During November 2015, students from the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Daytona Beach campus involved with the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) had the opportunity to visit Gulfstream Aerospace for the day.
Patrick Thompson, who is currently a sophomore majoring in Aerospace Engineering and Secretary of AIAA, discusses his experience below.
As I drove north from Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach campus towards Gulfstream’s Savannah, Georgia facility, I found myself inundated with the familiar adolescent enthusiasm that used to accompany a trip to Disneyland or the local zoo. I knew little about Gulfstream other than that they manufactured business jets, but my passion for aviation drove my expectations beyond the clouds. After treating our group to breakfast, Gulfstream representatives escorted us to the site and we jumped right into the tour by going to the heart of the G650 assembly plant.
As we stepped through the door and into the factory lights the group was awestruck. The fuselages were a sea green and were adoringly referred to as “greenies.” Even without the finishing coat they were mesmerizing marvels of engineering with sleek curves and a dominating presence. You intuitively understood that every aspect of the aircraft was meticulously crafted with absolute purpose. Mirroring the traits of the aircraft was the assembly floor. I always imagined an aircraft assembly room as an oily, grimy, hydraulic ridden environment with unbearable noise, but what I found was an immense hangar that seemed fit for surgery. The floor had a sheen without a single piece of debris or contamination. The aircraft were perfectly aligned on an assembly grid that was so easy to comprehend that it required no explanation.
It was then I realized that the pursuit of perfection in engineering the G650 wasn’t unique to the engineers, it was an ideal that permeates throughout the entire company. Gulfstream cultivated an environment of individuals that desired perfection and it was evident everywhere. Our tour guide was humble, but the pride radiated from the way she spoke about the project and the aspects that she took part in. She fielded every question with confidence even if it was out of her area of expertise. The caliber of the employee was commensurate with the excellence inherent in the aircraft and assembly process. Only the passion and enthusiasm displayed by the people who work there could produce such amazing results.
After the factory tour we headed over to the epicenter of operations. A sea of cubicles, each personally customized with family portraits and model aircraft, was home to the people who kept the company running smoothly. Shockingly, the employees that we encountered, whether they worked in publications, development, ordering, or maintenance all shared the same goal and it wasn’t to produce the most state of the art business jets. It was customer safety and satisfaction. The efforts were focused on those who were operating the product. Services ranged from ordering the perfect interior for your aircraft to a glass room dedicated to helping pilots navigate potentially dangerous in flight emergencies.
The value that the customer held in the hearts of every employee brought to light the real reason that I pursue education in the aerospace engineering field. And that is to develop the capability to deliver economic, safe, and reliable flight products to the customer. We were given an unnerving realization by one of the lead maintainers before departing. He said, “If we don’t do our jobs correctly, it could mean a plane falling from the sky and the loss of precious life. I work every day with the thought that it could be my family at ground zero.” I left feeling like his sentiment reverberates through Gulfstream and it is the driving force behind their incredible achievements. To them the G650 wasn’t an empty shell worth $65 million, it was a representation of their culture and the embodiment of their core beliefs.
Daimely Lara, a junior majoring in Business Administration and President of NBAA, discusses her experience during the Gulfstream Aerospace site visit.
Gulfstream never fails to amaze me! Last semester was my second time touring their facility in Savannah. I was in for a surprise this time, as I got to see more than what I was expecting. You would think, that all Gulfstream did was manufacture aircraft, at least that is what I thought, when I toured their facility for the first time.
This time around the NBAA Official Student Group had the honor of touring Gulfstream’s facility, with another student association AIAA. It was interesting getting together both business and engineering students; we bonded very well together. Gulfstream was very welcoming to our students, before we got our day started, they welcomed us with breakfast, and a brief introduction of their staff, who was going to be conducting the tour. We were split up into groups of about eight people, and before we entered they provided us with safety goggles, as well as badges, which read guest, and warned us that the use of cell phones were not permitted. As I entered the first thing I noticed were the all white floors, which were clean to perfection, and the humongous, fuselages, either all done, or getting ready to be worked on.
Our group started from the back of the factory which is where they got started with the fuselage, and the addition of the windows and so on, more towards the middle was where they mounted the engines, and finally at the end was a G650 ready to be tested for flight. Some parts like the wing of the G650 are so big, that when transported to the facility, they have to get escorted by police. These aircrafts, had temporary tail numbers, and are called “greenies’ because of their color. Once they pass flight inspection, they are ready to be painted, and designed to the customers liking. Oh I almost forgot to mention, these aircrafts take months to manufacture, and cost about 65 million dollars. Customers are also on a waiting list, and it can take about 2 years to start manufacturing an aircraft, because of the demand.
I discovered that within this Gulfstream facility, besides manufacturing they conduct research, design the aircraft from the inside out, as well as provide product support for their customers. Their main propriety is to satisfy their customers, even if it involves adding diamonds to the interior carpet. After touring the factory we got to take a quick glimpse, at where they design the aircraft, and mount the furniture. We also toured the working facility of the employees, which were numerous cubicles, and just by looking around, I could see pictures of families, and friends mounted or hung on the walls. Our tour guide explained, that everyone from each department is dedicated and passionate about what they do, and I had no doubt, because from my experience in both tours, I am always left in awe on how well each department works together, to achieve nothing but perfection. I can’t wait for the next tour!