Gulfstream Launches New Long-Range Business Jet

March 14, 2008

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Gulfstream Aerospace on Thursday launched the new G650 business jet, its biggest, fastest, longest-range plane to date, as it looks to take advantage of the continuing boom in private plane sales and the trend toward larger aircraft.

The G650, priced at just under USD$60 million, will have a range of 7,000 nautical miles (about 12,950 km) at a speed of 0.85 Mach, which means it would be able to fly non-stop from Los Angeles to London.

It will have a maximum cabin headroom of about 6 feet 5 inches (1.96 meters) and larger, oval windows. The plane is set for first test flight late next year and first delivery in 2012.

Gulfstream, a unit of General Dynamics, is pricing the jet at USD$59.5 million each, but early customers can expect discounts, a common practice in the aviation industry.

The Savannah, Georgia-based company caters to the upper end of the business jet market, but has recently seen potential customers opt for versions of larger commercial planes made by Boeing and Airbus.

Last year Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal became the first individual to buy an Airbus A380, the largest commercial plane in production. Boeing has sold nine of its new 787s to super-wealthy private customers.

Gulfstream's new G650 jet, the designs of which were unveiled at its main plant early on Thursday, wouldn't compete directly with those larger airliners, but is designed to dominate the top end of the business jet market.

That market tends to follow corporate profits and general economic trends, but it shows no signs so far of slowing down, despite evidence of a broad financial downturn in the United States, the biggest market for private jets.

Last year, Gulfstream and other plane makers delivered a record 1,138 business jets, up 28 percent from the year before. It was the first year the industry delivered more than 1,000 jets.

Honeywell International is to supply a range of avionics and mechanical systems for the new Gulfstream jet, which it said would be worth USD$3 billion over the life of the plane.

Spirit AeroSystems will make the wings, a contract it said would be worth more than USD$1 billion.

Britain's Rolls-Royce will make a new engine, the BR725, to power the plane.

US company Goodrich will make the landing gear and some interior components.

Dutch aerospace firm Stork Fokker will design and make the tail and some fuselage panels, which it said could bring in USD$600 million in sales.