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UPDATE 2-Gulfstream launches new long-range business jet
(Adds byline; details on suppliers, plane price)
By Bill Rigby
NEW YORK, March 13 (Reuters) - Gulfstream Aerospace Corp on Thursday launched the new G650 business jet, its biggest, fastest, longest-range plane to date, as it looks to take advantage of the continuing boom in private plane sales and the trend toward larger aircraft.
The G650, priced at just under $60 million, will have a range of 7,000 nautical miles (about 12,950 km) at a speed of 0.85 Mach, which means it would be able to fly non-stop from Los Angeles to London.
It will have a maximum cabin headroom of about 6 feet 5 inches (1.96 meters) and larger, oval windows. The plane is set for first test flight late next year and first delivery in 2012.
Gulfstream, a unit of defense contractor General Dynamics Corp (GD.N), is pricing the jet at $59.5 million each, but early customers can expect discounts, a common practice in the aviation industry.
The Savannah, Georgia-based company caters to the upper end of the business jet market, but has recently seen potential customers opt for versions of larger commercial planes made by Boeing Co (BA.N) and Airbus.
Last year Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal became the first individual to buy an Airbus A380, the largest commercial plane in production. Boeing has sold nine of its new 787 Dreamliners to superwealthy private customers.
Gulfstream's new G650 jet, the designs of which were unveiled at its main plant early on Thursday, wouldn't compete directly with those larger airliners, but is designed to dominate the top end of the business jet market.
That market tends to follow corporate profits and general economic trends, but it shows no signs so far of slowing down, despite evidence of a broad financial downturn in the United States, the biggest market for private jets.
Last year, Gulfstream and other plane makers delivered a record 1,138 business jets, up 28 percent from the year before. It was the first year the industry delivered more than 1,000 jets.
Gulfstream, founded in 1958, is one of the world's biggest business jet makers, competing against Canada's Bombardier Inc (BBDb.TO), France's Dassault Aviation (AVMD.PA) and U.S. plane maker Cessna Aircraft Co, a unit of Textron Inc (TXT.N).
Boeing and Airbus, a unit of Europe's EADS (EAD.PA), also offer custom versions of their commercial planes, which are growing in popularity among heads of state and rich business people.
Honeywell International Inc (HON.N) is to supply a range of avionics and mechanical systems for the new Gulfstream jet, which it said would be worth as much as $3 billion over the life of the plane.
Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc (SPR.N), a former unit of Boeing, will make the wings, a contract it said would be worth more than $1 billion.
Britain's Rolls-Royce Group Plc (RR.L) will make a new engine, the BR725, to power the plane. U.S. company Goodrich Corp GR.N will make the landing gear and some interior components.
Dutch aerospace firm Stork Fokker will design and make the tail and some fuselage panels, which it said could bring in $600 million in sales. The company is part of a group now owned by private equity firm Candover Investments Plc (CDI.L). (Reporting by Bill Rigby, editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Dave Zimmerman)
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