The most tech­no­log­i­cally so­phis­ti­cated Gulf­stream ever made is ab­so­lute fun to fly.

Flying - - CONTENTS - By Rob Mark


One thou­sand to go,” Brian Dick­er­son called from the right seat. I con­firmed with a nod while also hold­ing up my in­dex fin­ger. Hand-fly­ing the air­plane in the up­per flight lev­els and still climb­ing smartly, I be­gan adding just a tiny bit of for­ward pres­sure on the G500’s side­stick to ar­rest our climb at FL 470 un­der a bril­liant blue sky over north­ern Florida. We’d de­cided to head to­ward Tampa for our evaluation flight af­ter Jack­sonville Cen­ter told us air­line snow­bird traf­fic along the East Coast was too in­tense to al­low even one more jet into its airspace, es­pe­cially one like ours that might have a few spe­cial airspace re­quests.

The di­rec­tion in which we headed was of lit­tle im­por­tance to me. Lev­el­ing at 47,000 feet, I re­al­ized the days of scram­bling and sched­ule chang­ing needed to ac­cept Gulf­stream’s in­vi­ta­tion to fly its new­est fly-by-wire busi­ness air­plane had all been worth­while. The G500, Gulf­stream’s first air­plane to use ac­tive fly-by-wire dig­i­tal side sticks in place of a tra­di­tional con­trol wheel, is ex­pected to be fully cer­ti­fied by early sum­mer, per­haps even as you read this. The air­plane’s non­cer­ti­fied sta­tus was con­firmed each time Dick­er­son, Gulf­stream’s chief demo pi­lot and my right-seat men­tor, checked in on the ra­dio us­ing the “Ex­per­i­men­tal 505GD” call­sign.

Scott Evans, Gulf­stream’s di­rec­tor of demon­stra­tion and cor­po­rate flight op­er­a­tions and our jump-seat pi­lot, said that be­cause of the Ex­per­i­men­tal sta­tus, most, but not every­thing, I would ex­pe­ri­ence in the demo air­craft would trans­late into the air­planes now rolling off the assem­bly line at the man­u­fac­turer’s Sa­van­nah, Ge­or­gia, base. At present, the sev­enth G500 is be­ing com­pleted.

Gulf­stream an­nounced the all-new dig­i­tal air­craft in Oc­to­ber 2014 and flew it for the first time about six months later. Launch cus­tomers for the G500 are Qatar Air­ways in­ter­na­tion­ally and

frac­tional-own­er­ship provider Flex­jet in North Amer­ica.

Dur­ing the pre­flight walk-around, Evans ex­plained some of what makes the G500 a rev­o­lu­tion­ary ad­di­tion to the Gulf­stream lineup. Com­pare the rear­ward an­gu­lar slope on the G500 cock­pit side win­dows to the box­ier ver­sions on the G550. There’s a sense of speed there. Aero­dy­nam­i­cally, the wing on the G500 and the G600, the slightly longer de­riv­a­tive due for cer­ti­fi­ca­tion next year, is an evo­lu­tion­ary change from the G650’s air­foil. Steer­ing the con­ver­sa­tion back to speed, Evans said, “The sweep on the 500’s wing is 37 de­grees ver­sus the 30 on the G550,” trans­lat­ing into higher max cruise num­bers.

Once level at FL 470, the true air­speed set­tled at 510 knots as the two Pratt & Whit­ney Canada PW814GA tur­bo­fan en­gines burned a rather miserly 2,600 to­tal pounds of fuel per hour. This is also the first Gulf­stream biz­jet to fly with­out some ver­sion of Rolls-Royce power. At 86 feet 3 inches, the G500’s wing­span is just wide enough to of­fer spec­tac­u­lar per­for­mance, yet short enough to meet the wing­span lim­its of places like Aspen, Colorado. New on the G500 are flaps that span 80 per­cent of the wing, com­pared to about 60 per­cent on the G650. Their new blended-cam­ber shape re­duces high-speed drag while im­prov­ing land­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Much to the delight of Gulf­stream cus­tomers was last fall’s an­nounce­ment at the NBAA con­ven­tion that the G500 had sig­nif­i­cantly bested its ini­tial per­for­mance de­sign num­bers. Orig­i­nally, Gulf­stream planned for a 5,000 nm range at Mach 0.85 and 3,800 nm at Mach 0.90. Those num­bers mor­phed into 5,200 nm at Mach 0.85 and 4,400 nm at Mach 0.90. That 16 per­cent range in­crease at high speed trans­lates into sim­pler flight plan­ning for flight crews. An­other unique de­sign re­quire­ment was that the G500 be ready to taxi within 10

min­utes of the flight crew’s ar­rival at the air­craft, a fea­ture pi­lots, as well as busy own­ers, will ap­pre­ci­ate.

With all 13 seats in the spa­cious cabin filled, the air­craft I flew could have eas­ily flown from Port­land, Maine, to Van Nuys, Cal­i­for­nia, in five hours, 25 min­utes against a win­ter head­wind and landed with a solid IFR re­serve. Mi­ami to An­chor­age, Alaska, is pos­si­ble, al­though the crew would have to pull those throt­tles back a bit to make it non­stop. From Aspen’s high alpine air­port in the Colorado Rock­ies on an 85-de­gree day, the G500 will carry eight peo­ple just about any­where in the con­ti­nen­tal United States non­stop.


There’s more to the G500 than speed, of course. This new air­plane’s cabin is larger than a G550’s — 1,715 cu­bic feet ver­sus 1,669 — but it seems even larger thanks to the 14 enor­mous win­dows Gulf­stream added, the same ones, in fact, in use on the ul­tra-lon­grange G650. The G500’s en­vi­ron­men­tal sys­tem pumps 100 per­cent fresh air into the cabin at all times, and with a 10.69 psi dif­fer­en­tial, pas­sen­gers will feel as if they’re still fly­ing at 4,850 feet, even at 51,000 feet, a ben­e­fit that makes a se­ri­ous dif­fer­ence in fa­tigue for all aboard. At a more timid FL 430, the cabin al­ti­tude hov­ers just un­der 3,700 feet. The 175-cu­bic-foot rear bag­gage area is of course ac­ces­si­ble in flight. The plush seats can be quickly trans­formed into beds for eight, and Gulf­stream has in­creased cabin seat pitch to 105 inches, from 97 inches in pre­vi­ous jets.

Up front, the G500’s new Sym­me­try Flight Deck ad­dresses not only cock­pit avion­ics but the com­pany’s holis­tic ap­proach to pro­vid­ing the high­est level of sit­u­a­tional aware­ness, com­fort and growth ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Ex­pe­ri­enced Gulf­stream pi­lots may be a bit shocked the first time they en­ter the G500 cock­pit. Gone are the old con­trol wheels and pedestals, re­placed by a pair of ac­tive dig­i­tal side sticks, open­ing up plenty of ex­tra cock­pit real es­tate. Also gone are about 70 per­cent of the me­chan­i­cal switches, ro­tat­ing knobs and push but­tons from days of old — as in the G650 and ear­lier — all re­placed by 10 touch-screen LCDs.

Gulf­stream’s move to recre­ate the flight deck with touch­screens stream­lined the en­tire cock­pit. Seven of the touch­screens func­tion as con­trollers of every­thing from take­off plan­ning to com­mu­ni­ca­tions and en­vi­ron­men­tal sys­tems con­trol, some fo­cused around the throt­tle pedestal and three set in the over­head panel. There’s also an ad­di­tional con­troller at the jump-seat po­si­tion that can be quickly re­moved to re­place any of the other screens should one fail. The touch­screens al­low Gulf­stream to up­date most any­thing in the cock­pit with a sim­ple soft­ware re­vi­sion.

The main­stay of the G500’s flight deck is Honey­well’s Primus Epic sys­tem, pow­er­ing four 14.1-inch LCD dis­plays while in­cor­po­rat­ing a third-gen­er­a­tion en­hanced-vi­sion sys­tem de­liv­er­ing four times bet­ter res­o­lu­tion than ear­lier ver­sions, as well as 3D syn­thetic vi­sion. The

Primus Epic flight deck is pow­ered by a triple flight man­age­ment sys­tem, triple in­er­tial ref­er­ence sys­tem and three VHF nav com units ac­cented by a pair of 24-chan­nel WAAS GPS re­ceivers. Th­ese make the G500 RNP 0.1-ca­pa­ble, as well as GPS WAAS, LPV and FANS-1A con­troller pi­lot datalink com­mu­ni­ca­tion savvy, put­ting Gulf­stream’s lat­est jet firmly at the fore­front of Next Gen ca­pa­bil­ity.

The G500 is the first civil air­craft to op­er­ate with ac­tive side sticks, which con­trast with the pas­sive sticks on board Das­sault’s Fal­con 7 and 8X, as well as the Air­bus fleet. Gulf­stream be­lieves the ac­tive force-feed­back side sticks that mimic the hand ges­tures and feel of the pi­lot on the left or right sig­nif­i­cantly im­prove each pi­lot’s sit­u­a­tional aware­ness. Thou­sands of hours of hu­man­fac­tors re­search placed the sticks in just the right lo­ca­tion and an­gle for a pi­lot’s wrist, tak­ing note of the hu­man hand’s slightly for­ward rest­ing an­gle to re­duce fa­tigue by pro­mot­ing the range of mo­tion around the wrist and not the arm. The side­stick con­trollers demon­strate con­sis­tent han­dling qual­i­ties in­de­pen­dent of the air­craft weight or CG lo­ca­tion while of­fer­ing full flight en­ve­lope pro­tec­tion with­out a stick pusher. The fly-by-wire sys­tem also saves weight and is eas­ier to main­tain. The G500 uses a brake-by-wire sys­tem that is elec­tri­cally com­manded and con­trolled but hy­drauli­cally ac­tu­ated.


Gen­eral Dy­nam­ics, Gulf­stream’s par­ent com­pany, made a sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment in sys­tems test­ing in­fra­struc­ture to al­low the en­gi­neers in Sa­van­nah to cre­ate the G500, said Dale Colter, Gulf­stream’s di­rec­tor of lab test. “We in­sourced a lot of flight-con­trol test­ing and were able to run th­ese tests much more ef­fi­ciently.” Gulf­stream also sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced the num­ber of sub­con­trac­tors to build the G500 in fa­vor of more ver­ti­cal in­te­gra­tion in Sa­van­nah.

The G500 wing and fuse­lage are all metal, while the hor­i­zon­tal sta­bi­lizer and flight con­trols are com­pos­ite. Gulf­stream plans call for test­ing the G500/G600 to three life­times, or about 55,000 flight cy­cles, with a num­ber of hard land­ings tossed in for good mea­sure. By the time the G500 first de­parted on its maiden flight, Colter said, the air­plane had been through 36,000 hours of lab test­ing. “If I can find the prob­lems early in the lab, the flight-test­ing folks will never need to deal with them,” he said.

Scott Martin, Gulf­stream’s se­nior ex­per­i­men­tal test pi­lot and the G500/G600 lead pi­lot, along with staff sci­en­tist for hu­man-fac­tors en­gi­neer­ing Su­san Tay­lor, noted that the G500/G600 also un­der­went more hu­man-fac­tors test­ing than any other Gulf­stream. Martin said, “Our char­ter was to make a 21st-cen­tury air­plane as sig­nif­i­cant as when we moved up from the round-dial GIII to the EFIS GIV. We wanted to in­cor­po­rate as much new tech­nol­ogy as pos­si­ble to re­duce pi­lot work­load and crew mis­takes. We were told we didn’t need to keep

any­thing from the G650.”

Tay­lor said Gulf­stream’s move to­ward side sticks was about more than mere aes­thet­ics. “We ran a sideby-side sim­u­la­tor test be­tween wheels and side sticks with 20 pi­lots and mea­sured their per­for­mance,” he said. “Within two hours of flight time, they matched or ex­ceeded the per­for­mance of the con­trol wheel while im­prov­ing re­cov­ery from un­usual at­ti­tudes.”

Martin said the huge cam­bered flaps on the G500/G600 evolved when “we found there was po­ten­tial ex­tra lift­ing ca­pa­bil­ity we weren’t tak­ing ad­van­tage of in our ear­lier wings. The ex­tra curves and cam­ber re­duce high-speed cruise drag and blend in with the fixed por­tion of the wing. If you look at the G650, the flap only ex­tended along 60 per­cent of the wing. On the G500/G600 we went to 80 per­cent. We also made the ailerons smaller and moved them far­ther out on the wing for bet­ter roll per­for­mance.” Gulf­stream even elim­i­nated all ex­ter­nal flap mech­a­nisms that cre­ated ex­tra drag, he said.


Since I was one of three jour­nal­ists in­vited to Sa­van­nah to fly the G500, I needed to be con­scious of the time block I’d been given, so the APU was al­ready run­ning when I climbed on board to meet Dick­er­son sit­ting in the right seat. I looked around the cock­pit briefly be­fore eas­ing my­self into the left seat. The lack of knobs, switches and a con­trol wheel, and the new touch­screens, make it clear the G500 is a clean-sheet air­plane. The look of the cur­sor con­trol or even the re­designed throt­tles gives it the feel of a finely en­gi­neered Euro­pean au­to­mo­bile.

As I added taxi power, Dick­er­son re­minded me about the G500’s steer­ing. The left-side tiller is only needed for close quar­ters. Steer­ing through the rud­ders al­lows the nose­wheel to swing 40 de­grees left or right, plenty to get us headed to SAV’s Run­way 10. We were light at take­off, 56,673 pounds to be ex­act, nearly 25,000 pounds un­der max­i­mum gross take­off weight, yet with enough fuel for about four hours of fly­ing.

Touch­ing the au­tothrot­tle but­ton brought the power up quickly, and at our weight there was al­most not enough time to no­tice the rock­et­like ac­cel­er­a­tion be­fore Dick­er­son called “ro­tate.” I de­cided be­fore take­off to hand-fly the G500 as much as pos­si­ble to gain a feel for the air­plane. Ro­ta­tion with the side­stick is al­most more of a thought than a con­scious move­ment of the hand. We were quickly climb­ing to­ward FL 240 and turn­ing south­west to Tampa to avoid that snow­bird traf­fic.

Be­cause of our light weight, it wouldn’t be fair to re­cite climb speeds and rates be­cause they were ridicu­lously high. Con­trol on the side­stick was light yet firm enough to re­mind me of fly­ing an air­plane like a Cir­rus SR22. Climb­ing through FL 250 we were tru­ing 437 knots. With a dizzy­ing climb rate, our true air­speed in­creased to 502 knots through FL 350. We lev­eled at FL 470 in just un­der 20 min­utes, in­clud­ing a few in­ter­me­di­ate level-offs. Once level, I tested some of the touch-screen con­trollers and found them sim­ple and in­tu­itive. I just wish we’d had some bumpy air to give them a bet­ter work­out.

One truly unique item was the dual-func­tion red au­topi­lot dis­con­nect but­ton. With the au­topi­lot en­gaged, the but­ton func­tions as a tra­di­tional au­to­ma­tion dis­con­nect. When hand-fly­ing the G500, a pitch trim in­di­ca­tor on the PFD com­pares the in­di­cated air­speed to the speed for which the air­craft is trimmed. The pi­lot can feel the pres­sure on the stick as well to com­pare. Once the pi­lot is sat­is­fied the at­ti­tude is cor­rect, he or she can sim­ply touch the red trim sync but­ton and the air­craft is in­stantly trimmed with­out any un­nec­es­sary back-and-forth trim needed.

Dur­ing a few min­utes of level flight at 470, I headed back to the cabin to get a sense of the noise level. I tried the boss’ seat — that first for­ward­fac­ing chair on the right side — and chat­ted with Evans about the in­cred­i­ble size of the G500’s cabin. Thanks to the su­perb sound-at­ten­u­a­tion work of the Gulf­stream peo­ple, we were able to speak in nor­mal voices de­spite a true air­speed of well over 500 knots. I had Evans talk to me while I stood near the rear lava­tory too as a test. If you’re ac­tu­ally the boss in the front cabin seat try­ing to have a pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion, you’d best whis­per in the G500 or ev­ery­one in the back of the cabin will hear every­thing you say.

I re­turned to the cock­pit just in time to start the right turn over­head TPA, head­ing back to Sa­van­nah. I hand-flew all kinds of turns in a small block of airspace, and while I never looked down at my hand, I could tell my ac­tual wrist move­ments were tiny, even to elicit some se­ri­ously steep banked turns. As we started down, I slowly pulled the speed brake con­trol and watched the rate of de­scent zoom with al­most no no­tice­able noise or vi­bra­tion.

Dick­er­son sug­gested we try the RNAV Y ap­proach to Run­way 28. I gave the au­to­ma­tion an op­por­tu­nity to im­press me and ac­ti­vated the ap­proach once ATC sent us di­rect RLENE. With clear skies and 20 miles of vis­i­bil­ity, there wasn’t much to do ex­cept mon­i­tor, with the FMS han­dling the al­ti­tudes and speeds. Dick­er­son talked me through the flap set­tings for our 120-knot ref speed. For the fi­nal ap­proach, Dick­er­son sug­gested I ease the throt­tles back at 100 feet and plan more for a slight check of the de­scent than a flare. At 100 feet, I barely eased the stick aft and waited a few sec­onds for the G500 to touch the run­way. Re­v­ersers and a touch of brakes had us turn­ing off at E1 for the taxi back to the Gulf­stream ramp.

G500 con­verts should pre­pare for an air­plane that, while fully au­to­mated, re­ally does seem to beg a pi­lot to test his hand-fly­ing skills. Gulf­stream has cre­ated an 80,000pound air­plane that’s fun to fly, es­pe­cially know­ing all that au­to­ma­tion is wait­ing in the back­ground to step in just in case. Gulf­stream quotes a de­liv­ered price of $45.5 mil­lion for a G500. Gen­eral Dy­nam­ics has not yet re­leased the back­log time and de­liv­ery data for the new air­craft, but G500 buy­ers are surely rest­less to ex­pe­ri­ence the most tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced busi­ness jet ever built.

1 The G500 and G600 re­place tra­di­tional cock­pit con­trol wheels and pedestals with a pair of ac­tive fly-by-wire side­sticks. 2 The G500 cock­pit has the clean, un­clut­tered feel of a high-end Euro­pean sports car. 3 Touch-screen LCDs around the cock­pit...

2 4 1 3

The G500 and G600 are the first civil air­craft to in­clude ac­tive side­stick con­trols.

With the op­tional crewrest sta­tion, the G500 of­fers three dis­tinct liv­ing ar­eas, or four liv­ing ar­eas when no crew area is cho­sen.

No mat­ter the in­te­rior con­fig­u­ra­tion, the G500 cabin of­fers pas­sen­gers large, com­fort­able seats with a 105-inch pitch.

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