In general aviation, we have become accustomed to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) making a massive marketing blitz over the introduction of a “new” aircraft designed to replace the old one but… once the buyer peels back the onion, the buyer realizes they have the same old aircraft with spiffy new paint, virtually the same performance but now has: (insert small change here) trailing link gear or FADEC or a new avionics suite that was developed 6-8 years earlier and they have just installed it on the “new” aircraft.
Occasionally, the general aviation industry experiences a leap forward in nearly all the attributes important to aircraft buyers. This is a new aircraft that is truly new, with meaningful advances in technology and/or design that allows for category leading performance and comfort without a material change in cost of acquisition or operations, a real game changer. As an example of past game changers that have gone on to dominate their category are aircraft like the Challenger 300 and the Phenom 300.
The Gulfstream 500 (G500) has the potential to be a game changer. The G500 truly has special performance and attributes. Let’s start in the cabin, the G500 is 3% taller, 12% longer and boasts much larger windows, giving it a significantly larger cabin that feels even more spacious than it is with all the natural light. Additionally, the pressurization system will keep the cabin altitude thousands of feet lower than the G450, allowing the passengers to fly more comfortably and arrive much more rested.
Ok, we all know that there are penalties for having a much larger cabin and better pressurization. The fuel burn and speed usually are the trade off…but that is not the case with the G500. Despite that cabin advantages, the G500 springs to 37,000 feet 6% faster and maintains about a 7% overall speed advantage over the G450. Usually with a gain in speed and climb performance the penalty is range and excessive fuel burn, not with the G500, it maintains a 20% advantage in range. OK, so the fuel costs should be higher…right…wrong again, on a 1,000nm trip, the G500 will arrive 4.5% faster and burn 16% less fuel.
It seems clear that the G500 will far out perform the G450 but the price increase will almost certainly be painful. Wrong, the G500 price will be a about 3.5% more than the list price for the G450. Gulfstream has hit the mark with the G500. This time the OEM didn’t make a small improvement and try to charge an extra arm and a leg for it, rather Gulfstream has kept the price reasonably close for an aircraft that is substantially better and is likely lead the category for the upcoming decade.