What’s not to like in a Gulfstream? That’s the question I asked myself when writing this blog. Having the honor to operate an engineering marvel, designed by the most renowned OEM on the planet and equipped with the latest technology available in the market, this privilege is certainly a highlight in any aviator career.
As a global leader in aircraft manufacturing, Gulfstream has been building executive jets since its inception in 1958. The US planemaker has always focused on a combination of safety, comfort, and advanced technology. The most successful model is by far the G550 with over 600 aircraft been produced. Currently, Gulfstream serves a wide range of mission types, starting with its super-midsize G280 all the way to its flagship ultra-long-range G650, capable of flying for 7,500 nm. In 2014, the OEM decided to revamp its design and create a clean-sheet design, high performance, long-range aircraft equipped with a state-of-the-art cockpit. The result was the production of the G500, G600, and G700 models that offers outstanding cabin comfort, powerful engines, a touchscreen flight deck, and much more.
I’ve had the opportunity to operate the G280 for two years and had a great experience. The US$24 million aircraft is highly capable of a specific mission type and offers high dispatch reliability. Capable of reaching 3,600 nm and cruise at 45,000 feet, the G280 is powered by two powerful Honeywell turbojet engines (HTF250G), offering the highest thrust-to-weight ration in the industry at 7,624 lbs of thrust each side. The coast-to-coast aircraft offers great cabin comfort for the passengers and is equipped with a spacious 6’1” tall/ 6’11” wide cabin, a wet galley, a vacuum toilet, and a roomy baggage compartment that can be accessed from the inside while in the air.
I truly enjoyed climbing straight to FL410, even hot & heavy. Not to mention the incredible takeoff and landing performance. The G280 highly efficient wings, a derivative of the G450, allows for a normal cruise speed of 0.82 Mach and a maximum speed of 0.85 Mach. Equipped with the state-of-the-art avionics made by Rockwell Collins (ProLine Fusion), the PlaneView 280 resembles the layout of the bigger G550 avionics for training commonality. The system is very user friendly and I felt right at home when the first start using the system. Basic features are: all-glass cockpit, no standby compass, a large standby attitude indicator/HSI, CPDLC, Electronic Jeppesen Charts display, RNP 0.1, FANS 1/A, Satcom, synthetic vision, heads up display, auto-brakes, and more. The handling characteristics of the G280 is just little the other Gulfstream models, slightly heavy on the controls but very stable.
Although very comfortable, the cockpit feels a little tight during long legs. The sheepskin seats offer enough cushion support and comfort, but the center console is large and takes a lot of legroom. Even though the aircraft is capable of flying for over 8 hours with enough fuel reserves, I was never too comfortable flying such long legs, especially in oceanic routes. In my opinion, the G280’s biggest pitfall is the fact that the wing fuel tanks are not equipped with a heat exchanger (fuel/hydraulic or oil), like many other planes. Therefore, when exposed to prolonged cold-soaked conditions normal for higher cruise levels, the fuel temperature drops dramatically, often below the maximum allowed temperature of -40oC (JET-A). I’ve had this happened to me over the North Atlantic, which caused us to declare an emergency and divert to Shannon, Ireland. To mitigate this problem and accept the aircraft limitation, we had to limit our cruising altitude to a level that would have offered an outside air temperature of no colder than -60oC, which oftentimes reduced our range significantly.
While actively operating the G280, we’ve had two AOGs. In both cases, Gulfstream stood behind their product and supported us very efficiently. The first line of contact is Gulfstream Tech Ops, a 24/7 phone support center for troubleshooting. The OEM also offers the FAST (Field & Airborne Support Teams), a fleet of G150 aircraft that can transport mechanics and parts anywhere in the world to quickly recover an AOG aircraft. In terms of scheduled maintenance, Gulfstream has service centers around the globe, aside from authorized service centers.
In sum, the G280 is a marvelous machine and a lot of fun to fly. I’d definitely recommend the acquisition of the model for a specific mission type. The airplane can be comfortably used for transcontinental flights for up to 6 people at fair market value.
For more information, visit Gulfstream’s website https://www.gulfstream.com/en/aircraft/gulfstream-g280/