Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. said Monday it completed the first test flight of its G500 business jet, the first of two smaller versions that follow its flagship model. The maiden flight of the G500, which is designed to carry as many as 18 people and lists for $43.5 million, kicks off roughly three years of testing and cabin outfitting ahead of its planned first delivery in 2018. A Gulfstream spokeswoman said the successful two-hour-and-16-minute flight from its Savannah, Ga. base landed at 12:55 p.m. local time.
Gulfstream, a unit of General Dynamics Corp., unveiled the G500 in October after years of development in secret. The jet, with a planned range of 5,000 nautical miles, is an all-new smaller successor to Gulfstream’s popular, ultralong-range G650 aircraft, which first flew in 2009 and entered service in 2012. The G650, which also carries as many as 18 people, has a maximum range of 7,500 nautical miles with its updated, extended-range model. Another new model with an intermediate range, the G600, is expected to follow in 2019.
The G500, G600 and larger G650 all seat as many as 18 passengers, but the smaller G500 is designed for shorter routes like connecting Europe to the U.S. west coast. The G650, by comparison, has room for additional sleeping berths and is designed to connect Southeast Asia to the U.S. on ultralong nonstop routes. New models like the G500 have squeezed demand for current-generation business jets of a similar size. Rival Bombardier Inc. announced last week it was scaling back productionof its Global 5000 and 6000 jets, which compete directly with the new pair from Gulfstream.