Expect new business jet product launches soon: Brian Foley

Expect new business jet product launches soon: Brian Foley

Business aviation is close to seeing several key product launches – including a replacement for the hugely successful Gulfstream G650 family – predicts consultant Brian Foley.

Gulfstream delivered the first G650 in December 2012 and has so far delivered almost 400 examples. But with advances in manufacturing processes, we could be on the cusp of seeing its replacement announced as soon as next month, according to Foley, who was quoted in a recent article published by Forbes.

Gulfstream has, in the past, managed to keep its product development famously secretive. The company kept its mysterious-sounding P42 project away from the public eye so much so that it was able to have a G500 taxi into view, under its own power, during the actual announcement.

The P42 project could give a lead into what to expect from any upcoming announcement. The easiest way to think of the P42 project is that it is the cross-section of the aircraft. So far, that cross-section has formed the basis for the G500 as well as the G600.

However, before the G500 and G600 were revealed documents surfaced on the internet referencing the P42 project, and noting a P42-1, P42-2 as well as a P42-3.

It would be easy or, at least, tempting to make the jump to assume that P42-1 would have been the G500 and P42-2 would have been the G600. Which leaves P42-3 still to be announced.

Rumours have circulated for many years about the upcoming Gulfstream. Aircraft brokers are said to have already been briefed on the new aircraft but were each required to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). It is understood that further changes may have been made to the design since the early brokers’ briefings.

Also, there was also a leak from China concerning the G700. It was suggested that this was a four-zone aircraft that ditched the Pratt & Whitney engines that power the G500 and G600, in favour of a return to Rolls-Royce, using newer generation Pearl engines, like those that power the new Global 5500 and Global 6500.

Gulfstream has also been busy in the past few months trademarking several new names. The new trademarks include the G700, as well as the G750, G800, G850, G1100 and G1200.

Also included are the GVII, GVIII and GIX, the later included despite no trademark for the G900 or G950 being registered.

It should be noted however that Gulfstream has in the past registered many different trademark names.

Foley argues in his Forbes article that Gulfstream will want to best the range of the Global 7500, which now it is in service and can fly non-stop for 7,700 miles. He says Bombardier and Gulfstream [Gulfstream and who else?] have traditionally gone tit-for-tat with each other, with each new aircraft upping the range on the competitor.

As Foley notes, the numbers of those who need the capability of flying such long distances non-stop frequently are fairly low. The usual mission profile for a large jet is short flights lasting around two hours, with just the occasional need for a longer-range flight.

Despite this, there are still bragging rights. There is a certain cachet to be won by asserting that your aircraft is the one that can fly the furthest.

One tit-for-tat battle in which Gulfstream was briefly involved was a speed war with Cessna. Cessna’s Citation X wore the crown as the fastest business jet for around six years before the G650 came along.

The Citation X had a maximum speed of Mach 0.920, but when the G650 came along, it took the crown with a top speed of Mach 0.925. It did not wear the crown for long, as Cessna soon hit back with the Citation TEN, an updated Citation X. The uprated Rolls-Royce AE3007 engines helped push the max speed higher, with the aircraft capable of hitting Mach 0.935.

Speed has long been on the wish list both for manufacturers and for customers. Gulfstream famously worked on a supersonic project called Quiet Spike in partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

That project including fitting a large ‘Spike’ to the front of a NASA F-15 fighter jet to try to mitigate the effects of a sonic boom.

A sonic boom occurs when an aircraft breaks through the sound barrier. Shock waves are produced by the aircraft, which, when travelling overland, can cause damage to properties.
The Quiet Spike programme ended in 2007 following more than 50 flights.

Despite Gulfstream’s prior work with mitigating supersonic shock waves, it is unlikely that the G700 will be capable of flying at supersonic speeds. But there can be no doubt that the firm is quietly working in the background to produce such an aircraft.

CJI expects Gulfstream to announce the new aircraft before the National Business Aviation Administration (NBAA), as it did in 2014 with the G500 and G600. We believe that it will be called the G700, will have four living zones, a max range of somewhere around 8,000nm and to be a touch faster than Mach 0.935.

Foley also touched upon Dassault in his article as a possibility for a new-aircraft launch. We believe this is also a good candidate for a pre-NBAA launch.

Dassault will be looking to reverse its fortunes following the cancellation of its Falcon 5X programme thanks to the Silvercrest engines that were due to power it failing to deliver. With one aircraft having already flown, with preliminary versions of the Silvercrest engines installed, Dassault was able to salvage the work that it had done on the 5X cross-section, and launch a slightly larger Falcon 6X, with PW engines.

Much like predicting Gulfstream’s plans with the P42 project, it would not be such a jump to presume that Dassault had also designed a new cross-section that could be extended into newer aircraft types as the market demands.

Dassault proved it could do this by using the 5X cross-section as the basis for the 6X. Dassault boss Eric Trappier has gone on record as saying that the company will not wait for the market to launch a new aircraft, the only question is how big the aircraft will be.

Although Foley quite rightly suggests that the Falcon 900 and Falcon 2000 family aircraft are ripe for replacement, it is in our view likely that Dassault will focus on a larger aircraft.

However, it will need to be cautious not to cannibalise sales of its Falcon 6X and Falcon 8X. Therefore, it is likely that we will see an aircraft that will not only move up the line in nomenclature but also beat out the specs of its other aircraft.

We have already seen the Dassault give the Falcon 6X its name based upon where it fits in the Falcon family based on its range. Its 5,500nm range is below the 5,950nm of the Falcon 7X and the 6,450nm of the Falcon 8X.

We, therefore, believe that the Falcon 9X, as it is likely to be called, will have a max range of 7,000nm or above, likely around 7,500nm, in order to compete with other long-range aircraft.

We also expect the Falcon 9X to use the cross-section of the Falcon 6X, and for Dassault to stick to a twin-engine design.

Another manufacturer that Foley believes could have something in the works is Honda. Although the HondaJet is not so long in the tooth, company boss Michimasa Fujino has told CJI [is this our style] before that customers have often asked for a larger aircraft.

Foley notes that with the company recently announcing that it will be expanding its Greensboro manufacturing facility, as well as a recruitment drive for additional engineers with experience in wing, fuselage and systems design.

Foley wraps up his article by suggesting that we could see one or more of these new aircraft launched at next month’s NBAA, however, we believe that we are likely to see announcements before that.