Aircraft Review: Lunch over Savannah
Before boarding the G600 for our grouper in the sky, we took a tour of the factory – or, I should perhaps say, factories. These buildings dwarf the surrounding landscape. They are big in a way that’s hard to describe. They are also clean and quiet, considering the great aircraft being built on the premises. Each station is compartmentalised and purpose-built for maximum efficiency. Every employee we met appeared to be staring at their task in deep concentration but took the time to answer our questions.
Just as important to the manufacturing of the aircraft is the support provided and Gulfstream has dedicated considerable resources to ensuring its clients get where they need to go.
There are almost 5000 Gulfstream employees working in customer support, 11 company-owned service centres and eight factory-authorised facilities at Jet Aviation locations along with 14 authorised warranty centres. There are Field and Airborne Support Teams (FAST) with two G150 aircraft and numerous specially equipped trucks ready to go at a moment’s notice. We visited the team’s nerve centre in Savannah, where specialists were solving client’s issues all over the world. There is even a representative of the shipping company Gulfstream uses on location for better-integrated support. In a testament to the company’s commitment to customers, it became the first manufacturer to open a service centre in Beijing, and today a team of 50 employees attend to the local fleet and aircraft flying through the region.
Grouper in the sky
Once the tours were over, it was time to go flying. I admit I was little sad when I was told the day’s events did not include piloting the G600 but I have already flown the G500 and was bowled-over by it. It is, simply put, the best aircraft Gulfstream has ever built and this is from a field of superlative machines built over six decades. Most aircraft manufacturers tend to exaggerate performance. Gulfstream not only met the new breed’s performance specifications-it exceeded them by a wide margin. I loved flying the G500 and can’t wait to get my hands on the new G600.
Entering the G600 was an eye-opening experience. The cabin exudes calm and luxury. Imagine a very high-end luxury boutique hotel room with soothing music emanating from hidden speakers. The firm, yet comfortable leather chairs envelop you and mould themselves around you the way a well-designed car seat does. The stitching is flawless, and the leather has just the right sheen. The carpet is the best combination of comfort and plushness without feeling like you are walking on soft sand. The stowed tables are built just right, sliding out and back with military precision without emitting so much as a squeak. The veneers reflect light just enough to remind you they were buffed to a shine for hours by Gulfstream’s skilled artisans.
“I admit I should have timed the climb, but I was having too good a time to divert my attention from anything not associated with extreme fun.”
We strapped ourselves in and watched the pilots prepare the all-new Symmetry Flight Deck for flight. Even from my vantage point, I could see the absence of a yoke, which was replaced by active control side-sticks on both the G500 and G600. Thanks to phase-of-flight technology, we were ready and cleared for taxiing in record time. Once lined up, we accelerated and were airborne in seconds. Climb was steep, and we were at cruise altitude in what felt like a mere few minutes. I admit I should have timed the climb, but I was having too good a time to divert my attention from anything not associated with extreme fun.
Cabin with a view: The G600’s 14 large panoramic windows flood the space with natural light for an increased sense of spaciousness.
Best restaurant views
The cabin is noticeably wider than a classic Gulfstream’s cabin but it’s eerily silent. It was quiet enough for us to converse across the aisle or between living areas without raising our voices once. I felt it was quieter than the average home background noise. Climbs and descents don’t appear to change the cabin’s ambient noise.
The galley upfront is perfectly designed to maximize space and the smells wafting back from there were beginning to stir our attention. My grouper plate – the second course in a three-course menu – emerged from the kitchen perfectly cooked, moist and flavourful. Entrees are easy enough to make thanks to a modern appliance stack featuring a convection oven and microwave, as well as a coffee machine and espresso maker (either one of which can be swapped for a tea kettle).
The whole experience bordered on the surreal as looking out the window I was reminded this ‘restaurant’s’ view – the marshlands surrounding Savannah – surpassed anything I had ever experienced. Our descent was followed by a smooth touchdown thanks to our experienced crew, no doubt assisted by the trailing link gear.
A twinge of regret
Taxiing back to the ramp I couldn’t but feel a twinge of regret that our flight was over. It’s not every day you want to stay and linger in an aircraft after a flight, but that’s exactly what I felt. Engine shutdown didn’t significantly alter the experience, and only the door opening jolted us back to reality. I can’t wait to fly the G600 but until then I can say I’m already a fan. I am willingly swilling the Kool-Aid and I don’t mind asking for seconds. Never has the saying “this thing will fly off the shelves” been so true.