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New Gulfstream G650 Crosses the Country at Mach .91

By Mac McClellan, EAA Editor-at-Large

G650
The new Gulfstream G650 that will be the fastest civilian jet when it is certified later this year dashed across the country at speeds ranging from Mach .91 to .92 on February 8, 2011.

February 10, 2011 — The new Gulfstream G650 that will be the fastest civilian jet when it is certified later this year dashed across the country at speeds ranging from Mach .91 to .92 on February 8. At a cruise altitude of 43,000 feet, that Mach number is faster than 525 knots true airspeed. Average groundspeed for the flight was faster than 550 knots.

The G650, the fourth one built and one of five in the flight test program, departed from Burbank, California, with a crew of 10 pilots and engineers and covered the more than 1,900 nautical miles to Savannah, Georgia, in three hours and 26 minutes. The highest ground speed on the trip was 660 knots.

No speed record for the flight has been announced, but it’s impossible to imagine what civilian airplane could have come close to such speed. The G650 climbed at Mach .85, which is faster than all but a handful of business jets or airliners can cruise at. And only the Citation X can fly faster than Mach .90, but it doesn’t have the endurance to maintain that speed across the country.

Equally impressive is that the G650 needed only 4,500 feet of runway for a required balanced field takeoff. A balanced field means there is enough runway for the takeoff to continue safely if an engine fails at the worst possible moment.

The maximum speed certification goal for the G650 is Mach .925 and at points during the cross-country flight the airplane touched that speed. During the high speed dive testing  for certification that the G650 completed last year, the airplane had to perform beyond the Mach .925 operating limit and came very close to Mach 1 to satisfy the FAA requirements.

The G650 has already flown 5,000 nautical miles nonstop at Mach .90 in a test flight, and it is believed only a missile has flown that fast for that distance. If the airplane slows down to Mach .85 - a true airspeed of 488 knots - it can fly 7,000 nautical miles with complete IFR reserve fuel.

Gulfstream is on track to certify the G650 later this year with the first airplanes entering service early in 2012.

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