The Gulfstream G280 has established itself as the super-midsize class leader in performance and economy. A newly designed long, sleek wing and high-thrust engines increase range and speed, yet fuel economy is so well maximized the G280 has earned best-in-class fuel efficiency. David Zara found out more while flying the aircraft in Savannah, Georgia.
I love Savannah. It’s relaxed, civil, charming and equally importantly it has an abundance of great watering holes and restaurants. Most importantly for me though, it’s home to Gulfstream’s headquarters, where they make some of the finest corporate jets in the world.
A flight in an airliner is often a reminder of why private jets are here to stay. It was all worth it though because I was again heading south to fly Gulfstream’s latest super-mid offering. Steve Cass, vice president of Technical Marketing and Communications, welcomed me, and a few minutes later, we were deep into a PowerPoint presentation on the Gulfstream G280. I was introduced to Ivo Maia and Raphael Vasconcelos, the Brazilian Dream Team and my fellow pilots for the flight, who walked me through the pre-flight briefing.
The cabin is long at almost 26 feet and light and airy and rather voluminous at 935 cubic feet and 19 windows. It is also wide, almost as wide as a G550’s and it feels much taller than most other super-mid cabins. Everything is controlled via a smart phone and it’s intuitive enough even an adult can figure it out. Not only can you manage the audio and video components, you can also control the lighting, set the temperature and call your flight attendant. The aircraft comes equipped with dual Blu-Ray DVDs and CDs with USB ports and two 160GB media servers. There is a large 19″ monitor with an option for a second one should you want one as well as optional 9″HD-compatible personal seat monitors. The wiring is all fiber-optic, and there is no need for data-compression-eliminating signal delays.
There are currently four options for the interior to suit anyone’s needs, and I think they cover the whole spectrum rather well. I personally liked the 10-seat interior with a three-place berth-able divan and a dining foursome that converts to a double bed, but the other ones are fine as well depending on how you intend to use the plane. The divan is 6ft 8 inches long and up to 31 inches wide. NBA players will feel right at home.
The galley is long enough and it feels like the counters are deeper than most for food preparation. There is a gasper-cooled food storage unit, a convection oven, coffee makers and the standard water sink, ice storage and trash receptacle etc.
The lavatory is large and rather unusually sports two windows giving it an airy feel but its most attractive feature is a vacuum toilet with an overboard venting system. Gone are the days of blue-juice smelly toilets. Another area the G280 shines is in the rear luggage compartment. At 120 cubic feet, it’s almost as big as a GIVs and is larger than most of the competition’s. Finally, unlike the air in airliner’s cabins the air in the G280 is 100% fresh and not recycled. Like most other private jets, the G280’s 7000-foot cabin altitude at its max cruising altitude of 45,000 feet lets passengers and crew alike arrive at their destination feeling fresh.
The G280 is a bit of an anomaly in that it sits low to the ground, which tends to distort its size. The door is unusual in that the steps are long rather than tall like most other aircraft, making it easy for passengers to board. The door mechanism is sturdy and this one comes with no weight limitation. The tail is no longer cruciform but a more Gulfstream-like whale of a T-tail that looks like a real Gulfstream’s tail.
The view from the ground is made more pleasant when one notices the wing is, for a lack of a better word simple. It’s a scaled-down version of a G550/G650 wing and it is devoid of protrusions, bumps and cuffs. Unlike the G200, the G280’s ice protection comes from bleed air. It’s clean and beautiful, shiny chrome upfront, with blended winglets curving up in one slow move to meet the sky, kind of like a drop of mercury dropping from a faucet up high.
Flying the bird
Strapping into the left seat, Ivo and Raphael remind me of the thrust to weight ratio of the G280 and gently rap my mental knuckles to make sure I understand things will be happening fast on the runway. Preflight checks are accomplished quickly thanks to a little training on the ‘Non-Flying Sim’ and the super logical synoptic pages on the 3 screens. The cockpit will feel familiar to anyone used to Gulfstream’s PlaneView System.
There are the usual dual Gulfstream Cursor Control Devices (CCDs), electronic charts, FANS 1/A, ADS-B Out, WAAS/LPV approaches capabilities etc… but unusually, there is an Automatic Descent Mode (ADM) should a rapid depressurization render the crew unconscious. It’s a feature I am very fond of though I hope never to see it in action. Another unusual feature normally found in larger aircraft is an improved Enhanced Vision System (EVS II) and LCD Head-Up Display (HUD II) system. It improves situational awareness while enhancing safety in challenging visual conditions. I always wonder how many lives could have been saved had this technology been available decades ago.
Approaches into difficult mountain airports like Aspen or cities known for fog like Milan and reduced visibility places like Delhi or Beijing become safer. Synthetic Vision systems offer a synthesized 3D color view of the world outside on the pilot’s cockpit screens. It paints a video picture of mountains, surrounding terrain and the airport environment with all pertinent flight information overlaid on the screens. Coupled with auto-throttles these systems offer cutting-edge technology with safety in mind.
Engine start is a relaxed affair with the FADEC system monitoring the procedure and ensuring safe starts. Datalink capability makes manually downloading the flight plan a thing of the past. The clearance is downloaded, acknowledged and we are cleared to taxi. The tiller is electric and sensitive but crisp and pleasant. After a short initial epileptic dance we are old friends about 15 seconds into the first taxiing run to the runway. The thrust reversers are very effective at keeping speeds in check and the brakes are very linear and a vast improvement over the GIV’s. They are less ‘grabby’ and run cooler. We are cleared for takeoff and Ivo cautions me to expect a brisk takeoff roll.
I read the numbers and studied the performance of the G280 before strapping the thing around me. I expected the aircraft to perform as advertised but it exceeded every expectation. I advanced the beefy throttles and the aircraft rolled forward and accelerated like it was being chased by a grizzly bear protecting its cubs. We were off the ground in a few seconds flat and climbed like mad as if trying to catch a cloud. Not the one in front but the one right above us. We were at ISA plus 7 and yet indicating close to 7000 ft per minute and I wasn’t even trying that hard. That’s what happens when you bolt two Honeywell HTF7250G engines, each producing 7,624 pounds of thrust, to a well-built fuselage.
Mind blowing fun
There is only one sentence to describe the feeling. Mind-blowing-exhilarating-fast-safe-crazy-family-friendly PG-rated fun. Compared to the G550 and G650 this aircraft may be the poorer member the Gulfstream family but it’s the bad-boy relative with biker tattoos no one wants to talk about. This is Elvis when Rock and Roll was young and TV stations wouldn’t show his gyrations below the waist. It’s that kind of a feeling. We are given a step-climb and despite stops on our ascent into the troposphere we reach 40,000 feet in 21 minutes. I’ll admit to preferring the lightness of a Falcon on the controls but this will do just fine. The lateral controls are heavy for passenger comfort but the pitch control is sensitive and the engines can deliver what they promise. You point up and up it goes.
A rapid descent is made positively more rushed when I deploy the speed brakes. The thing is there is barely a trace of vibration and I only notice it because I look at our altimeter, which looks like a slot machine immediately after you pull the lever. The vertical speed indicator is pegged at the bottom but you’d hardly notice if you weren’t paying attention. This bird is going to make friends with air-traffic controllers looking to expedite aircraft down.
My Bucephalus of a stead becomes a gentle pony the moment we enter the pattern and a very well-mannered few turns later we are aligned with the runway. Speeds are low which is great and Ivo arms the auto-brakes and suggests a medium setting. Let me not forget the G280 comes equipped with Auto-Throttles that are precise and smooth-just the way they should be.
Touchdown is gentle thanks to the beefy trailing-link landing gear. Braking is firm and linear with zero input on my part. We taxi from the runway back for another go. I need more of this. The second and third takeoff are even better as we are lighter and the takeoff roll and or I should say the takeoff launch is even more fun. Both landings are smooth and soft, kind of like waiting for the runway to come and caress your wheels. The taxi back to the factory is the culinary equivalent of sweet and sour soup. It’s sweet because I can’t wait to brief the flight with my fellow pilots and sour because Gulfstream wants the plane back.
Exceeding Gulfstream’s own design goals by about 5 percent–a big number in aviation–the G280 will cover about 3600nM at Mach.80 in comfort.
Record breaking aircraft
The G280 exceeded Gulfstream’s own design goals by about 5%. That’s a big number in aviation. It will cover about 3600 nm at Mach.80 in comfort. You can cruise at Mach.84 if your mission is about 3000 nm. The G280 holds about 55 city-pair records and counting. London to NY is a reality and so is London to Dubai and Riyadh.
It recently broke another record when it flew from Chicago to Tours in France in about 7 hours and 40 mins. That’s almost 4000 nautical miles at M.80. On the environmental side the plane came in at 16dB below Stage 4 noise requirements and emissions are 25% below the latest and most stringent requirements. The verdict? Gulfstream has a winner on its hands and I want one.