Jet, Set, Go! Gulfstream G550


“The G550 can beat a commercial jet to a destination in half the amount of time because of no waiting to board, no connecting flights, and no waiting for luggage.”

Performance. Luxury. 50,000 feet.

No, this is not some game of “which of the following doesn’t belong.” At least, not in this case. That is because there is one company that is synonymous with all of the above: Gulfstream. With esteemed clientele that includes government agencies (including the Israeli Air Force and various factions of the United States military), professional athletes (including golf legend Greg Norman), and Hollywood stars and starlets (take your pick-Gulfstream is the silver screen jet of choice), Gulfstream has been given the stamp of approval for years by some of the world’s most discerning jet-setters. With such lofty accomplishments, it would be hard to imagine Gulfstream outdoing its own already impressive fleet of jets.

It appears you can leave the imagining up to Gulfstream. Gulfstream’s G550 business jet provides a one-of-a-kind experience that has taken years to perfect-a variant on the Gulfstream V, which was first introduced in 1998 after a maiden flight in 1995. Produced in Savannah, Georgia, by General Dynamics Gulfstream Aerospace unit, the G550 is more than just an aircraft.

“The G550 is a safe, reliable, dependable office in the sky,” says Robert Baugniet, Gulfstream’s senior manager, corporate communications. “The luggage is always there with you, you can use your laptop at 50,000 feet, with the ability to use a telephone or satellite communication throughout the duration of the flight. The G550 features a satellite, fax, and an in-flight entertainment system, which can be used for entertainment, or for a business presentation. The windows are twice the size of typical commercial jet windows.”

The G550 was introduced in 2003 with a range of 6,750 nautical miles as the result of a more aerodynamic design. Baugniet says, “You can literally travel anywhere in the world on one stop. You fly at 45,000 feet, above the madding crowds. You can land at airports where commercial jets can’t.” The longest business-range jet in the world, the Gulfstream G550 can hold up to 19 passengers, which helps explain why 80 percent of all G550 sales are made to multinational corporations (15 percent are governments and government agencies, and five percent are high net-worth individuals.) The cabin’s dimensions are spacious, including a 6-foot-2-inch cabin height and more than 50 feet of cabin length-dimensions that make you feel less like you’re in a jet and more like you’re sitting at home or in the office. What’s more, Gulfstream technology offers a variety of benefits for its passengers that would otherwise be swept under the rug in commercial transport.

Whereas a commercial airliner jet is pressurized at 8,000 feet, “the cabin [of a G550] is pressurized at 6,000 feet, so you leave the jet feeling relaxed and refreshed,” Baugniet says. “If you travel commercially, you have a one in five chance of catching a cold in the week following your flight. But in the Gulfstream G550, the cabin gets fresh air every 90 seconds, as the jet takes fresh air, warms it, sends it into the cabin, and simultaneously sends the old air through the exhaust.”

If the health benefits don’t seem like enough, there is the practicality standpoint; one of the defining aspects of Gulfstream’s goal is producing jets that are versatile enough to adapt to any situation. Noting that there are foldout beds, and that luggage access is unimpeded throughout the duration of the flight, Baugniet notes, “the result is less jet lag, and you save yourself a stack of time. The G550 can beat a commercial jet to a destination in half the amount of time because of no waiting to board, no connecting flights, and no waiting for luggage.”

Baugniet, well-immersed in the tradition of excellence that Gulfstream holds dear, certainly knows his numbers. But it’s his personal experience that truly tells the story.

“Let me give you an example,” he says. “I went to a meeting in Geneva from Savannah, where I am based. I flew one hour backward to Atlanta, then to Paris, then to Geneva. It took 17 hours. On the way back, I had the opportunity to ride one of our G550s, and flew directly from Geneva to Savannah, and I had eaten, slept, and arrived with so much energy that I worked out of the office for another two hours that evening.”

Well, some of that might be attributed to Baugniet’s dedication as an employee. But he’s not kidding when he says that G550s “are time machines. They save you so much time, they reduce stress dramatically.”

That stress reduction might have to wait, however. Even if you do have the $54 million you need to purchase Gulfstream’s flagship model, the wait is four years. Although it will be well worth the wait; make no mistake about that.

“We don’t position the G550 as a luxury item, we position it as a necessary business tool,” Baugniet says. “Do you really want your CEO waiting for a connecting flight at LaGuardia?”