Gulfstream recently completed its 5,000th airborne support flight, achieving the milestone more than 13 years after Gulfstream launched business aviation’s first airborne maintenance and support service in May 2002.
The Gulfstream Field and Airborne Support Teams, otherwise known as FAST, use two dedicated aircraft to deliver flight-essential parts and technicians to operators in North America, Central America and the Caribbean. The service, which has accumulated more than 16,600 flight hours and 8 million nautical miles since its inception, operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In the case of airborne mission No. 5,000, FAST pilots Ty Ung and Shanon Baker departed Savannah to deliver a section of an engine bleed air duct to a G450 at its home base at Illinois’ Waukegan National Airport, which is approximately 45 miles north of Chicago. The aircraft made its scheduled flight the next morning.
“Returning an aircraft to service with minimal downtime is what FAST is all about,” said Derek Zimmerman, president, Gulfstream Product Support “It takes a tremendous effort to pull off a swift, well-coordinated response to operators whose aircraft are unexpectedly grounded as a result of needed parts or technical assistance. FAST members have consistently met the challenge and continue to find ways to improve on what they do.”
The airborne support element of FAST comprises two G150 aircraft, more than 50 technicians and pilots and a support team of more than 230 people. FAST also includes support vehicles throughout the U.S. and Europe, including a 74-foot/22.6-meter tractor-trailer based in Savannah, seven custom-equipped trucks and a custom-equipped van. Along with the airborne unit, which went on more than 580 missions and accumulated 2,378 flight hours in 2015, FAST has a ground unit that includes 12 dedicated maintenance engineers who can be dispatched by airplane, train, automobile or van from their bases in Europe, Asia and the Middle East to resolve maintenance issues.
Gulfstream Airborne Product Support (APS) was created in 2002 with a Savannah-based G100 to support customers in North America and the Caribbean. In situations where an operator’s jet was outside the G100’s range of service, Gulfstream would fly parts or technicians on the G100 to a major airline hub, where they could connect to commercial flights to reach a customer’s aircraft.
In 2011, Gulfstream added a second G100 to APS and later that year announced the formation of FAST, which combined the forces of APS and a new rapid-response mobile repair unit based in Europe.
In 2012, Gulfstream enhanced FAST by implementing its first specially equipped truck to assist customers in the San Francisco Bay Area. The following year, Gulfstream replaced its G100s with G150s, which have the range (3,000 nautical miles/5,556 kilometers at Mach 0.75) to routinely fly nonstop to the U.S. West Coast from Savannah.
FAST added more specially equipped vehicles in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
“The decision in 2002 to take the necessary support to customers rather than having them come to one of our service centers was a game-changer,” said Mitch Choquette, vice president, Customer Support, Gulfstream. “More than 10 years of airborne support provided us with the insight to expand our in-theater support with mobile maintenance vehicles. FAST specializes in aircraft-on-ground situations, and it has evolved to include scheduled maintenance. We will continue to look into new and better ways to support customers with this unique part of our business.”
Of Gulfstream’s 5,000-plus FAST flights, more than 400 have been outside the continental United States. They include missions to Alaska, the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Canada, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Virgin Islands.