Gulfstream Aerospace’s new flagship (flagplane?) business jet, the ultra-large-cabin, ultra-long-range Gulfstream G650, has successfully completed its maiden flight. With its Rolls-Royce BR725 engines, the G650 is capable of traveling 7,000 nautical miles at 0.85 Mach with a maximum operating speed of 0.925 Mach. Gulfstream says no other traditional business jet will take you closer to the speed of sound.

The G650 which completed the first flight rolled out of the Savannah manufacturing facility under its own power on Sept. 29, 2009. Less than two months later that same aircraft took off from Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport piloted by experimental test pilot Jake Howard and senior experimental test pilot Tom Horne. The aircraft achieved an altitude of 6,600 feet and a speed of 170 knots. However, because the pilots were alerted to a slight vibration in a landing-gear door, they curtailed the testing regimen as a precautionary measure, spending just 12 minutes in the air.

Despite this small setback Pres Henne, senior vice president, Programs, Engineering and Test, Gulfstream, declared the maiden flight a success saying, “Flight controls and characteristics performed as expected. We consider this flight a success and look forward to pursuing our full flight-test plan.”

Its 7,000-nautical-mile range means the G650 can fly nonstop from Dubai to Chicago and with an initial cruise altitude of 41,000 feet at 0.85 Mach, it can climb to a maximum altitude of 51,000 feet to avoid traffic and inclement weather. Its all-new aerodynamically optimized wing allows it to meet the latest takeoff certification requirements and at maximum takeoff weight, the aircraft can depart from a 6,000-foot runway.

Featuring a large purpose-built business-jet cabin, which leaves room for larger galleys, lavatories, and increased storage, the jet seats 11-18 passengers and has 16 Gulfstream-signature oval windows that measure 28 by 20.5 inches, the biggest in the industry.

The jet’s successful maiden flight means the Gulfstream G650 remains on schedule for type certification by 2011, followed by entry-into-service in 2012.