Dassault Sees Changing Middle East Bizjet Market

 - November 13, 2011, 9:30 AM
Dassault unveiled the Falcon 2000S, a lower cost derivative of the Falcon 2000, at this year’s Ebace Convention. Certification is pegged for next year’s fourth quarter, with deliveries to follow in early 2013.

Dassault is here at the Dubai Air Show (Stand W310) exhibiting two of its latest models–the Falcon 2000LX and  Falcon 7X–the latter equipped with a second-generation enhanced-vision system (EVS). These types are set to be joined by the new Falcon SMS, with the French manufacturer last month confirming that this previously ill-defined product will definitely fill the market segment above the Falcon 2000 series when it enters service in 2016

At the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) show in Las Vegas, Nevada, Olivier Villa, Dassault’s senior vice president of civil aircraft, disclosed that the detailed design phase has begun for the Falcon SMS. More than 1,500 engineers are working on the program using Dassault Systéme’s new four-dimensional Catia design software.

The Falcon SMS will be a twinjet with fly-by-wire controls, using the latest iteration of the EASy flight deck (EASy II). Dassault won’t release any further details of the new model but has laid to rest any doubts about the company’s intentions. Dassault Falcon Jet president John Rosanvallon confirmed that the new program is “100 percent go. We’re just not releasing specific details, for competitive reasons,” he told AIN.

The EASy II flight deck is scheduled to be certified late next year on the Falcon 7X and Falcon 2000 series. It will become standard on production aircraft and will be available for retrofit with 7Xs and the 2000s currently using the EASy I variant. EASy II was approved for the Falcon 900 in July.

Ahead of this week’s show, Dassault acknowledged that the fallout from the so-called Arab Spring political upheaval did, at least for a while, adversely impact business aircraft sales in the Middle East. However, according to Renaud Cloatre, the company’s Dubai-based sales director for the region, there has been “strong activity” since the end of Ramadan in August.

The situation for charter demand has been quite different. “Demand was accelerated and made more complex by the Arab Spring,” Cloatre told AIN. This trend has bolstered morale among the Falcon sales force, with Cloatre insisting that the Middle East remains a “strategic and promising area despite the financial crisis.”

In fact, the market in this part of the world today accounts for 7 to 10 percent of Dassault’s business jet sales. “It is a mature market and most sales are from customers replacing older aircraft,” Cloatre said. The most important customer bases are now Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman. This is a big difference from two years ago, as Oman seems to have replaced Egypt in the top-three business aviation markets. A total of 60 Falcons are in service in the Middle East, up from 50 in 2009.

A fourth Falcon 7X will be delivered by year-end to Saudi Private Aviation, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabian Airlines. The first three aircraft already are logging about twice the annual rate for the global charter fleet. Trickier, however, is the situation with Saudi operator National Air Services, which operates two Falcon 2000LXs. But the firm order it placed in 2007 for four aircraft (including the aforementioned two) and 20 options is still being “renegotiated.”

“Local customers like our three-engine design and our digital [fly-by-wire] flight controls very much,” Cloatre said. The also appreciate, he said, equipment such as head-up displays, EVS and synthetic-vision systems–all of which contribute to situational awareness and safety. In-flight communication devices are much in demand, too.

An additional authorized service center (ASC) joined the Falcon support network last year when Saudi Private Aviation Engineering & Maintenance in Jeddah became the second factory-approved facility and parts depot in the region. The first one is part of Jet Aviation’s FBO here at Dubai International Airport.

To support the region’s ASCs, Dassault is able to dispatch so-called “go-teams” of mechanics. The airframer’s local customer service manager for Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Jordan and Syria is Jeddah-based Bernard Delouÿe.