Dassault has bucked the trend among business jet manufacturers of announcing massive job cuts, furloughs or temporary factory closures since the beginning of the economic downturn in 2001. Still, the French company has significantly reduced production rates for its Falcon line.
Dassault Falcon 50
Dassault, which earlier this year disclosed it would cut production to between 50 and 60 Falcons this year, said at the Paris Air Show in June that the number will actually be “about 50.” It also plans to reduce production even further next year, to about 48 business jets. Dassault delivered 66 Falcons last year, down from a record 75 in 2001.
Last year, things were bad for the completion and refurbishment industry as companies were feeling the effects of the economic recession. Even so, there was an attempt by many to put a positive face on the future. With the perspective now of 20/20 hindsight, a more accurate forecast would have been, “things are never so bad that they can’t get worse.”
Dassault added another wing-letted model to the company’s lineup, the Falcon 900LX, which will replace the Falcon 900EX following certification in the first half of 2010. Initial flight testing has demonstrated a drag reduction of up to 7 percent. Climb performance should improve by 10 percent, according to Dassault, and maximum range will climb to 4,800 nm.
Dassault Aviation CEO Charles Edelstenne is confident about the future of the French company’s broadening line of Falcons as it ramps up completion efforts for the 7X and prepares to launch its new super-midsize jet. But the pressure of a weakening dollar that is affecting all European aerospace companies is making the company cautious about future models.
Dassault Aviation’s unwillingness to develop a new light business jet to replace the Falcon 10 and 20 models is starting to cost it business. European executive charter firms, in particular, are increasingly looking to add smaller, more affordable models to their fleets in a bid to attract new business aviation users.
Last month, Dassault Aviation delivered its 1,500th Falcon, a Falcon 2000. Charles Edelstenne, chairman of Dassault Aviation and Dassault Falcon Jet, presented the Falcon 2000 to Kevin Russell, senior vice president of Executive Jet. The delivery is the 29th Falcon of the more than 100 Falcons ordered for the Executive Jet NetJets fractional aircraft owner program. The 1,500 Falcons include 42 for use in search and rescue with the U.S.
Dassault Falcon salespeople are starting to hear customers voicing concerns about their airplane’s effect on the environment. “Owners want to be able to say their business jet is quite environmentally friendly,” said Bruno Stoufflet, the company’s v-p for scientific strategy, research and development and advanced business, at a seminar in Paris recently.
This year will be one of the best that Dassault has ever had with its Falcon business jets. As of late October, the French manufacturer had chalked up firm orders for 112 Falcons and taken options for another 101, smashing last year’s record of firm orders for 90 Falcons.
Dassault Falcon Jet describes its new 5,700-nm, $35+ million Falcon 7X three-engine business jet as providing 30 percent more range and 20 percent more cabin space at a 10 percent higher price than the 900EX. This positions the new airplane in the range and price market between its own 900EX, the Gulfstream IV-SP and the newly announced Global 5000 on one side and the GV and Global Express on the other.