The thrill of new technology in a Gulfstream G650

The future of supporting a Next Gen compliant, fly-by-wire aircraft, just became a reality for me. My company will soon be operating a Gulfstream G650 and I had the opportunity to occupy the jump seat in the green aircraft during the relocation flight from the factory to a completion facility. What an eye-opening experience!

Relatively early in my career among other machines, I worked on the Lockheed JetStar (also a product of Georgia) and became very loyal to the program. Back then, the Gulfstream II was known to us unceremoniously as a “GWhiz.”

As we were preparing to get the latest version Gulfstream airborne, flashbacks from the ‘70s wafted through my brain. I remembered the awe-inspiring moment when first entering the JetStar flight deck and the feeling of wonder accompanying the how and why of the switch clusters and then over the years becoming proficient in the use of the cadre of strategically arranged switches, lights, and instruments.

In fact just powering up the old Lockheed was like plugging in a well ornamented Christmas tree. Now being somewhat seasoned in the profession, I honestly believed the thrill was gone and had been contemplating the headaches associated with putting a new model, low serial number aircraft into service. Even the thought of a four and a half hour flight in an interiorless machine and possibly having to use an empty paint can as a means of relief for bodily functions was adding to my skepticism and when the factory provided flight crew arrived, it did my heart good to see they each had some gray hair.

Smart probes

The exterior preflight check revealed numerous points of interest including the four “Smart Probes” that sample air data. I came to learn these devices observe both ram and static pressure and can even deduce angle of attack based on pressure changes at different points of the probe. One notable difference between this Gulfstream and my JetStar is the lack of pneumatic hoses within the pitot and static systems. These probes have integral pressure transducers transmitting digital signals to a processor circuit where all necessary air data computations are made.

Total Air Temperature (TAT) probes on each side of the nose area had some familiarity and provide the onboard processors with an input voltage that corresponds to air temperature. These probes are designed to compensate for the compressibility of air and provide a chamber where a thermistor can sample a static temperature regardless of aircraft speed.

The nose houses weather radar capable of alerting the flight crew to a potential windshear condition. In the predictive wind shear detection mode, the weather radar processor detects the presence of a microburst, a type of vertical wind shear condition by detecting the Doppler frequency shift of the microwave pulses caused by the microburst ahead of the aircraft and displays the area where it is present to the crew through one of the flight deck display units (DU) and is accompanied by an audible alert.

Enhanced vision system

The top of the nose cone is home to an enhanced vision system (EVS) sensor. It has been said that the revolutionary Gulfstream EVS is one of the greatest strides forward in aviation safety since the introduction of the instrument landing system in 1929. EVS, combined with the heads-up display (HUD), delivers a level of situational awareness that pilots in the JetStar days could only dream of.

Inspired by the Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR) technology developed and manufactured through a Kollsman/Gulfstream partnership where Kollsman pushed infrared technology to develop a camera that operates in the shortwave infrared (SWIR) spectrum. This SWIR sensor is specially tuned to the frequency of runway lights, and is sensitive to the lumens inherent in this environment. The nose mounted sensor sends an image to the HUD as well as being selectable on an appropriate DU enabling the pilots to have an accurate and incisive look in low visibility. Even at night, the Gulfstream’s EVS renders visible runway markings, taxiways, adjacent highways, and the surrounding landscape, drastically reducing the margin for error and for controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) which is the No. 1 danger in aviation today.

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