Dassault drops DX models

 - March 30, 2011, 4:10 AM

Dassault has ceased production of its Falcon 2000DX and Falcon 900DX, CEO Charles Edelstenne revealed at the company’s annual press conference on March 17. Another company official explained to AIN that the small market for the airplanes–only a handful are produced each year–did not justify their continued production. The DX letters designated shorter-range versions of the Falcon 2000 and 900, offered at a hoped-for attractive price. The Falcon 2000LX, the Falcon 900LX and the Falcon 7X remain in production.

Meanwhile, development of the super-midsize SMS is in full swing, as the “plateau” concurrent engineering scheme now regroups 300 design engineers at company headquarters near Paris. Edelstenne kept mum on the selected suppliers, although Canada-based Héroux-Devtek made it official late last year it will provide the landing gear.

Two wind-tunnel campaigns have been completed at low and high speeds. Edelstenne thus sees the aerodynamic configuration as almost definitive. Given the planned year for entry into service, 2016, AIN understands the SMS will be a Falcon 2000 replacement.

Revenues Strong in 2010

On the commercial front, 2010 ended with a record €3.2 billion (about $4.2 billion) in revenue generated by Falcons. The order backlog stood at 145 at the end of 2010. Although fewer cancellations were recorded than in the previous year, last year’s sales efforts ended with a tally of negative nine net orders. As a consequence, Dassault will decrease its production rate and plans to deliver about 70 Falcons this year, down from a record 95 last year.

Edelstenne appeared cautiously optimistic about 2011 sales prospects. “The beginning of this year seems to confirm [the favorable trend of] late 2010,” he said. China, for example, is active. “All conditions are met there now: customers can afford business jets, our aircraft are certified, our support organization is in place and the country is opening its airspace to general aviation,” Edelstenne explained.

The CEO commented on the recent mega-order Bombardier received from NetJets. “We were not competing because this deal is in the ultra-long-range category. However, I know Gulfstream turned down NetJets’ offer. It was unacceptable because delivery dates were supposed to be totally flexible. Moreover, second-hand aircraft were supposed to be bought when new aircraft were delivered,” Edelstenne emphasized. Dassault is about to renegotiate a major Falcon 7X order that NetJets had placed in 2006 and later partially postponed as a cost-cutting action.

Asked about possible duplication between Dassault and Thales fly-by-wire control specialists, Edelstenne made it clear that the teams will not be merged. Thales is a Gulfstream supplier for the G650’s fly-by-wire computers. Dassault considers its own skills in this domain as a core activity. Edelstenne sees no problem in Thales’ selling fly-by-wire hardware and software, as long as it contributes to revenues. Dassault is the “reference industrial shareholder” in Thales, with a 26-percent stake.