Falcon flights put new technologies to the test

 - October 17, 2007, 6:09 AM

One flew for real, the other in a virtual-reality world, but both served as positive demonstrations of the developmental technologies planned for a new generation of Dassault Falcons. On January 29, at the Dassault plant in Mérignac in southwest France, the first Falcon 2000EX EASy lifted off for the first time, officially beginning the flight-test phase for the airplane as well as a variety of engineering upgrades including the EASy (enhanced avionics system) cockpit based on the Primus Epic system from Honeywell. Featuring 14.1-inch displays and trackball cursor-controls, the configuration will serve as the baseline for the next breed of Falcons. The 2 hr 20 min flight was conducted without any anomalies or problems, said Christine Couralt, Dassault EASy program manager, who added that the airplane is on track for certification this spring. The Falcon 900EX has also received the EASy cockpit.

While test pilots were pushing the 2000EX’s thrust levers to the stops and putting the airplane through its paces, Dassault chief test pilot Bill Kerhervé spent an afternoon performing duties that while perhaps more esoteric were no less important. Instead of piloting a real airplane, Kerhervé took the controls for the first simulated flight of the new Falcon 7X, which will be the first dedicated business jet with fly-by-wire flight controls. One might think that a simulated flight would pale in comparison to the real thing. Not so, said Kerhervé. “This virtual first flight was very exciting,” he said. “I was particularly impressed by the superb handling qualities through the whole flight envelope.” The Falcon 7X simulator consists of a cockpit mockup and a large screen in front of the pilots. It allows test pilots to fly full simulated trips aloft from takeoff to touchdown, including evaluations of air brakes, flaps, slats and landing gear at different weights, speeds and c.g. Much of the data from the simulated flights will be used to refine the 7X’s flight characteristics before the real thing ever leaves the ground.