Monday, September 11, 2017

Gulfstream Aerospace jets find safe haven at Fort Smith airport

The Fort Smith Regional Airport has become a safe haven for over a dozen Gulfstream Aerospace aircraft flown in last week from Savannah, Ga., for protection from Hurricane Irma.

Heidi Fedak, director of corporate communications for Gulfstream, said by phone Saturday that pilots ferried the aircraft to the Fort Smith airport starting Wednesday after the company’s “severe weather action team” made arrangements.

“It’s unusual, or at least not typical, to see that many Gulfstreams in one spot unless there is a big event like a conference or something,” Fedak said. “We still have some at our facility that either can’t be flown yet or are in service. It’s a balancing act to not leave any of the aircraft outside during a hurricane.”

The arrival of the gleaming Gulfstream aircraft was enough to prompt a post on the airport’s Facebook page. The ensuing chatter from local airplane geeks on other channels was topped off with an aerial shot from a local photographer.

Several of the aircraft still have a protective green coating that signals that are just off the assembly line. The green coating is sanded off before a final paint job, Fedak noted.

Last year, during Hurricane Matthew, Gulfstream sent many of their aircraft to an airport in Alabama, she added. Pilots with Gulfstream flew the jets into Fort Smith beginning Wednesday. They were then ferried back for more planes.

According to a Federal Aviation Administration database, the aircraft’s N-numbers indicate there are several G500s and G550s, as well as a G400 and G450, and at least one G600 on the tarmac next to TAC Air.

And according to Gulfstream’s website, the G600 has a long-range cruise speed of Mach 0.85, or about 652 mph, and the ability to fly an “unrivaled 4,800 nautical miles/8,890 kilometers at a high-speed cruise of Mach 0.90.” Along with the Gulfstream G650ER, Gulfstream G650 and the “all-new Gulfstream G500,” the G600 shares a maximum operating speed of Mach 0.925, or about 709 mph. The new G500 and G600 were unveiled to the public in 2014, according to an article in AOPA Magazine.

The G500 has a base price of about $43.5 million, while the G600 goes for about $54.5 million pending options, the AOPA article adds.

“The G500′s nonstop reach connects distant cities such as Istanbul to Cape Town, South Africa; Los Angeles to London; and San Francisco to Tokyo,” the Gulfstream Aerospace website notes.

A Gulfstream product support semi-truck and trailer was also seen at the Fort Smith airport Saturday, but it was more likely the trailer was full of water bottles headed for Houston as assistance to recovery efforts after Hurricane Harvey, Fedak said.

In addition to the manufacturing facility and service center at Savannah, Gulfstream Aerospace has service centers at Brunswick, Ga., and West Palm Beach, Fla. All of the facilities were closed Thursday with plans to reopen Monday, Fedak said.

Gulfstream delivered about 130 mid- and large-cabin aircraft to customers last year. The Savannah facility employs about 10,000 people.

(John Lovett - Times Record)

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