Gulfstream G650 nears speed of sound, earns title of fastest civilian jet

Courtesy of Gulfstream

The Gulfstream G650 neared the speed of sound in flutter testing this week, hitting Mach 0.995, and established itself as the fastest civilian aircraft on the planet.

In achieving the speed, test pilots Tom Horne and Gary Freeman, joined by flight test engineer Bill Osborne, took the aircraft into a dive where the nose of the aircraft pitched 16 to 18 degrees below the horizon, Gulfstream said in a statement.

Flutter designers applied a range of vibration frequencies during the dive on the tail, wing and flight-control surfaces to make sure the plane could naturally dampen them without further action from the pilots. The company said the aircraft performed “flawlessly” during the test. [more]

A photo of the three-member test crew on the Gulfstream web site this week showed each of them beaming smiles and  flashing thumbs-up gestures. 

Since the G650 flight-testing program began in November 2009, four airplanes have completed 575 hours in more than 170 flights. The entire testing phase will span 1,800 hours.  

“The airplane is very predictable,” Horne said. He is the senior experimental test pilot for Gulfstream. “It’s very easy to control and to get precise control at those speeds. The airplane response has matched the expectations of our engineers, and we’ve been able to easily fly the test conditions and march through the test plan.”

The ultra-large cabin, ultra-high speed G650 will carry eight passengers and a four-person crew on 7,000 nautical-mile legs at Mach 0.85. The company says it can cover 5,000 nautical miles at Mach 0.90.

Various floor plans can accommodate up to 18 people, according to the company web site, which dubs the G650 “the fastest, widest, longest business jet”

Technological features built into the aircraft will include a Planeview II avionics suite, featuring a Triplex flight management system, 3-D weather radar, automatic emergency descent mode, Head-Up Display (HUD) II and Enhanced Vision System (EVS) II, among other features.