Gulfstream is angling to reclaim bragging rights as builder of the world's biggest private jet.
The planemaker unveiled plans to make a roomier version of its flagship G650, which was unseated last year as the largest luxury jet by Bombardier Inc.'s Global 7500. Gulfstream's new G700, with an expected debut in 2022, will be capable of flying 7,500 nautical miles and cruising at just under the speed of sound.
The G700 has "the tallest, widest, longest cabin in our industry," Gulfstream President Mark Burns said at a private-jet conference late Monday in Las Vegas.
Gulfstream, a unit of General Dynamics Corp., is betting that the $76 million G700 will entice the world's wealthiest flyers with the bigger cabin and a longer range. The launch customer is Qatar Airways, which has ordered 10 aircraft for its charter service Qatar Executive.
"We've actually had several other orders that we've taken already," Burns said in an interview Tuesday. "My phone's been blowing up overnight with people asking about what available positions we have."
The initial reaction suggests robust demand for the G700, but Gulfstream will still have to contend with mounting unease among buyers in the luxury-jet market. A slowdown in orders could cause deliveries to begin flagging in 2021, according to a study by Honeywell International Inc. While an array of new aircraft models is expected to boost shipments this year and next, longer-term threats are emerging from the U.S.-China trade war, the U.K.'s looming break from the European Union, and a shaky global economy.
Bombardier began deliveries of the Global 7500 in December, spurring speculation that Gulfstream would strike back with a larger plane. Bombardier's jet, which came to market two years later than planned, was based on a new design.
"Global 7500 is the industry flagship. It's a clean sheet design, built to perform like no other," said David Coleal, president of Bombardier's aviation unit. "Remember, anything else out there is just a stretch."
The Bombardier plane has a range of 7,700 nautical miles and can fly as fast as Mach 0.925, or just less than the speed of sound. The $73 million aircraft has a wingspan of 104 feet, and its 111-foot length gives it room for four distinct seating zones.
The new plane is based on the fuselage of the G650 but 10 feet longer. More modern manufacturing techniques have reduced the space needed for wiring, which allows the inside cabin to have more room than the G650, Burns said.
The backlog for the G700 is expected to fill up quickly, Burns said, pushing deliveries for new orders out to 2025 and perhaps beyond. That will keep demand strong for the G650, which has a wait time from order to delivery of about a year.
"It really helps G650 more than it harms it," Burns said.
Gulfstream waited to announce its latest plane until it delivered two new, smaller jets -- the G500 and G600. The G600 began shipments to customers in June and the G500 debuted about a year earlier. The models were introduced in 2014. The G650 debuted in 2012.
The company has already built four test G700s, a structural test plane as well as a G700 that will have a completed interior to show clients. The first flight of the plane will be "soon," Burns said.
General Dynamics climbed 2.5% to $179.88 at the close in New York. Bombardier fell 1.2% to C$1.62 in Toronto.
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