History of Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation
The company that is known today as Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation started way back in the 1950s when Grumman Aircraft Engineering Company, a firm well renowned for aircraft manufacture for the military, developed an aircraft for business aviation purposes. This aircraft was christened the Gulfstream I, a name borrowed from the Gulf Stream current flowing along the Florida coast. The Gulfstream I could accommodate up to 12 people and had a top speed of more than 550 kmph at a height of about 7.6 km. This aircraft could fly 2200 miles non–stop. The first Gulfstream I was built in Bethpage, New York. This aircraft was such a resounding success that the production of about 200 more was carried out. Success was attributed to their focus on luxury and the best quality standards. This company has not looked back ever since. It is today known for its business aircraft and has evolved into one of the most elite luxury manufacturers of jets in the world. The company has manufactured more than a 1,000 premier aircrafts for myriad customers all over the world.1
After the success of the Gulfstream I, it came time for a new charter-style jet to come into the picture. This new jet was called the Gulfstream II or GII. This was jet powered as compared to the turbo propeller GI aircraft. As before, many hundreds were sold to the privileged public. The company realized that to continue the growth rate, it had to split up the military and the commercial aircraft manufacturing operations from each other. The headquarters of the civil aircrafts division was shifted to Savannah, Georgia in the 1960s, whereas that of the military aviation department stayed in New York. The environment, labor, and conditions at Savannah proved favorable to these operations. The region itself benefited from the growing employment rates and development. A new building was commissioned at Chatham in June 1967 for the manufacturing and testing of the GII. The number of workers here grew from a 100 to several hundred within a few years.2
The 70s saw a merger between Grumman and a company called American Aviation Corporation. It was said that this was done as the jet company was going through hard times during the recession in this period. By the late 1970s, GIIs in excess of 250 had been sold and delivered. In 1978, the complete Gulfstream line and the factory in Savannah were purchased by American Jet Industries, a firm under the leadership of an entrepreneur in the field of aviation. The entrepreneur went by the name Allen Paulson and his fame had yet to spread. He had had humble beginnings working as an aircraft mechanic. The new company was now christened Gulfstream American. Under the leadership of Paulson, work on the third generation Gulfstream began which would leave all its predecessors behind in terms of range and speed. The GIII took off on its maiden flight in December 1979 and the first one was delivered in 1980. This aircraft was revolutionary because it was the first aircraft that was designed to be able to traverse both the poles. The move taken by Paulson seemed to be a profitable one, with revenues jumping from about 190 million dollars in 1980 to about 580 million in a couple of years. The company was now manufacturing its own parts to be assembled into aircrafts and this led to an increase in production. The company made use of cutting edge equipment with the best computers. It even led to an expansion into Oklahoma City to meet the extensive demand.2
To keep innovation going, the company came out with the GIIB which combined the best features of the GIII plane with the fuselage of Gulfstream II. About 40 GIIBs were sold and delivered. By 1982, the number of workers at the Savannah plant swelled to about 2500 workers. The name of the firm was changed to Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation with the conception of a novel design, the Gulfstream IV. It also offered about 8.8 million shares to the public. It became a Fortune 500 company entering at number 417 in 1985. This rapid growth was seen by other companies and Chrysler Corporation in 1985 gained control of it. In 1987, the 200th GIII was sold, delivered, and then phased out. The maiden sleeker, noiseless, and faster Gulfstream IV was delivered at a cost of $15.8 million ($3 million more than the GIII). It was the first ever jet to have the entire cockpit made out of glass. To fulfill its backlog of roughly 100 orders of the GIV, the company invested in a plant at Long Beach in California. However, the control under Chrysler was ephemeral and the company was sold back to Allen Paulson and Forstmann Little and Co. in 1989.2
The decade that followed was a big one for Gulfstream. The company signed a five year deal with NetJets in the year 1994. The conception of the Gulfstream V or GV took place in the year 1995. It was the first of its kind super long range business jet. The Savannah facility was equipped with a service center that spread over about 13,000 square meters. The vast hangar that was built at an investment of $16 million was opened in 1996. Two new models were put into production at the same time – the GIV-SP (the expanded variant of the GIV) in addition to the GV. These were conceptualized as a result of the need for a super fast corporate jet that could greatly diminish the flying time from California to New York to below three hours. This was accomplished with the help of the Sukhoi Design Bureau set up in the Soviet Union. They were also designed with extremely sophisticated collision avoidance features. The GV was first delivered in the June of 1997 and was so well above its competitors that it set around 40 speed and distance records. Its design team gained recognition by receiving the Robert J. Collier Trophy in 1997, awarded to only the best of the best in the field of aeronautics or astronautics.3
Towards the end of the 1990s, a company by the name of General Dynamics bought Gulfstream. This company was well – known for its contribution to the defense industry. It wanted to bolster efforts to buttress performance while reducing costs at the same time. The firm started an aircraft completion and refurbishment support centre at Savannah in the year 2000. This facility cost about $5.5 million. The company acquired Galaxy Aerospace in the year 2001, along with its models Astra SPX and Galaxy which were christened G100 and G200 respectively. Along with this, in year 2001, the company also bought 4 maintenance centers in Minneapolis, Las Vegas, Dallas and West Palm Beach in Florida which in addition to the facility in Westfield, Massachusetts comprised the General Dynamics Aviation Services. This was used in the upkeep and repair of the Gulfstream and various other business jets. In 2002, the company started using a new type of nomenclature for its aircrafts. It began using the Arabic style numbers instead of the Roman type numbers used till date. The growth of the company knew no end.2
The extensive expansion was a result of the company’s decision to expand its foray into ultra – long, long and mid range airplanes. G550 and G500 were the ultra – long range aircrafts. The long – range included the G400 while mid range had the G300 and the G200. The G100 was developed especially for its high speed. The company grew exponentially as a result of its great quality standards and great reputation. Customer service was another strong point for the organization. It started its first international service center outside the United States amidst the London – Luton airport in 2003. The long range G450 was also inaugurated in 2003.
Interestingly, a G100 aircraft was designed just to service the Gulfstream fleet of aircrafts present in the Caribbean and the whole of North America. This aircraft was capable of providing services while the other aircraft was airborne. The problem with the aircraft to be serviced could be rectified almost instantly. This kind of customer service is an example of the excellent and unmatched standards set by this corporation. The firm earned the prestigious 2003 Collier Trophy in 2004 for the innovative design of the G550. It had now won this award the second time within a decade. This aircraft incorporated exciting features such as the Enhanced Vision System (EVS) and the PlaneView, an area with a series of LCDs. It also earned recognition for introducing a very high speed internet connection using its BBML system. It developed a state of the art device for the nose of the aircraft that helped it reduce the noise produced by an aircraft that overcomes the sound barrier. The novel design aimed to smooth out wave of pressure created by operating the aircraft at the speed of sound.
In the year 2006, the G100 was phased out after being in production for more than two decades. The novel G150 took its place. It earned the Stage 4 certification from the FAA for surpassing the strictest of noise standards. The Savannah plant was expanded to include multifarious areas such as the 4,000 square meter paint hangar, 58,000 square meter service center, fuel farm, and a Research and Development facility. This expansion in turn generated approximately 2,000 jobs. All this was done as part of the $400 million Master Plan that spanned over 7 years. 2007 saw the corporation break ground for the newest jet building centre at the Savannah headquarters. Soon, a second R&D Center was inaugurated which employed about 150 engineers.3 In March 2008, an all new jet was announced and introduced. This was the G650 with the largest cabin space when compared to previous Gulfstream aircrafts. It was also unique because of its sophisticated and advanced cockpit and ultra long flying range. It could fly for about 13,000 kilometers at a speed of 0.85 Mach. It could fly at heights of about 16,000 meters in order to avoid or escape unfavorable weather conditions and airplane traffic. Later that year, the G250 (later called G280) was another feather added to the cap. It could fly 6,700 km non – stop at a speed of 0.8 Mach. It had a maximum flying altitude of 13.7 km while reaching its initial cruising height of 12.5 km. It had the largest cabin, fastest speed and the longest range in its class. Both the G280 and the G650 flew their maiden flights before the year 2009 ended. This was done as promised. The G650 took off on the 25th of November while the G280 flew first on the 11th of December.2 Further expansion of the facilities in Savannah, Westfield and Luton took place in the years 2010 and 2011. The G650 was given the provisional type certificate by the FAA in November 2011. The G280 received the PTC from the FAA in March 2012.
Gulfstream continues to introduce new and innovative designs even today while keeping the focus on customer service and elite quality standards. It has won many awards for being the best in Product Support for years on end. It has grown to a company offering employment to approximately 11,500 people in over eleven locations all over the world. In addition to this, Gulfstream has made several contributions to social welfare, including education. The firm has provided support and become a continued patron of Georgia Institute of Technology’s campus present in Savannah. It has also offered assistance to the Savannah College of Art and Design and the Savannah Technical College. A good number of senior executives from Gulfstream have also been members of Savannah’s various local boards. The arts have become a field that gained a lot of support from Gulfstream in recent years. The Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum of Pooler, which is located very close to the Savannah manufacturing facility, has received regular patron ship from Gulfstream.4
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 “Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation History.” Funding Universe.
 “The History of Gulfstream: 1958 – 2011.” Gulfstream. Last modified April 28, 2014. http://www.gulfstream.com/history/
 “The History of Gulfstream.” Jet Charters. Last modified October 26, 2011. http://www.jetcharters.com/blog/2011/10/history-of-gulfstream.html
 “Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation.” New Georgia Encyclopedia. Last modified August 19, 2013. http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/business-economy/gulfstream-aerospace-corporation
Author: Joel Thomas
This entry was posted on Monday, May 19th, 2014 at 6:20 pm