Second Gulfstream G650 takes first flight

Composites are used on the G650, which flew for more than two-and-a-half hours and achieved a speed of Mach 0.80.

Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. (Savannah, Ga., USA) a wholly owned subsidiary of General Dynamics, announced on Feb. 26 that a second ultra-large-cabin, ultra-long-range, composites-intensive Gulfstream G650 has completed its first flight.

The second test article, known as T2, took off from Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport at 12:50 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 25, with senior experimental test pilots Gary Freeman and Scott Buethe in the cockpit. The aircraft flew for 2 hours, 33 minutes, reaching an altitude of 37,000 ft/11,278m and a speed of Mach 0.80 before landing back in Savannah.

In a company first, both G650 flight-test aircraft — T2 and T1 — were airborne simultaneously and were tracked by dual telemetry facilities in real time. "T2 performed extremely well during the initial tests of its integrated flight control system and handling," said Pres Henne, senior vice president, Programs, Engineering and Test, Gulfstream. "We plan to make half a dozen flights to assess basic system functionality before proceeding to more intensive testing."

"The conditions were very gusty and blustery, yet T2, like T1, handled great," said Freeman. "To control the aircraft precisely requires small, light control input from the pilot. Itís an easy jet to fly."

The G650 flight-test and certification plan involves five aircraft and an estimated 1,800 hours of testing. Each aircraft is used for a specific series of tests, with T1 focused on performance and flight controls, T2 on systems and T3 on avionics. The two production aircraft in the test program, P1 and P2, will be used to evaluate the interior systems and reduced vertical separation minimums (RVSMs), respectively.

T1, which spent approximately six hours in the air on Thursday, has completed 18 flights over more than 43 hours. The aircraft has reached a maximum speed of Mach 0.90 and a top altitude of 47,000 ft/14,326m. Test pilots are progressively opening the flight envelope in conjunction with load testing of a ground-test airframe designated S6.

Gulfstream expects to receive concurrent G650 certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in 2011. Gulfstream announced the G650 program on March 13, 2008. On Sept. 29, 2009, the aircraft rolled out under its own power in front of a crowd of more than 7,000 people. It completed its first flight on Nov. 25, 2009, and remains on schedule for entry into service in 2012.