Dassault undeterred by economic slowdown
Conceding that the market has suffered a “significant slowdown in the U.S. and Europe in the past few months,” Dassault chairman and CEO Charles Edelstenne, speaking here at a breakfast gathering yesterday, noted nevertheless that the order book at Dassault Falcon remains “solid, with very few cancellations.” He said that the company has sold 500 aircraft worldwide over the past three years. Company patriarch Serge Dassault was on hand to observe the proceedings and renew old acquaintances, having flown here in his Falcon 7X.
There are 18 Falcon 7Xs in service (the fleet leader has logged 1,300 hours and 600 landings), and more than 100 currently in various stages of construction; serial number 80 is in final assembly in Merignac. CAE’s facilities in Morristown, N.J., and Burgess Hill, England, have trained 170 Falcon 7X pilots and 250 technicians.
With fuel reaching a peak of $150 per barrel earlier this year, it could be said that of all business jet salesmen, Dassault’s are truly in their element. The company’s well-worn assertion that its Falcons are 40 percent more fuel efficient than the competition has never had better traction than now, even if fuel prices have retreated from their summer highs. To put this into perspective, Dassault presented figures showing the 900LX’s fuel cost as $1,660 per hour versus $2,500 per hour for the GIV, a difference of $840, which on the Falcon 900LX pie chart of operating costs covers airframe and engine maintenance and insurance premiums. “It’s like getting free maintenance and insurance with the Falcon,” noted an official.
The winglets that convert the 900EX into the 900LX and the 2000EX into the 2000LX improve the fuel efficiency of both airplanes by between 5 and 7 percent.
Edelstenne blamed the company’s “challenges” with Falcon 7X completions on the diversity of floor plans offered and on some FAA rule changes that caught the company by surprise. However, he assured the audience, “We will spare no effort to make this right.” Little Rock, Ark., is now Dassault’s single largest facility with 897,000 sq ft, following a recent $20 million, 116,000-sq-ft expansion. Bordeaux is also on the rise, following groundbreaking earlier this year for a 200,000-sq-ft expansion, due for completion early next year.
Recent Falcon 7X improvements include enhanced braking, clearance for takeoff at 14,000 feet and a different slats/flaps configuration for takeoff that can boost max range by 900 nm with eight passengers, 25 degrees C and Mach 0.80. Also achieved this year have been approvals for steep approaches, crosswinds and a cabin humidifier. Approval for electronic flight book and enhanced vision are scheduled for the first quarter next year. The EVS system has a CMC infrared sensor and Rockwell Collins HGS-4860 head-up guidance system. EVS was certified on the Falcon 900EX on July 28 this year.
The winglet-equipped Falcon 900LX will be able to fly 4,800 nm with a direct climb to FL390 in 20 minutes after takeoff, followed by climbs to FL430 and FL470 from a balanced field length of 5,050 feet (sea level, ISA).
The winglet-equipped Falcon 2000LX gains about 5 percent in range, to 4,000 nm, enabling nonstops from Geneva to New York and from Dubai to Dublin or Singapore or Shanghai or Windhoek. Certification flight testing is slated to wrap up later this year, allowing first deliveries early next year. With full fuel and six passengers, the 2000LX can take off from a balanced field length of 5,350 feet (sea level, ISA) and climb direct to FL410, cruising at Mach 0.80, and return to Earth in a landing distance of 2,630 feet.
Bolstering Product Support
Dassault has company-owned service and parts centers in Teterboro, N.J., and Paris Le Bourget, but a 40,000-sq-ft facility in Reno, Nev., capable of airframe inspections is to open in the first quarter next year.
There are now parts distribution facilities in São Paulo (due to open before year-end); Istanbul; Johannesburg; Moscow (2009); Dubai; Mumbai; Singapore; Shanghai; Sydney; San Jose, Calif.; and Wilmington, Del. The newly operational San Jose facility has $34 million worth of high-demand parts and can offer an extended ordering deadline for East Coast customers.