Dassault is planning various improvements to the Falcon 7X that are to be available later this year, both for retrofit and for new production aircraft. The France-based manufacturer is also leveraging fleet experience to have its customers make the most of their aircraft.
The fuel system is being modified to reduce refueling time considerably. Whereas filling from 50 percent to 100 percent capacity currently takes about 40 minutes, according to a new service bulletin, a new level controller and fuel probe allow this to be achieved in around 20 minutes, according to Damien Farret, Falcon 7X customer service specialist.
Another innovation this year, also aimed at increasing operational availability, relates maintenance intervals. The basic check, which used to take place every two months, is now planned every 300 flight-hours. In addition, the time between two A-checks will be extended in 2015.
The first C-check of a Falcon 7X is expected to occur relatively soon, as it is scheduled eight years after the 2007 entry into service. To be prepared for the first customer C-check, Dassault is shortly to perform one on a company-owned 7X.
In troubleshooting, support engineers have determined that, since entry into service, the main cause for delayed or cancelled flights has been initialization–the automatic sequence when the aircraft is powered up. “Messages can appear–sometimes false alarms–signaling a problem,” but the causes are tricky to find as a number of systems interact, said Farret. Hence, an action plan has been developed.
As of February, fixes were available for 55 percent of the identified issues, according to Farret. Most other items are addressed temporarily by the “pilot assist list,” he said. Finally, new fixes will be validated by year-end for another 30 percent of the problems, thanks to a new avionics software load.
Some customers have special requests relating to the airports they want to use. For example, in response to one owner’s desire to fly to and from a very challenging runway–Gstaad Saanen in Switzerland–Dassault qualified the 7X for the 3,570 feet of landing distance available at that airport. A spectacular video of the landing, filmed with a simple GoPro camera (and available on YouTube), will be used for training purposes with other customers.
In other instances, Dassault’s pilots have to convince a customer of the aircraft’s capabilities. As David Sebaoun, Falcon 7X operations manager recounted, the owner of a 7X operated in India was not sure about the long-range capability of his jet, which was usually operated for less than 10 hours. The airframer offered a demonstration flight with the owner’s operations department and a Dassault crew and the customer accepted.
The flight took seven passengers and accompanying luggage from Seletar- Singapore to Zurich in Switzerland. Flight time was just over 13 hours and air distance 5,867 nm. Dassault pilots shared best practices in terms of flight planning, such as a choice of alternate airports that minimizes contingency fuel. They shared tricks in flight management, too, such as keeping the autothrottles on during the entire flight.
Other customers have reported flights that push the 7X’s stated 5,950 nm range, such as Germany to São Paulo (5,975 nm of air distance), Beijing to St. Louis (6,000 nm) and Brussels to Singapore (5,986 nm).
Separately, a flight test campaign will take place this summer in Tibet to certify the 7X for 15,000-foot altitude airports. A Falcon 7X has even landed on a grooved ice runway in Antarctica.
A well-equipped Falcon 7X sells for $52.8 million.
Falcon 7X Fleet Statistics
Aircraft in service: 218
Average annual flight hours: 400
Average flight duration: 2 hr 25 min
Types of operations: private 59 percent; commercial 36 percent; government 5 percent
NBAA dispatch reliability: 99.5 percent