Gulfstream Aerospace Corp.
The company that evolved into Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. started in the late 1950s when Grumman Aircraft Engineering Co., a company known for military aircraft production, developed a marketable business aircraft at its manufacturing facilities in Bethpage, N.Y. Dubbed the Gulfstream I (GI), the turbo-prop aircraft was named after the Gulf Stream, the current that flows along the coast of Florida, which was a favored vacationing spot for Grumman executives. The GI could sit 12 passengers comfortably, had a maximum speed of 350 mph at 25,000 feet and a range of 2,200 miles. The newly developed aircraft, the first of its kind designed specifically for business travel, was a success in the business world, prompting Grumman to develop a jet-powered corporate aircraft called the Gulfstream II or GII.
At the start of the GII program, Grumman officials separated the company's civil and military aircraft production to improve efficiency. In 1966, they relocated the civilian component to Savannah, Ga. There they found the needed supply of skilled labor, an established airfield adjacent to the plant site and sufficient acreage for expansion. Transportation facilities suitable for heavy equipment and machinery and weather favorable to year-round flight-testing and flight-training operations further enhanced Savannah's appeal. The new building in Chatham County opened in June 1967 and was officially dedicated on Sept. 29, 1967. It housed production and flight testing for the GII. The 100-person work force that built the GII was 90 percent local and grew to more than 1,700 within a few years.
In 1972, Grumman merged with light-aircraft manufacturer American Aviation Corp. The 256th and final GII delivery took place in 1977. One year later, the Gulfstream line and the Savannah plant were sold to American Jet Industries, which was headed by little-known aviation entrepreneur Allen Paulson. Paulson became the president and CEO of the company, renaming it Gulfstream America. He made a priority of developing the Gulfstream III, a new aircraft designed to achieve greater range and speed than the GII. The GIII made its first flight in December 1979, with the first delivery of the aircraft occurring in 1980. It was the first business jet to fly over both poles.
In 1981, Gulfstream introduced the Gulfstream GIIB. The GIIB had a modified GII fuselage and the GIII wings, complete with winglets. The variant offered weight and performance characteristics similar to the GIII, but with the shorter GII fuselage. Gulfstream completed and delivered approximately 40 GIIBs. Under Paulson's leadership, the Savannah work force grew to 2,500 employees by the spring of 1982. Also in this year, the company's name changed to Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. to reflect its worldwide scope, and a new plane, the Gulfstream IV, was conceived. The following year, Gulfstream offered a total of 8.8 million shares of its stock to the public.
In 1985, Chrysler Corp. acquired Gulfstream as a part of the automaker's plan to diversify and move into high-tech industries. This was also the year that Gulfstream first appeared on the Fortune 500 list, at No. 417. Two years later, the 200th and last Gulfstream III produced was delivered, and the first delivery of a Gulfstream IV took place. The GIV was the first jet in business aviation to have an all-glass cockpit.
In 1989, when Chrysler decided to sell Gulfstream, Paulson teamed up with Forstmann Little & Co. - a private equity firm specializing in leveraged buyouts - and bought Gulfstream. The decade that followed the 1989 repurchase was a time of significant advancements for Gulfstream. The company signed a five-year contract with NetJets in 1994. It completed the Gulfstream V Integration Test Facility and rolled out the GV - the first ultra-long range business jet - in 1995. The opening of a $16 million Savannah service center with 136,000 square feet of hangar space followed in 1996. In 1997, Gulfstream began the simultaneous manufacture of two different aircraft models - the GIV-SP and the GV. Within a few months of the GV's first delivery in June 1997, it set nearly 40 city-pair and/or speed and distance records, and its industry team was awarded the 1997 Robert J. Collier Trophy, the highest honor in aeronautics or astronautics in North America.
At the end of the 1990s, General Dynamics, a giant in the defense industry, purchased Gulfstream. The company focused on enhancing product performance and lowering costs. It opened a $5.5 million aircraft refurbishment and completions support facility in Savannah in 2000. In 2001, it acquired Galaxy Aerospace and with it, the mid-size Astra SPX and super mid-size Galaxy, which were later rebranded the G100 and G200, respectively. Also in 2001, Gulfstream purchased four U.S. maintenance facilities in Dallas; Las Vegas; Minneapolis; and West Palm Beach, Fla. Those service centers, along with a Gulfstream facility in Westfield, Mass., formed General Dynamics Aviation Services, which maintains and repairs Gulfstream and other business-jet aircraft.
In 2002, Gulfstream renamed its products, using Arabic numerals instead of Roman numerals to differentiate its aircraft. At the time, the company's heavy-hitting lineup included the ultra long-range G550 and G500, the long-range G400, the mid-range G300 and G200, and the high-speed G100. 2002 was also the year that Gulfstream introduced its Airborne Product Support aircraft, a specially equipped G100. It is used to deliver parts and provide any-time service to Gulfstream customers in North America and the Caribbean who are operating aircraft under warranty. In 2003, Gulfstream acquired a service center at the London-Luton Airport, the first Gulfstream-owned service center to be operated outside the United States. Also, in 2003, the long-range G450 was introduced, and the large-cabin, mid-range G350 was presented a year later. In 2004, Gulfstream was awarded the 2003 Collier Trophy for the development of the G550. It was the second time in less than a decade that Gulfstream had won the award. The G550 is the first civil aircraft to receive a Type Certificate issued by the FAA that includes an Enhanced Vision System (EVS) as standard equipment on an aircraft. The aircraft also contained the first cockpit to incorporate PlaneView«, an integrated avionics suite featuring four 14-inch liquid crystal displays in landscape format.
In 2005, Gulfstream became the first business-jet manufacturer to offer an in-flight, ultra-high-speed Internet connection - its Broad Band Multi-Link (BBML) system. Gulfstream was also the first to design and develop a means of reducing the sonic boom caused by an aircraft "breaking" the sound barrier - the Quiet Spike. The Quiet Spike is a telescopic nose device that softens the effect of the sonic boom by smoothing the pressure wave created by flying at the speed of sound.
In 2006, the 22-year production run of the G100 ended and the G150 entered service to take its place. The G150 was the first business jet to be certified by the FAA for Stage 4, the industry's most stringent noise standards. Also in 2006, Gulfstream announced plans to expand its manufacturing and service facilities in Savannah. The seven-year, $400 million Long-Range Facilities Master Plan included the creation of a new 624,588-square-foot service center, an independent fuel farm, a 42,600-square-foot, state-of-the-art paint hangar and the addition of a new Sales and Design Center. As a result of the expansion, employment at the facility was expected to grow by some 1,100 jobs. To meet the immediate need for engineering office space, Gulfstream opened a Research and Development Center (RDC). The RDC accommodates approximately 750 technical and engineering employees.
The year 2007 also saw its share of major breakthroughs. In April, Gulfstream broke ground for a new business-jet manufacturing building at its headquarters in Savannah. The following month, the company signed a nine-year lease with North Point Real Estate for a second Research and Development Center. The RDC II consists of an office building, which can accommodate some 550 employees, and a Laboratory Building, which is designed for 150 employees and test equipment used in Gulfstream's research and development efforts. Gulfstream completed the new Sales and Design Center addition in June and officially opened the first phase of the new Savannah Service Center in August. In 2007, Gulfstream also tested its Synthetic Vision-Primary Flight Display (SV-PFD) and EVS II together for the first time. The SV-PFD is a dramatic enhancement to the Gulfstream PlaneView flight displays. It features a three-dimensional color image of terrain overlaid with the primary flight display instrument symbology, which are arranged on the screen to create a large-view area for terrain. By early 2008, the FAA had certified both EVS II and SV-PFD.
Gulfstream puts as much effort into maintaining its aircraft as it does into manufacturing them. Toward that end, Gulfstream and General Dynamics Aviation Services each own and operate six service centers for a total of 12 worldwide. "Aviation International News" named Gulfstream Product Support the best in the industry for each of the past five years. Gulfstream was also named No. 1 in product support for eight of the past 10 years by "Professional Pilot" magazine's Corporate Aircraft Product Support Survey.
Today, Gulfstream employs more than 9,700 people at seven major locations: Savannah, Ga.; Appleton, Wis.; Dallas; Long Beach, Calif.; Brunswick, Ga.; London, England and Mexicali, Mexico.
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