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"Each generation has improved upon its predecessor" – An interview with the president of Gulfstream Aerospace

Mark Burns, president of Gulfstream, explains why the brand has become a go-to for so many private jet buyers all over the world

If you ask many people to name a brand of private jet, Gulfstream will usually be the first to come to mind. How has the brand managed this?

Gulfstream has a long heritage of customer-centricity and performance excellence. Since the Gulfstream GI was delivered in 1958, our company has established a tradition of delivering on our promises – doing what we say we will do, when we say we will do it. Our goal in doing that is also to exceed customer expectations. Those have been foundational elements of our business throughout the past 60 years, and is part and parcel of how we operate.

In addition to our commitments to our customers and our core value of integrity, Gulfstream employees have helped maintain our brand standard for unparalleled excellence. We have always had the best employees in the business who take great pride in creating the highest-performing business jets and ensuring customers are the focus of what we do every day. We all understand that every detail matters.

And what are the plans to keep it ahead of the competition?

Since 2008, we have announced five all-new aircraft, the Gulfstream G280, G650, G650ER, G500 and G600. We delivered three of those aircraft into service: G280, G650 and G650ER [pictured above], and are prepared to do the same with the Gulfstream G500 and G600. To date, the G280 has flown more than 100,000 flight hours, and we have delivered more than 300 G650 and G650ER aircraft combined.

Our new G500 and G600 were announced in 2014 and are on track for entry into service this year and next year, respectively.

In addition to delivering on our promises, we exceeded them too. The G280 came onto the market with more capabilities than first projected, and the G650ER is an example of how Gulfstream engineers continue to pursue continuous improvement. Last fall, we announced extended range for the G500 and G600, which was also a result of findings discovered through the rigorous flight-test program.

Gulfstream is the first business jet company to establish our own dedicated supply of renewable fuel

What’s been the most exciting launch of the last 12 months?

In the past 12 months, we have completed several milestones to bring us closer to certification – and ultimately delivery – of our newest aircraft, the all-new G500 and G600. In fact, serving as a true testament to the maturity of our new aircraft, we recently completed a six-month-long, 100,000-nautical mile world tour featuring the G500.

During the past 12 months, we also delivered the 300th G650, which reallyis a special milestone for us.

We have also launched several programs and facilities to enhance our customers’ support experience. In fact, we recently renamed Gulfstream Product Support to Gulfstream Customer Support to bring this message home. We established Gulfstream Aircraft Ownership Service to streamline the operation of business jets. Our customers can now choose from a tailored suite of services we can provide, from technical support to hangar space.

We also launched a new centre dedicated to resolving challenging service situations. A team of cross-functional technical experts, as well as logistics, materials and purchasing personnel, work in concert to return our customers and their aircraft to service more quickly and efficiently, 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Mark Burns

And what are you particularly looking forward to in the next year?

The all-new Symmetry Flight Deck, available on the G500 and G600, incorporates two major industry firsts and advanced safety enhancements: active control sidesticks (ACS) and touch screens. The G500 and G600 are the first business jets to incorporate ACS. The ACS ensures that any movement in the control stick made by the flying pilot or autopilot can be seen and felt by the non-flying pilot through the side stick on the opposite side of the flight deck. This greatly improves situational awareness and coordination between crew members. The ACS also frees up room in front of the pilots, enhancing ease of movement in the flight deck.

The Symmetry Flight Deck also incorporates ten touch-screen control panels, the most extensive use of touch screens in business aircraft. The touch screens have greatly reduced the number of switches required in the flight deck, making it easier and more intuitive for pilots to interface with the aircraft systems.

Each customer has distinct and unique preferences when it comes to the design of their aircraft

How do you plan to make private jet flight more eco-friendly?

I’m proud to say that Gulfstream has long been a leader in designing and developing sustainable and emission-reducing programs – not only for our aircraft, but for our facilities and manufacturing processes.

We were the first business jet company to establish our own dedicated supply of renewable fuel, which we use on our customer support (our Field and Airborne Support Team or FAST) aircraft and corporate flight operations out of Savannah. Just recently, we flew two aircraft, a G550 and a G600, from Savannah to Geneva on renewable fuel. We continue to assess opportunities to expand upon sustainability when it comes to our aircraft, facilities and operations around the globe.

As for our facilities and manufacturing, our employees around the globe work together to develop and implement best practices that allow us to become more efficient, effective and sustainable in everything we do. For example, joining many of our already-established green facilities, we just switched our Dallas facility to 100% renewable power. These efforts alone have netted significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

What tends to keep your R&D department most busy?

A commitment to developing customer-focused products, technologies and services is in our DNA. This singular focus is the result of a core belief that investing in technology and investing in the customer experience should remain at the forefront. This alone keeps our R&D team very busy.

Without naming names, what are some of the most extravagant requests you’ve had in the customisation process – for both interior and exteriors?

Our customers are quite diverse. Each one of them has distinct and unique preferences when it comes to the design of their aircraft. And, given our aircraft are highly customisable, we are happy to accommodate – as long as the design can be certified.

Hip-hop artists seem to enjoy name-dropping Gulfstream almost as much as champagne brands. Do you welcome that kind of attention?

It’s flattering to know that the capabilities and performance of our aircraft have made them the go-to brand when people reference or talk about business jets. The high-speed capabilities of our aircraft, their reliability, and their signature oval windows combine to create an experience that is second to none. As such, it’s not surprising that Gulfstream has become a cultural icon.

What’s your favourite from the fleet?

When I started my career at Gulfstream more than 30 years ago, I was a computer-aided-design (CAD) engineer on the GIV program. That aircraft has a special place in my heart, but what I love most is how each subsequent Gulfstream generation has improved upon its predecessor.

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