Ten years ago to this month I had my last flight in the Gulfstream GIV and took delivery of a brand new Gulfstream G450. It was an exciting time and I was very happy to step into the world of the PlaneView cockpit, Synthetic Vision, Heads Up Displays, Enhanced Flight Vision Systems, and back to the logical systems introduced to me and the world in the Gulfstream GV. It was great.
— James Albright
I had my last flight in the G450 last month and yesterday we flew her for the last time. In retrospect, the G450 was the most difficult to land Gulfstream and when we got her she was a problem child. Ten years later the G450 seems as bulletproof as the GIV. But now she is gone, replaced by the GVII-500, the easiest to fly Gulfstream I have ever touched and one of the most fun. Somehow, I was sad to see the G450 go. This is a short story of the last flight. We not only say goodbye to the "old girl," it is also a goodbye to paper. We long ago gave up all paper except the paper flight and maintenance log. We kept it in the G450 just so we could turn over a complete set of logs. Yesterday's was log number 1,000.
This has never happened to me before . . .
The first airplane I really got to know — in a sense we "became one" where there was a brain to airplane connection — was the Cessna T-37. I have around 500 hours in the airplane and I grew to really like it.
I followed that with the Northrup T-38. The two airplanes were nothing alike and the best word to describe the T-38 over the T-37 is "better."
After the T-38 came the KC-135A tanker which could have been described with the single word "worse" but I would rather choose the word "different." Then came the Boeing 707 which takes us back to the word "better." After that came the Boeing 747 which was so much better than everything that preceded it, I cannot characterize the improvement with words alone.
The photo of the old KC-135A refueling the new Boeing 747 (E-4B) perhaps sums up the change from one airplane to another best for me. While the old presented its own excitement and wonder at first, that quickly wore off. The newer aircraft never failed to bring a smile to my face every time I walked up to it. Before this year, I've only had this enduring appreciation for three airplanes: the T-38, the Boeing 747, and the Gulfstream GV. And now, maybe, I have a fourth.
Our last flight with the "Good Ol' Girl"
The first year was not an easy one but once the G450 hit her stride, she was bulletproof. Our mechanic took to calling her "the Good Ol' Girl." As a pilot, I hated every time she let us down and thought the Good Ol' Girl wasn't as good as she could have been. The third time we missed a trip I had to cancel the flight log and noticed it was log number 600. That's when it struck me. Our dispatch reliability was 100 [ (600 - 3) / 600] = 99.5% — an excellent rate. She was a Good Ol' Girl after all.
I thought there could be no better way of saying goodbye to The Good Ol' Girl by following her to her new home. Of course that would allow us to retrieve our pilots without having to subject them to the disease-infested airlines. It isn't that I am a subscriber to the current Coronavirus scare, it is that I've always thought that most airline cabins are no better than petri dishes for disease and pestilence.
We gave her a ten minute head start. The G450 climbs out at 250 knots to 10,000 feet, and then 300 knots until that becomes Mach 0.75. Then she cruises at Mach 0.83. The GVII climbs out at 250, 300, and then Mach 0.87. Cruise is at Mach 0.90.
Air traffic control decided we should be on the same flight plan but we knew there would be a problem if we filed the same altitude. So the Good Ol' Girl took FL400 and we opted for FL380. (We could have taken higher altitudes, but we prefer to be below FL410 to avoid having to put a pilot on oxygen.) By the time we in the GVII leveled off, the G450 had a 50 nm lead.
The ADS-B In report from our sister ship showed us overtaking between 44 and 89 knots. The gap was definitely closing.
Of course it was inevitable we would catch the Good Ol' Girl. Did we plan this aerial rendezvous? No, not really. If we had, I would have brought some cameras. All of these shots were taken with an iPhone 8. The G450 is the out of focus white spot at the top of the shot:
If your first thought when looking at this HUD shot is that we were off altitude, the GVII does altitude differently than a lot of airplanes. The airplane has four sources of pitot-static information. The airplane flies (and the pilot flight displays present) what is called "voted altitude." The systems throws out the high and the low and averages the two remaining. The HUD always shows source number four.
The Good Ol' Girl took off ten minutes before us, we landed ten minutes before her. To add insult to injury, we did this burning less gas and using less runway. I like to think we did all this so we would be present for her arrival, us paying our last respects. Who ever buys her, will have a fine bird indeed.