The ultra-large-cabin, ultra-long-range Gulfstream G650 has completed its first flight.
Flown by experimental test pilot Jake Howard and senior experimental test pilot Tom Horne, the G650 took off from Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport with flight engineer Bill Osborne onboard. Because the pilots were alerted to a slight vibration in a landing-gear door, they curtailed the testing regimen as a precautionary measure. The aircraft landed 12 minutes later.
The aircraft achieved an altitude of 6,600 feet and a speed of 170 knots. Flight controls and characteristics performed as expected.
The G650 remains on schedule for type certification by 2011, followed by entry-into-service in 2012. The G650 claims the longest range at the fastest speed in its class. Powered by Rolls-Royce BR725 engines, the business jet is capable of traveling 7,000 nautical miles at Mach 0.85 and has a maximum operating speed of Mach 0.925. The G650 can fly nonstop from Dubai to Chicago. With an initial cruise altitude of 41,000 feet, the G650 can climb to a maximum altitude of 51,000 feet.
A company representative was asked if the market remains strong for large business jets, given the economy and the criticism business jets received earlier this year from Congress when auto executives traveled in personal jets to ask Congress for bailout money.
“Our research and development investment never changed. General Dynamics [the parent company] was committed to it from the outset,” the representative said. She added that a second flight is imminent. The aircraft that flew was the first of three test aircraft and two production aircraft to be used in testing. Together the five aircraft will amass 1,800 flight hours.