Gulfstream Aerospace is one of the biggest success stories in business aviation manufacturing in recent years.
The company had a great 2014 in terms of aircraft deliveries (one of the key measures of market growth), with 150 aircraft delivered and the fourth quarter of 2014 its strongest period for business jet orders in three years, according to parent company General Dynamics. Its revenues in 2014 were $8.6 billion, up 6.5 per cent on the previous year.
The company is forging ahead with new aircraft development, with the launch of the new G500 and G600 making headlines just prior to NBAA last October. See Gulfstream unveils the optimised G500 & G600.
And just last week, its flagship and headline-grabbing G650ER broke two city pair records – and flew around the globe with just one fuel stop at the same time.
The long range aircraft, owned by Steve Wynn, CEO of Wynn Resorts, took 13 hours 20 minutes to fly from White Plains, New York to fly the 6,939 nm to Beijing, clocking up an average speed of Mach 0.87. On its second leg it flew on another 6,572 nm from Beijing, around the world to Savannah Georgia, in 12 hours.
The flights were close to the maximum range of 7,500 nm but leaving enough fuel in the tank to meet safety requirements – so these were comfortable flights for the mighty G650ER. Quite a display of power, speed and range.
Gulfstream Aerospace is a US company, based in Savannah, Georgia, and a wholly-owned subsidiary of US defense and aerospace giant General Dynamics. The company evolved from military aircraft producers Grumman and became known as Gulfstream in 1968 when it focussed on business jets.
It has produced some mid-sized jets, such as the G200 and G450. But its name is synonymous with its large long range jets – with their trademark wide, oval windows. And this is where it has led the market in recent years.
The GV (G5) was the world’s first ultra long range jet when it launched in the 1990s and offers a range of 6,500 nm, seating 14. Gulfstream has since gone on to produce enhanced versions, most recently the $65 million G650 and G650ER (a variant with added range).
But there is also a strong brand element to Gulfstream’s success story, particularly in its native USA.
Its desirability in recent years comes from a unrivalled sense of luxury and power, as much as from the technical abilities of its aircraft – impressive as they are. The G650 in particular generated a huge swell of interest, culminating in the ‘flipping’ phenomenon just over a year ago, when impatient buyers were happy to pay a sizeable premium to swap places with those further up the queue.
Rival Bombardier threatening Gulfstream’s long range crown
But Gulfstream is under increasing threat in the long range category by its closest competitor, Canadian manufacturer Bombardier, who entered the business jet market following its acquisition of the Learjet Company in 1990. Bombardier also had a strong year in 2014 in terms of deliveries. They were the biggest manufacturer overall in fact, thanks to their mix of aircraft sizes and categories. See previous post Business Jet Buying Trends.
Bombardier’s strategic development and pricing of their Global family of long range aircraft has many thinking that Gulfstream may start to lose its hold on the long range category before too long. Globals have a bigger cabin size and the current models cost less than the Gulfstream G650 ($40 – $50 million). Their speed is slightly lower (Mach 0.89 maximum versus 0.925) which may be less headline-grabbing, but some customers feel this difference is not so important, especially on shorter journeys.
The current flagship is their upgraded Global 6000 (seats up to 19, range 6000 nm) and its slightly smaller sister the Global 5000. Even greater range will be added from 2016 with the launch of the $73 million Global 7000 and the 8000 to follow in 2017. But Gulfstream’s new G500 and G600 will not be far behind (deliveries in 2018 and 2019), at a lower price of $43.5 million.
For now Gulfstream continues to wear the crown, but the next couple of years promises an interesting and fiercely-fought battle between these two. We will be watching closely.
To discuss which long range jet is most suitable for your charter flight, contact us or speak to our expert Flight Team (24 hours) on +44 1747 642 777.