This is a comprehensive guide to the ultra-long distance, super fast, luxurious 19-passenger Gulfstream G650 business jet.
The G650 has a 7000-nautical-mile range, flying at FL510 at Mach 0.925. Its twin Rolls Royce BR725 produces a total of 33,800 lb f of thrust at take-off and gives it 3,570 feet per minute climb rate. The latest model costs $75 million while a used 2015 model averages between $60 and $65 million.
As a corporate pilot, my aircraft of choice is actually the Gulfstream G650, the aircraft I’ve used to fly hundreds of the world’s rich and famous to their destinations. There’s a reason this jet’s as popular with passengers as it is with pilots…
The G650, designated as the GVI in its type certification, is designed and manufactured by Savannah-based Gulfstream Aerospace. The company began the development of the G650 in May 2005 and announced it to the world at large in March 2008. At that time, it was the company's largest, most ambitious undertaking.
With ambitious speed and service ceiling targets, the plane had to be built from the ground up, which required extensive wind tunnel and static testing. By the time Gulfstream rolled out the first model, it was 2009. It then made its maiden flight that November. The G650 achieved its highest speed of M 0.995 during one of its test flights.
The G650 was eventually type-certified in September 2012. Its first delivery was made that December. As of the fourth quarter of 2022, Gulfstream has sold 500 G650 aircraft, grossing over $32 billion in sales.
The G650 holds a rare honor among business jets. It is the recipient of the prestigious Collier Trophy for the advances in technology it made in pursuit of such an ambitious undertaking.
Flying the G650
From the moment it comes into view on the tarmac to the point I ascend the airstairs, it is not lost on me that this is the most elegant, the most luxurious, and the most sophisticated aircraft in the world. It has always been a privilege I cherish.
The G560 goes a few steps beyond seat-of-your-pants flying. It’s a cerebral affair with more systems to think about as the aircraft defies gravity to fly in rarefied air at FL510 while keeping the cabin at a comfortable 4100 feet. It has the most robust systems, from pressurization to water recycling, and from engine monitoring to automated collision avoidance.
It takes just under seven hours after launching from Teterboro to arrive at Le Bourget, just north of Paris. That’s about the time it takes us to drive from White Plains to Buffalo. With full fuel and MTOW of 99,600 pounds, we are just below Teterboro’s weight restriction of 100,000 pounds, but we almost never launch with that weight.
With 40,000 pounds of fuel and four passengers we typically launch with 95,000 pounds at take-off.
Our G650 has a full HUD, a feature most G650 owners opt for. Until I flew the G650, I had never experienced flying with one, and never knew what I was missing. Every aircraft should have it, not because it's a cool gadget, but because it reduces fatigue considerably while increasing precision and accuracy.
Being a full fly-by-wire flight deck, one would think that the plane had a mind of its own or that it was controlled via a sidestick. Neither is true. It does exactly what you ask it to do, and does that every time. And, it’s flown with a yoke that is interlinked between the left and right seats. What the pilot on the left does, the pilot on the right can feel, and vice versa.
It can be confusing to think that the G650 has a yoke especially since it s fly by wire. Then you get to the cockpit and see that there is a sidestick as well on the left. But no, it's not one of those things where you can choose which one you use to fly the plane.
The yoke still controls the three axes of the aircraft, or rather how you interface with the FCC and tell it what you want, while the sidestick is how you control the cursor and interface with the avionics suite.
Think of it this way, you’re not really flying the plane. One of the multiple computers on board is.
At the heart of the G650's flight deck is a quadruplex digital system that is DO-178b-certified. It consists of two primary flight computers and one backup that controls the aircraft on all three axes. Every input the pilots make goes through this system which runs the calculations and then sends the signals to the actuators and servos to move the control surfaces.
The primary control surfaces - ailerons, elevators, and rudder, are operated by a pair of hydraulic actuators that are powered by both the 650's hydraulic systems. The 650 also has an electrical backup hydraulic actuator (EBHA, for short.) So if you have a dual engine failure, you won't lose control of the aircraft as the EBHA kicks in to provide the hydraulic pressure needed to control the three axes of flight.
The EBHA operates off of dedicated batteries that are charged by the engines' generators or the APU, in case of dual generator failure. In the event of an engine and APU failure, the batteries to power the system can be charged using a 14 kVA RAT (Ram Air Turbine), that hangs from beneath the fuselage.
These are just examples of the philosophy of having multiple redundancies designers of this aircraft put in place.
The G650 occupies a square of almost one hundred feet by one hundred feet on the tarmac. An imposing structure with symmetry and heft. Engineers deviated from the typical tubular structure when creating the fuselage and cabin which resulted in a more oval cross-section than the typical circular one. Wider than it is tall, it can easily accommodate anyone standing 6 feet 3 inches, while having
From side to side, the 98-inch width allows for some creative interior decoration ideas. The G650 I fly has three zones with a bedroom in the back, a family zone in the middle, and four club seats in the forward area. All this is separated for passenger privacy with a soundproof door to the galley.
The almost five-foot galley occupies both sides of the center aisle and is fully equipped for hot meals. If you’re wondering if the cabin ends up smelling like food after every meal, let me assure you that it doesn’t.
The 650 has a powerful pressurization system that aside from keeping the cabin at a comfortable altitude also cycles the entire cabin every two minutes. The air that comes into the cabin is superheated and then cooled.
The exit velocity of the cabin air pressurization valve in the 650 produces 30 pounds of thrust. All that means that occupants are treated to clean, sterilized air constantly.
Ahead of the galley, is the forward lav, typically for the crew. It is located across the crew rest area where the sole flight attendant is stationed on every flight.
Further ahead of that is the flight deck that includes a pull-out jump seat.
Gulfstream decided to innovate the way they manufactured the hull, using thermoplastics wherever it could and bonding the skin instead of using rivets. The empennage, for instance, is made of thermoplastic skin bonded to an aluminum frame. The internal flooring is also made from thermoplastics, providing strength and reducing weight considerably.
The bonding process is also part of how Gulfstream engineers were able to create increased pressurization differentials since the new method of binding created stronger structures. You can see it during a walk around. Unlike other planes that have lines of fasteners scouring the fuselage, there are almost none on the 650.
When Gulfstream began thinking about the G650, they first went to customers, past and future, and wanted to know what they wanted. Two things came out of their consultation, both at odds with each other. First potential customers who were already used to the GV now wanted a longer range. Second, they wanted to be able to get in and out of the same airports the GV could.
That’s what the engineers focused on, good take-off performance with increased range. The structure that they ended up with did more than that though. It also went a long way in being able to keep the cabin relatively quiet. Is the quietest flight deck I have ever been in.
Measuring just 47 decibels, the sound is no more than an afterthought. Just for comparison, a dishwasher makes more noise at 50 decibels while a whisper is 30 dB and a quiet library is 40.
The wing is a new design from earlier models and went through more than 1500 hours of testing. There are no leading-edge devices like slats on the G650, which is common for some of the heavier jets to be able to alter the camber of the wing for better Ref speeds.
Instead, the leading edge is polished stainless steel that is as aesthetic as its functional. Inside the leading edge are titanium piccolo tubes that carry the hot bleed air from the Rolls Royce engines to heat the leading edge.
The G650 is clean - that's kind of the theme of this aircraft. Even the flap tracks are buried inside the structure of the wing and tuck in seamlessly when not in use. The sleek nature of the laminar flow wing can be seen on the ground and felt in flight. With insufficient planning, the plane can slip away from you and not slow down in time or speed up too much and bust speed limits.
The laminar flow wing which features variable airfoil along the length of the span provides an aerodynamic twist that increases the efficiency of the wing. On high-performance take-offs, it’s not uncommon to look back from the cockpit and see the wing flex up a little.
Wing loading is at a gentle 77.7 lbs per square foot, absorbing the minor bumps in the air without a single complaint and giving the passengers in the cabin a smooth flight.
The G650’s single Fowler flap surface is electrically controlled, hydraulically powered by a redundant hydraulic system that generates 300 psi, and mechanically actuated by dual links.
The flaps move gently once engaged. There are multiple reasons for this, but mostly, it allows for better comfort during the phase transition for passengers. Once the first ten degrees are out, further activation extends the flaps out, considerably increasing the wing area and allowing for a much lower approach speed.
By the way, once you extend the flaps, the fly-by-wire switches modes and gets to TOL (Take Off and Landing) mode, and the input feedback you get from your yoke will feel different.
With all the avionics that support every flight, the one that makes it all come together is the HUD. Having the fly-by-wire, the autothrottles, and the HUD together, I can hand fly the plane up to FL490 without batting an eyelid. That’s how well integrated the hardware and software are in the loop between person and machine.
The 650 I fly comes with a single HUD on the left -the Rockwell Collins HGS-6350 that is certified for all phases of flight. Although, we are reminded to not get too dependent on it.
This HUD is part of EVS-II, an enhanced vision system that also includes synthetic vision that appears on the PFD and the HUD, as well as the Runway Awareness and Advisory System. The EVS and RAAS, as they are called, can overlay terrain, weather, and, just as importantly, the approach path in bad weather. The H650, however, is still only certified for CAT I approaches.
There is a FLIR - Forward Looking Infra-Red camera which feeds the HUD to overlay obstacles in real-time even when they are obscured by precipitation or mist.
When coupled to the autopilot, the TCAS will plot a solution for traffic collision avoidance and maneuver the aircraft out of harm’s way. I have not personally had any experience of this in real life but have seen what it’s like in the sim.
A pair of Rolls-Royce BR725A1-12 turbofan engines power the G650. These generate a take-off thrust of 33,800 lb f during take-off. The BR725A1-12 engines are manufactured in Germany specifically for use in the G650 and a number of other ultra-long-range jets.
Part of the high thrust-low nose-low consumption trifecta of requirements the G650 had in the design stage was made possible by the 50-in swept fan design employed in the Rolls Royce engine. The twenty-four blades made of titanium enhance better flow resulting in better noise levels as well as reduced emissions.
Even with Vref at 118 KIAS and an approach speed of 123 KIAS, landing distances are not as long as you would think. And this is primarily because of the reverse thrusters that do most of the heaving lifting with it comes to deceleration.
Additionally, the braking with the automatic anti-lock brakes on the G650 also dissipates a lot of the approach energy, and together they usually get us off the first turn-off.
The G650 may not be the fastest plane on the planet, but sure seems like it when you’re in one. Maxing out at M 0.92, you can tell that there is more than the engine could give if you needed it, but with every parameter being logged and analyzed by the maintenance department, we never intentionally go past MMO.
With the autothrottle and flight on autopilot engaged below 10,000 feet, the flight computers manage everything for us so there has never been a time we have busted speeds or gone past MMO.
To fly transatlantic, we typically set the flight for M0.9 and that gets us there pretty quickly with a considerable amount of fuel saved compared to flying it at 0.92.
On transatlantic flights, which we typically fly from Teterboro to Le Bourget, which is about 4000 nautical miles, we burn 16,000 pounds of fuel flying at Mach 0.85. That’s a sweet spot when flying east in the winter and flying at or above FL450.
Typically fuel burn is about 480 gallons per hour or 3100 pounds per hour at FL450. The first hour includes launch and second stage climb, and ascent to altitude which happens in just over 22 minutes will consume 800 gallons, making the first-hour fuel burn approximately 1100 gallons for the first hour.
Thereafter, the higher you fly the better you are in the G650/ Especially with the lower cabin pressure there is no reason not to take advantage of the lower fuel burn and almost-guaranteed “direct destination” clearance that you won’t typically get while you're messing around at FL350.
A brand new G540 averages $65 million for one that just rolled off the factory floor. At least that’s what the office in Savannah is selling them for. But that’s not the true cost of acquiring a G650. At least not while there is still a three-year wait for one.
The G650 has turned aviation economics on its head as there are more buyers who want the aircraft right away than there are those willing to let go of one.
With those kinds of supply and demand environments, it's no wonder that a used G650 can actually cost more than a zero TT unregistered one.
There is also another way to get a brand new aircraft and that is to make an offer to someone who is about to take delivery of theirs, and make them an offer they can't refuse. That’s what’s been happening in the market and there are some truly exorbitant prices that are being transacted for the 650 and its long-legged sibling, the G650ER.
Fixed annual costs for the G650 average about $1.2 million a year. Its Direct Operating Cost, assuming fuel to be $7.50 per gallon works out to be $2.8 million per year. This is assuming 450 hours flown per year which is $8,888 per hour.
A good option for getting a G650 right away without paying a premium is to choose one that is slightly older. There are 208 G650s as of the end of the third quarter of 2022 currently in operation. Less than 15% are on the secondary market
A 2014 G650 should have, on average, a Total Time of about 3,000 hours and about 900 landing cycles. Under these conditions, and seated for 13 passengers, the galley and a private crew rest area, the average asking price would be $51 million.
A G650 from 2015 can be found between $52 and $54 million. Most of these aircraft unlike the lighter jets will have average airframe TT but low cycles since they are typically used for the long haul.
A similarly configured 2016 model, by comparison, with just under 2,300 hours on the airframe averages $55.5 million.
The price jumps once you start looking into 2018 models and later. 12-passenger, low-time models, climbed to $60 million. This is primarily due to time on the airframe and engines for models beginning in 2018 and 2019.
Price for the G650 will come under a little pressure beginning in 2023 as those with older G650s begin to upgrade to the comparable G800 which begins delivery by the end of the first quarter.
Considering that the G650s are predominantly professionally managed and mostly have service program contracts that transfer to new buyers this will result in a fairly large saving for those looking to get into a transatlantic aircraft.
It’s always a good idea to get a 2013-2017 model and then have the interior refurbished and the avionics upgraded where necessary. Especially for those who have never owned a G before, stepping into a G650, refurbishing it, then stepping up into the next offering - perhaps a G900 that Savannah will come up with in the future.
About THE AUTHOR
After spending years watching every video I could find about flying, I finally scratched the itch and got my pilots license. Now I fly every chance I get, and share the information I learn, here.Read More About Joe Haygood