Dassault perched to receive Falcon upgrade certifications

 - May 3, 2010, 10:34 AM

The first quarter of 2010 has been a disappointment in terms of aircraft sales and shows that the market is not yet recovering, Dassault CEO Charles Edelstenne told a press conference here in Geneva yesterday.

But news from the engineering side of the business is more encouraging. On the technical front, several product upgrades are close to the end of their development, including enhanced vision on the Falcon 7X and an autobrake system on the Falcon 2000 series. The Falcon 900LX jet is to be certified this summer.

Late in April, the company reported 17 Falcon deliveries and a negative order tally of minus 4. Edelstenne said the used aircraft inventory is still the heart of the problem. “The inventory is decreasing but pricing remains depressed,” John Rosanvallon, president and CEO of Dassault Falcon, added. Some 90 Falcon 900 and Falcon 2000 series aircraft–but no 7Xs–are on the second-hand market. The restart of this market will trigger the upturn, Edelstenne estimated.

On the positive side, the backlog for the manufacturer’s top-of-the-range product, the 7X, is still standing at a strong 120. For the coming months, a few favorable signs are visible, such as “good activity” in Brazil, Russia, India and China.

The Falcon 7X will receive a new software load. With “Load 10,” the crew gets windshear-escape guidance, a runway awareness and advisory system and automated computation of takeoff and landing engine ratings, speeds and distances. The enhanced flight vision system, which will bring Category I decision height down to 100 feet, should be certified on the 7X in the middle of this year, said Olivier Villa, senior v-p civil aircraft.

On the Falcon 2000 series, Dassault is working on a “nose-up autobrake” to further reduce landing distances. This should help make the aircraft, already certified for steep approaches, compatible with London City requirements. Flight tests took place in the first quarter and certification is expected this quarter. The autobrake will be available as production standard or retrofit.

Dassault has started completing the first two customer Falcon 900LXs. The new model is now close to certification, which should take place this summer, according to Edelstenne. Some 180 test hours have been flown in 72 flights. “We are two flights away from completing certification testing,” Villa said.

The 900LX is a wingleted version of the 900EX. However, the range increase is slightly less than hoped. Range will stand at 4,750 nm at long-range cruise with six passengers. Dassault previously was advertising 4,800 nm at long-range cruise, with eight passengers. The passenger load difference is “to better reflect equipment weight realities.” Villa expressed satisfaction with having a range 250 nm better than that of the 900EX.

The 4,750-nm range still enables the 900LX to fly from Bern, Switzerland, to Chicago. Another feature will be a 10-percent reduction in time to climb to cruise altitude.

Also, early Falcon 900LXs will be delivered with the current version of the EASy flight deck. Dassault was initially hoping to have EASy II standard from the beginning. The 900LX will eventually be available with EASy II from the middle of next year, as the EASy II development program certification has been delayed.

On the long-awaited SMS supermidsize Falcon, which would be Dassault’s smallest jet, Edelstenne said the architecture and aerodynamic outlines are “frozen” and all major partners will be selected within a few months, in time for “Phase B” to start before year-end.