Coming Soon--a Supersonic Corporate Jet : Aviation: Gulfstream Aerospace and its Moscow-based partner plan to make corporate aircraft that travel at twice the speed of sound.


Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. on Thursday unveiled plans for the world's first supersonic corporate jet after two years of preliminary design work with a Soviet company.

Gulfstream designed the plane, which would travel at twice the speed of sound and cost $40 million each, with Sukhoi Design Bureau of Moscow.

The plans for the twin-engined aircraft, which could carry from eight to 16 passengers plus a crew of up to three, were unveiled at the Paris Air Show.

Savannah, Ga.-based Gulfstream, the nation's largest manufacturer of corporate jets, said it will continue market research on the airplane before it commits any funds for production and manufacturing.

Allen Paulson, Gulfstream's chairman and chief executive, said at the news conference that the initial market could be as many as 100 planes.

"We will determine the size of the market before we decide if we will continue with the program," said Gulfstream spokesman Alvin F. Balaban in a telephone interview from Paris. "A decision will be made early next year on how quickly to go with the program. It could be a billion-dollar development program for Gulfstream."

If the plane is actually manufactured, the airframes would be built to U.S. specifications in the Soviet Union following U.S.-Soviet bilateral agreements. Gulfstream would complete the building in this country, adding electronics, interiors and paint jobs.

A test vehicle will be flown in 1994, but the supersonic business jet will not be available for sale until about 1997 or 1998, according to Balaban.

Gulfstream now holds the speed record for corporate jets at 636 m.p.h. Its current model sells for $24 million and cruises at about 550 m.p.h.

The possibility that a supersonic corporate jet might be available in just a few years was applauded by the National Business Aircraft Assn., the group made up of business aircraft owners.

"With the increasing globalization of American businesses, this will be an important tool for American companies, particularly so for those with interests in the Pacific Rim," said C. Dennis Wright, NBAA vice president of operations.

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