Falls Church, Va.-based defense contractor General Dynamics recently won approval from federal regulators to produce and sell its newest private business jet, the Gulfstream G600, paving the way for initial deliveries by the end of the year.
The approval marks the Federal Aviation Administration’s first full certification of a new commercial jet since controversy over the Boeing 737 Max called the agency’s certification practices into question. An FAA spokesman said the G600 review “complied with all current certification regulations and requirements,” and also noted there are “multiple ongoing internal and external reviews” of the FAA’s certification process.
General Dynamics executives said the plane’s test program included almost 100,000 hours of lab-based flight time and 3,200 hours of flying in the air.
“These rigorous and thorough certification processes ensure we deliver a first-rate aircraft that exceeds expectations,” Mark Burns, president of General Dynamics’ Gulfstream subsidiary said in a statement. “Even more remarkable is the fact that we achieved these simultaneous certifications less than a year after completing another major program, certifying and delivering the Gulfstream G500, another testament to the engineering expertise and manufacturing excellence that are hallmarks of Gulfstream.”
The G600 is designed to fly faster and farther than earlier Gulfstream models, something the company hopes could in some cases eliminate the need for a second crew on long-haul flights. It is designed to be more fuel-efficient than previous models.
It is important to the company’s broader aerospace ambitions. While General Dynamics once manufactured military jets including the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the company’s military product lines now primarily churn out hardware for land and sea. The company bought Georgia-based Gulfstream jet manufacturer in 1999 and today it is the backbone of the company’s aerospace business unit.
Revenue for the company’s aerospace business jumped 23 percent in the company’s most recent quarter, landing the business segment at $2.24 billion in revenue for the quarter. Gulfstream deliveries from the most recent quarter rose to 34 units from 26 a year earlier, the company reported in late April. It is the only portion of the business that doesn’t come from government contracts.
General Dynamics CEO Phebe Novakovic said recently in a call with investors that the G600 should have higher profit margins than earlier plane models because of its similarity to the G500, which was certified a year ago.
In response to an analyst’s question, she said 20 percent margins on the plane are “achievable.”
“Margins are going to increase nicely . . . on a going-forward basis,” Novakovic said in a May 30 call with investors.
About two-thirds of Gulfstream’s global customers are corporations, which use the private jets to ferry executives around the world. The other third are wealthy individuals, Novakovic said in a recent call with investors.
While the company has not released figures regarding its order backlog, executives have said the G600 and the G500 model have a combined order backlog of more than 100 aircraft.
The company has said its first delivery order is expected by the end of the year.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Gulfstream is based in Florida. It is based in Savannah, Ga.