A brief history of the Gulfstream G150
Gulfstream has decided to cut end production of the G150, with the final aircraft due to be delivered to its customer midway through 2017.
Although the G150 first entered service in 2006, the aircraft can trace its routes back to the early 1960s, when Aero Commander started looking at a jet version of its eponymous turbo prop.
The Aero Commander started life as a twin piston aircraft even earlier in 1951, and underwent many different model changes until production eventually ceased during the 1980s.
But in the early 1960s technology had already moved on, and manufacturers had already starting introducing business jets into the market. Thinking they could compete, Aero Commander began studying a jet version of their twin-prop.
The result was the original Aero Commander 1121 Jet Commander, which flew for the first time in early 1963. Deliveries began two years later in 1965, but a couple of years later, Aero Commander’s parent company, Rockwell Standard, merged with North American Aviation, who were already building their own business jet called the Sabreliner. The newly created North American Rockwell company had a problem though. US anti trust regulations wouldn’t let the companies complete their merger unless one of the business jets were sold off.
The decision on which aircraft design to sell off was made easier by the US Air Force, who had already purchased a number of Sabreliners – designated T-39 – and insisted that the aircraft remained with North American Rockwell, largely to protect its already large investment in the programme.
The rights to the aircraft were purchased in 1968 by the Government of Israel’s Israeli Aircraft Industries, who also bought the tooling and 48 unfinished aircraft, and moved the production to Tel Aviv, where the aircraft was renamed the 1121 Commodore Jet.
Over the following 15 years the aircraft design was refined, and several new versions were introduced, including the most commonly known 1124 Westwind. IAI sold around 200 aircraft, before evolving the 1125 into the 1125 Astra, which although designed from the 1124, had very little in common.
IAI wanted a larger cabin aircraft to compete with the larger aircraft of the day, so redesigned the fuselage to be more rounded as well as longer. In the end, the only parts that stayed the same from the 1124 to the 1125 were the tail and the engine nacelles.
The IAI Astra flew for the first time in 1985 and began its deliveries a year later. Again the aircraft underwent minor model changes and upgrades, but by this time IAI had spun off its business jet division to Galaxy Aerospace, in effect keeping it separate from the rest of its aerospace division, which by then had started to include military aircraft and systems, as well as satellites.
During this time Galaxy Aerospace also began working on a completely newly designed aircraft called the Galaxy. Although the fuselage of the Galaxy was to be completely new, a modified version of the Astra wing was used, with the aircraft flying for the first time in 1997.
In 2001 General Dynamics bought Galaxy Aerospace and with it, the rights to both the Astra and Galaxy, transferring both to its Gulfstream Aerospace division. Rather than move production of the Astra and Galaxy to the States, Gulfstream decided to keep the airframe manufacturing in Israel, putting in place a strategic cooperation agreement with IAI where the aircraft would be built in Tel Aviv, but flown to the US for completion.
Gulfstream eventually changed the names of the Astra and the Galaxy to fall in line with the other aircraft in its portfolio, with the Astra becoming the G100, and the Galaxy changing its name to the G200.
Production of the G100 continued until 2006, when the G150 was finally introduced. Taking the basic form of the G100, the G150 has a slightly longer and wider cabin, as well as upgraded avionics and uprated Honeywell TFE731 engines.
Overall, Gulfstream sold close to 120 G150s. If you were to add in the Astra / G100 then the figure is closer to 325. Add in the Aero Commander / Jet Commanders and you get to 760.
In the last few years deliveries of the G150 have fallen to just a handful of aircraft each year. Gulfstream say they have taken the decision to cut production now as they want to focus on the super-midsize and large cabin aircraft market.
Gulfstream’s strategy seems to be to try and move potential G150 customers up to the G280. Proof of this is the G150 page on Gulfstream’s website, try and visit this and you’re automatically taken to the G280 page instead.