“Last year, we did not expect any new 7X sales since we thought that long lead times would slow down the sales activity,” said Charles Edelstenne, Dassault Aviation chairman and CEO. “However, the rate of sales has remained high until the first quarter of the year.”
John Rosanvallon, president and CEO of Dassault Falcon Jet (Booth No. 1182), confirmed the 7X sales success for which the next delivery position available is in June 2010. “With the high price of oil, demand for fuel-efficient aircraft is expected to remain strong,” said Rosanvallon, who stressed that the Falcon 7X is up to 45 percent more efficient than some of its competitors.
To date, 80 units of the new long-range trijet have been ordered including by buyers who are not members of the Falcon family. Currently, 40 aircraft are in various stages of production with S/N 10 in final assembly. Dassault will ramp up production to three aircraft per month to accommodate demand. The total production of the 7X for the year 2008 will reach 40 units.
In the meantime, Dassault engineers have been busy testing and validating several improvements on the Falcon 7X, such as increased mtow, engine thrust, fuel capability and winglets, that result in an increased range of 5,950 nm. These improvements have pushed back the type certification schedule to early 2007 instead of the end of 2006.
This additional 250 nm will provide a lot more flexibility for charter operators, which will be able to fly greater loads and in more adverse conditions, according to Olivier Villa, senior vice president of civil aircraft. From Geneva, the 7X will be able to fly nonstop to Los Angeles westbound, and Tokyo eastbound.
The addition of winglets made by Dassault’s composite production facility in Biarritz was a relatively easy task since the wing structure was designed with margins, according to Villa. Additional modification included the removal of the secondary rudder and the optimization of the lower fin aerodynamics. The updated design of the fly-by-wire system is also frozen.
The mtow was increased by 10 percent to 69,000 pounds. The payload capacity with full fuel has been increased to 2,988 pounds. This means, said Villa, that “the operator of a heavy aircraft equipped with lots of options will not have to choose between passengers and fuel.” The basic operating weight has also been increased to 34,272 pounds.
The thrust of Pratt & Whitney PW307A engines has been increased to 6,400 pounds. The test engines have accumulated 6,700 hours of ground testing and 780 flight hours. A rapid maturation testing program is ensuring that the engine will have reached its maturity stage at the time of the 7X entry into service. All these improvements will be available on the first aircraft to be delivered to a customer in April 2007.
Since the first flight of the Falcon 7X took place in May last year, two other 7X aircraft have joined the development and certification program, which is expected to last 1,350 hours.
One-third of the flight test program has been completed with the three aircraft logging 570 flight hours in 185 flights. The flight envelope has been fully opened. Dassault pilots reached speeds of up to Mach 0.93 and an altitude of 51,000 feet, according to Philippe Delerme, deputy chief test pilot.
Pilots’ reports are very encouraging; there is no trim adjustment needed, the aircraft stability is perfect, which is especially important on approach and landing, and braking is smooth and efficient. The interior soundproofing looks very promising, while the pressurization performs well. The steering with pedals (something new on a Falcon) is efficient and intuitive but needs some fine-tuning.
Reversers have been tested down to full stop and reverse taxiing. As a conclusion, the 7X is completely intuitive to fly for a new aircraft, using the lateral stick, EASy flight deck and fly-by-wire system. The EASy flight deck is already in service on 85 aircraft, including 45 Falcon 2000EXs and 40 Falcon 900EXs.
On static display at EBACE is the third flight-test aircraft, which is fitted with a cabin interior. The 7X cabin is 6.5 feet longer than that of the 900EX. This additional space has been used to accommodate the lavatory, galley and an enlarged passenger area, which can be divided into three separate lounges.
Electronic magnetic interference ground testing and cold soak trials have been completed. Fatigue testing of the Falcon 7X has been performed at CEAT in Toulouse, where the test article has endured the equivalent of two and a half lifespans (2.5 times 20,000 hours). Among next major milestones are hot weather tests to be carried out this summer.
In addition, an aircraft maintainability and operability review system has been put in place with representatives from the 7X program suppliers to review and address any problem prior to entry into service.
“The main risk is behind us,” stated Charles Edelstenne, “and we now are concentrating on building up an efficient support system matching the aircraft quality.
“We have a dedicated team of engineers preparing to help customers during the entry into service phase, and which will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We also are on track regarding spare parts, which have always been a critical issue in the past,” said the Dassault Aviation chairman.
Frank Youngkin, vice president of worldwide spares, confirmed that a continuous improvement program launched in 2000 has resulted in improvements in the spare parts support in terms of availability, reliability and pricing.