Paris Air Show

Dassault picks Rolls-Royce to power new bizjet

 - June 17, 2007, 9:38 AM

Rolls-Royce is the surprise winner of the all-out competition to power Dassault’s projected super-midsize business jet, securing the UK company’s long-term position in a potentially lucrative market for up to 3,000 aircraft.

Charles Edelstenne, chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation, revealed the decision on Friday at a pre-show briefing, ending months of speculation as to which of five possible contenders would power the new aircraft. Rolls-Royce was chosen because “it demonstrated its capability to provide an all-new engine that will meet our exacting requirements in terms of reliability, performance and fuel efficiency,” Edelstenne said.

GE Aviation, Honeywell, Pratt & Whitney Canada and Snecma had all offered engines, and as recently as last month, at the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition in Geneva, all were very much still in the fight, although, perhaps significantly, Rolls-Royce was the most tight-lipped about its offer.

The UK company will supply its all-new RB282-31 engine in the 10,000-pound-thrust class using technology taken from its Vision 10 technology acquisition program. Several major components have already been rig-tested, including a compressor and fan and most recently, a single-stage high-pressure turbine in Germany, and low-emission, lean-burn combustors. A Rolls-Royce spokesman said Dassault’s decision was “based largely on the results of these tests.”

Current super-midsize business jets have two engines of about 7,000-pound-thrust each. Asked about the unusually high thrust class for an aircraft of this size, a Dassault spokesman said the thrust figure was approximate and he added that Rolls-Royce is adamant that it does not want to release details of the new engine. He acknowledged, however, that Dassault is targeting a high cruise speed at altitude for the future Falcon, which would require higher thrust.

Dassault has not revealed the timescale for the development of new aircraft. However, industry sources speculate its service entry in 2013, which Dassault officials have neither confirmed nor denied. Edelstenne said that “major technology decisions will be taken in the coming months.” A Dassault spokesman added that the aircraft is still in the predevelopment phase and “no formal launch decision has been taken,” although he admitted the engine decision meant it was effectively launched.

Asked whether the new aircraft would compete with Dassault’s other super-midsize business jet, the Falcon 2000, he said, “We’re not even ready to define the size category yet.” He said Dassault estimates the French company will secure about 20 percent of the market for the super midsize category.

Meanwhile, on June 13, Dassault Aviation delivered the first Falcon 7X to Gilbert Chagoury, founder and chairman of the Chagoury group. The aircraft was handed over at Le Bourget after a nonstop flight from Dassault Aviation’s completion center at Little Rock, Arkansas. The next aircraft is going to Serge Dassault, the company’s former president, and is displayed on the company’s static stand here at Le Bourget.