Gulfstream resumes testing … in Georgia

June 2, 2011 • Local News, National News, State News

Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., resumed its G650 flight-test program in Savannah, Ga., Saturday, following a temporary suspension of flying after an April 2 crash that killed four Gulfstream employees at Roswell International Air Center.

The decision to resume testing was a joint one, made by the Federal Aviation Administration and Gulfstream.

Gulfstream has not disclosed a deadline for the return of the G650 flight-testing program, or other future projects in Roswell.

“It would be premature for us to comment at this time about a return to Roswell for further testing,” Heidi Fedak, Gulfstream communications manager said.

If and when the Gulfstream G650 flight-test program returns to Roswell, the city will economically benefit from the aviation leader’s [auth] presence.

According to the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corporation, aviation has a direct economic impact of about $36,000 per day on the city. This spring, the direct economic impact of clients renting space at RIAC spanned from $6,000 to $549,000. During its G650 flight-testing program in Roswell, Gulfstream had 65 engineers and support personnel living and working in the city.

According to Larry Jessen, president of Great Southwest Aviation, Gulfstream leased GSA hangar space at RIAC and Gulfstream equipment remains housed in the hangar to this present day. He believes that this fact signals the aviation leader will one day resume its flight-testing program in Roswell. Whether or not that includes G650 flights, has yet to be determined, as all four remaining test models are in Savannah, according to Fedak.

Lynn Lunsford, FAA mid-states public affairs manager said although Gulfstream has not resumed certification flight-testing, the FAA concurred with Gulfstream’s request to resume company flight test operations on the G650 aircraft. Lunsford elaborated on the FAA’s airplane certification process.

“It’s pretty intense. They have to demonstrate that (airplane) materials are adequate, the construction methods meet standards— that the aircraft is capable of being controlled … through the flight envelope,” Lunsford said. “Essentially, it’s all about insuring that the aircraft doesn’t have any nasty characteristics that would cause it to crash.”

The National Transportation Safety Board is continuing its investigation of the April 2 crash. According to Tom Latson, NTSB air safety investigator, “significant progress” has been made thus far and he does not anticipate that any new reports will be released in less than a year.

“This was a flight-test airplane with a considerable amount of telemetry data onboard and non-volatile memory was on board,” Latson said. “So, we have a huge amount of data. We’re also doing extensive examination of components following the crash of examinations. It’s going to be about a year before the factual data report is released.”

The unabridged version of this report will be made available on later this week.

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