Falcon 7X EASy shows FBW value

 - October 27, 2010, 6:39 AM

The delivery in early September of a Dassault Falcon 7X to a Fortune 500 customer furnished opportunities to ride along on the flight to the airplane’s new home base, as well as to get some stick time in the level-D flight simulator at training provider CAE. Both experiences revealed quite a lot about Dassault’s flagship bizjet.

Although the buyer had placed its order for this particular airplane years ago, it was still heartening to witness a customer take delivery of an ultra-long-range business jet given the continued sluggish state of the economy. The acceptance flight was only the fourth for the airplane after its trip across the Atlantic from the Dassault factory in Bordeaux to the completion center in Little Rock, Ark., which was followed by a series of shakedown flights just before delivery.

A Dassault pilot flew right seat for the flight since the company pilots had never before flown a Falcon 7X–this in spite of having lots of time in the company ­Falcon 900 and having just completed ­initial training at CAE in Morristown, N.J. That’s where the journalists along for the ride got the opportunity to spend a couple of hours in the 7X sim, becoming familiar with the airplane’s fly-by-wire flight control system and Honeywell ­Primus Epic-based EASy flight deck.

Simulator Time

Piloting a fly-by-wire airplane is a completely different experience for those who haven’t tried it, as is flying with a sidestick and trackball cursor controller. Developed by the same engineering team that builds Dassault fighters, the Falcon 7X’s digital flight control system is designed to prevent the airplane from exceeding the performance envelope while enhancing stability. Dassault has included protections against overspeed, stall and structural overstress, as well as provided auto trim and stability augmentation that makes hand flying the Falcon 7X a joy.

The 7X’s sidestick design was proven after years of use in Dassault Mirage and Rafale fighters. For a pilot sitting in the sim’s right seat, the sidestick falls easily to hand and exhibits control feel that seems perfectly suited to the 70,000-pound trijet. Navigating through several EASy functions (although by no means all) using the trackball was a relatively straightforward exercise, with the cursor control device behaving exactly like a PC trackball, including click-on menus and drag-and-drop functions for altering a flight plan.

EASy symbology on the primary flight display also simplifies the pilots’ job by providing flight path vector and energy management cues taken from fighter jets. The fly-by-wire system uses ­whatever control surface is needed to achieve the commanded flight path, including the ability to activate spoilers, slats and airbrakes or move both ailerons up or down simultaneously.

Woody Saland, manager of technical programs, pilot ops and training for Dassault Falcon, said use of fly-by-wire in the 7X not only makes the pilot’s job easier but also allows the airplane to fly more efficiently by minimizing drag force thanks to the use of auto trim and stability augmentation. “We could have used fly-by-wire to create an unstable airplane like we do with our fighters, but we chose instead to maintain a stable platform but adjust aerodynamic properties to gain efficiency,” Saland said.

Cabin Comforts

The Falcon 7X cabin, meanwhile, feels much larger than the Falcon 900’s, although in reality both airplanes have the same interior cross section. The 7X, however, wins on cabin length. This airplane was outfitted with a tastefully done interior, as well as satellite television, Inmarsat SwiftBroadband Internet and moving-map displays. The onboard Wi-Fi connection provided speeds good enough for downloading e-mail using an iPhone–when it was working.

The connection dropped several times during the flight, interrupting the passengers’ work and keeping the maintenance tech who was also on board busy with calls to the company’s IT department. (The cause of the problem was later traced to the microwave oven, which blocked onboard Wi-Fi signals anytime it was turned on. The offending oven was later replaced with a lower-power model that eliminated the problem.)   

Falcon 7X pilots are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the Falcon EASy II ­cockpit, an upgrade of the original Honeywell design that has faced a number of delays. EASy II is a major upgrade that will offer new operational features such as Waas/LPV, RNP Saaar (special aircraft, aircrew authorization required), ADS-B out and synthetic-vision system, as well as compliance with mandated high-speed digital flight data recorder and remote independent power supply for N-registered Part 135 aircraft, and controller pilot datalink communication for Europe.

Now anticipated to be ready for adoption in customer airplanes early next year, EASy II will also incorporate performance enhancements based on pilot feedback from previous releases. Dassault Falcon said the large number of new features added to the number of design reviews needed during the development phase and evaluation trials. This resulted in a “significant increase” in the EASy II development workload. The French bizjet maker also cited the economic slowdown as a reason for the delay