Speaking today at the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition in Geneva, Gulfstream President Larry Flynn said the company has enjoyed a strong beginning to the year as it delivers more aircraft, expands facilities worldwide and prepares for the entry-into-service of two new aircraft.
“We are aggressively adding people, parts and buildings all over the world to make sure we fulfill our commitment to customers to provide the best service in the industry,” Flynn said. “We added more than 1,300 employees in 2011 and have already added 700 this year.”
He noted that the company is in the midst of a $500 million expansion that will add production, product support and engineering capacity at its Savannah campus. The building effort follows on the heels of a $400 million expansion concluded in 2010.
Flynn also noted that a new service facility in Luton, England, doubled capacity in the important London area. The Luton facility services more than 1,000 Gulfstream aircraft a year from all corners of the world. Gulfstream also announced late last year a joint venture in China to build the first factory service center by a business-jet manufacturer.
That facility, Gulfstream Beijing, is a joint venture with Chinese charter and management firm Deerjet and the Grand China Aviation Technik maintenance organization. It will be headed by veteran Gulfstream product support executive, Mr. Kay Ardalan, who is already on-site in Beijing. Gulfstream expects the facility to open this year.
Gulfstream also announced late last year a planned doubling in size of its Northeast U.S. factory service center in Westfield, Mass. A new building will be built there to support G650s stationed in or passing through the area.
Commenting on regional markets, Flynn said, “Economies are waxing and waning globally, and we are keeping a close eye on markets around the world, whereas a decade ago we were mainly focused on North America. The key trend of recent months has been the return of the U.S. Fortune 500 to the market.
“Leading publicly traded companies are buying new airplanes as business confidence rises in the U.S. These are the sorts of long-time business aircraft users that are disciplined at refreshing their fleets at regular intervals. This bodes well for the industry as a whole and we hope to see the trend continue and strengthen.”
In the first quarter of 2012, Gulfstream’s sales were 60 percent North American and 40 percent international, basically a reversal of the previous year’s pattern.
“We see pockets of opportunity in the European market, more so in Northern Europe. Russia remains a key market. Turkey is a robust economy with a growing need for business aviation.”
Flynn also commented on new aircraft programs. “We are close now to the goal line for the G650 and G280. We expect both to earn full Federal Aviation Administration certification around mid-year, with entry-into-service to follow shortly thereafter. These aircraft will be in customer hands and visiting airports around the world this year.
“We could not be more pleased at the performance we are seeing from these two aircraft. Customers are simply going to be delighted. Nothing in business aviation offers the performance and capability of the G650, with the ability to dash across oceans at Mach 0.90. The G280 flies farther than we promised, with a range of 3,600 nautical miles (6,667 km), which is very useful for connecting key international city pairs. It uses less runway. It’s the leader in its category in every performance metric.
“So we are excited about the future at Gulfstream. We’re very upbeat. The greatest challenge we face is economic risk as regional economies fluctuate. We are addressing this by focusing on all markets around the world, and by consistent investment in new technology and in our expanding footprint regardless of macroeconomic factors. We’re grateful to have a strong parent company, General Dynamics, that allows us to plan and invest for the long-term.”