the baggage access door, located beneath the left engine pylon, can be a bit difficult to open and close properly, and sometimes comes off track.

The Gulfstream's cockpit is classic 1960s; most instruments and indicators are placed logically, but the center console array is a bit of a hodgepodge. Remember, this cockpit was designed before ergonomics became our friend, and the idea of a "dark cockpit"—no lights on unless you need to know something—was fully refined.

The nosewheel steering on our test aircraft was way too sensitive, making it a challenge to keep the boss' Scotch in his glass while taxiing. But this can be calmed with attention and extra effort by the one in the left seat. Adding to the challenge of smooth ground operations are touchy brakes. The G–II's brakes are powerful, a little too sensitive for my taste. The airplane we flew constantly wanted to turn right during taxi, not an uncommon squawk on Gulfstreams, I was told.

Visibility through the cockpit windows is better than you would expect, though the thick window frames make it necessary to keep your head moving in the terminal area. It also helps to lean forward for a larger view, reducing the amount of structure to see around.

Takeoff is an event in the G–II, as anyone who has ever witnessed a Gulfstream departure will attest. Even with the hush kit, which all but a dozen early Gulfstreams have, everyone on the airport knows when you're leaving. For some, this is enough justification for owning the airplane. The Rolls-Royce Speys create a characteristic "frying air" sound at full thrust that always reminds me of the venerable Saturn V heading out of Cape Canaveral. Surprisingly, you actually notice that same crackling roar from the left seat; that sound and lively acceleration make you think you're strapped to a fighter, not a 60,000-pound bizjet.

Noise restricts this airplane from some domestic and international cities, but there are two Stage III hush kits slated for introduction in the coming months. One from ReallyQuiet LLC, of Mojave, California, will be ready in January; the other kit, still in flight test, will be offered by Stage III Technologies, of La Jolla, California, and marketed exclusively by Dallas Airmotive. It won't be ready until "late first quarter 2001," according to Mike Klune, national sales manager for Dallas Airmotive. The expected cruise performance loss with the new kits may be offset by a similar gain from the addition of winglets, offered by Aviation Partners Inc., of Seattle, Washington. Cost of the winglets is about a half a million dollars. The airplane we flew had the Gulfstream ASC (aircraft service change) that included tailpipe extensions and mixers to reduce the noise level. It's still a noisy airplane.

All this power and noise translates into a thrust-to-weight ratio comparable to that of the early lightweight Learjets with initial climb rates in the 4,000-to-5,000-fpm range. Many Gulfstream operators prefer to reduce the steep deck angle on climbout for passenger comfort.

In flight, the Gulfstream is a bit heavy in the roll axis and a little light in pitch. But with effort, you can finesse the aircraft and the feel is certainly acceptable for a corporate transport. The high-frequency air noise in the cockpit during flight, because of the flat windscreen, is rather high. Many Gulfstream pilots wear lightweight ANR headsets or earplugs to lower the sound level. The G–III and subsequent models had a sloped windscreen and are much quieter. Gulfstream offers another aircraft service change, small wooden vortex generators, to smooth airflow and reduce cockpit noise on the G–IIs.

Though the systems are a little dated on these early Gulfstreams, they seem to be straightforward, quite functional, and well thought out. In fact, many of the systems are identical or similar to those of later Gulfstreams. The manufacturer obviously believes that if it ain't broke, don't fool with it.

The Gulfstream's four-panel speed brakes are not effective for rapid descents. But Lafon tells me that you can reduce speed to 220 knots, lower 20 degrees of flaps, and come down like a Jeep without a parachute if necessary. High flap speeds (250 kt for the first 10 degrees) are helpful when slowing the G–II, and you notice little pitch change with flap extension because of an interlink between the flaps and horizontal stabilizer trim.

According to Kirk Williams, chief pilot for Paragon Ranch, which previously operated two early model G–IIs and now flies a G–III, the early Gulfstream is a reliable airplane. During three years of operating a Gulfstream II that was previously owned by IBM, "We didn't do anything but put gas in it," he says.

Williams flew the Gulfstream at Mach 0.77 to Mach 0.80, or 445 kt to 465 kt; it burned around 600 gallons (4,560 pounds) per hour on two-hour legs and 450 gallons (3,420 pounds) per hour on long-range trips. "The airplane is built for a comfortable five-hour run," Williams states.

Passenger comfort is an important attribute of the Gulfstream, said Lafon and Ruffli. They normally operate their G–II between Flight Level 390 and FL410 at Mach 0.80 or 460 kt. Fuel flow at this altitude is around 3,200 pounds per hour. Lafon conservatively plans for fuel flows of 5,000 pounds the first hour, 4,000 pounds the second, and 3,500 pounds for subsequent hours.

The standard runway dispatch requirement is 5,000 feet, per Aerodynamics' standard policy, though Lafon has landed on a 3,800-foot dry runway into strong headwinds without a problem. Balanced field length is usually in the 4,000-to-5,000-foot range.

Defying convention of newer-generation airplanes, the ground spoilers must be armed with a switch before takeoff and landing. This could be a "gotcha" for the unwary and provides a good incentive to follow checklists. Lafon tells me that forgetting to arm the spoilers on landing can increase the roll by as much as 30 percent.

The Gulfstream sets up nicely on approach; visibility is good because of a nose-low attitude; and the airplane is rock-stable in the landing configuration. When you select the final 39-degree flap setting, you can really feel the effectiveness of those big flaps.

Flare and touchdown in the Gulfstream are quite relaxed, with plenty of control authority in all axes. On a couple of our landings, it was easy to accommodate a slight crosswind with a one-wheel touchdown. Powerful reverse and brakes make stopping a nonevent.

All pilots I talked to had high praise for Gulfstream's parts availability and support. In Ruffli and Lafon's charter business, they can't afford downtime when paying customers want to fly. Lafon tells of Gulfstream's excellent support on two occasions: once when they broke down in Mexico and another time in the Caribbean. In both instances, the necessary parts were in hand the next day, thanks to Gulfstream's efforts. Lafon even watched a Gulfstream tech rep changing a customer's engine on a remote ramp once. Support is apparently taken seriously at Gulfstream.

When you ask pilots who operate early Gulfstreams about gripes, it's obvious from their thoughtful pause that they don't have many. Only after reflection, they might mention the "cantankerous" baggage door, the noisy cockpit, or the elderly avionics on some jets, but you'll never hear them talk badly about the reliability of the Gulfstream or criticize its pleasing flying manners. And you'll never hear anyone say that the G–II isn't the sexiest airplane on any ramp. It's not often you can find this combination of qualities—and now at bargain prices, too.


Links to further information about Gulfstream aircraft may be found on AOPA Online ( www.aopa.org/pilot/links/links0012.shtml).


1968 Gulfstream II
Price New: $2.95 million
Current Market Value: $5.32 million
Specifications
Engines 2 Rolls-Royce Spey Mark 511-8, 11,400 lb thrust ea engine
Recommended TBO 8,000 hr
Length 79 ft 11 in
Height 24 ft 6 in
Wingspan 68 ft 10 in (standard wing)
(77 ft 10 in w/G–IIB wing and winglets)
Wing area 794 sq ft
Wing loading 72.4 lb/sq ft
Power loading 2.60 lb
Seats 2+11
Cabin length 39 ft 4 in
Cabin width 7 ft 4 in
Basic operating weight 36,300 lb
Max ramp weight 60,300 lb
Max gross takeoff weight 59,500 lb
Useful load 24,000 lb
Payload w/full fuel 700 lb
Max landing weight 55,000 lb
Zero fuel weight 39,000 lb
Fuel capacity 23,300 lb
Baggage capacity 157 cu ft
Performance
Takeoff distance, balanced field length 4,400 ft
Max demonstrated crosswind 20 kt
Rate of climb, sea level 4,350 fpm
Single engine ROC, sea level 1,500 fpm
Max cruise speed Mach 0.85
Long-range cruise Mach 0.75
Max operating altitude 43,000 ft (45,000 ft w/ASC)
Landing over 50-foot obstacle 3,000 ft
Limitations and Recommended Speeds
VS1 125 KIAS
VSO 107 KIAS
VMCA 102 KIAS
VREF 132 KIAS
VA 213 KIAS
VFE10 250 kt/Mach 0.60
VFE20 220 kt/Mach 0.60
VFE39 170 kt/Mach 0.60
VLE 250 kt/Mach 0.70
VLO 225 kt/Mach 0.70
VMO 367 kt/Mach 0.85

All specifications are based on manufacturer's calculations. All performance figures are based on standard day, standard atmosphere, sea level, gross weight conditions unless otherwise noted. This aircraft has incorporated several Gulfstream aircraft service changes to increase weight capability.