Since 2003, Gulfstream’s G550 has been the ne-plus-ultra of the private jet world. Conceived as a stretched and more versatile version of its slightly less illustrious sibling, the G450, the G550 has set the standard for all others to strive for.
The technology in the Gulfstream G550 cockpit borders on Star Wars ‘sans weaponry’. It boasts the symbologically-generated Heads-Up Display coupled with an Enhanced Vision System (this basically facilitates forward vision in low light conditions and through water-vapor). An option in the G550 cockpit (icing on the cake you might say) is the Synthetic Vision System……something that you might expect to see from Pixar’s studio. This system recreates the outside world in 3D color relief on a cockpit flatscreen …..(something we could have used whilst “mud-moving” our ground attack fighters in the Royal Air Force a few light years ago).
The Gulfstream G550 is full of nifty little safety features; for example, this jet can cruise at flight level 510 (over eight nautical miles above terra firma). The air is pretty thin up there…..if, what we pilots call a ‘rapid decomp.’ occurs, everyone falls asleep pretty fast…(something like 6 seconds of useful consciousness at that altitude). If something like that happens, the G550 will courteously throttle back, bank over to drop a wing and descend to a level where everyone wakes up and things get somewhat back to normal…..all without the pilots touching as much as one knurled knob…..magic huh ?
The range on this jet is also pretty impressive and when ‘maxed-out’ to thirteen-plus hours, requires additional crew on board. Unlike some in its peer group, the Gulfstream G550 will actually fly the city-pairs ‘as advertised’….Hong Kong to London or Beijing to New York…or even New York to Delhi.
Buying jets of the G550 caliber no longer requires a Google-founder bank balance. Although the new Gulfstream G550’s are up in the low $50MM’s, we’ve just seen the first advertised asking price of a pre-owned G550 down at $29.95MM…..now that’s a lot of ultra-long-range flying rivets for $30MM ! There will more than likely be additional downward pressure on 550 prices because we have seen a sizable uptick in G550 inventory over the past six months….around twenty available at present.
Gulfstream has ‘hedged its bets’ when asked if the 550 will be produced alongside the new G650….the probable answer is that it may survive in production if the price point can be kept at a significant ‘delta’ to the G650 price (circa $70MM in 2017 dollars for the next readily available G650 from Gulfstream). Gulfstream is also offering G650 interior outfitting in future G550’s…..something that may be attractive if the ‘value-added’ is recognized by buyers.
Otherwise, it will be “move over G550”…..the G650 will assume the ‘mantle of magnificence’ this year and nothing in the wings (excuse the pun) from any other manufacturer will match it.