In the 16-day period between April 27 and May 13, three OEMs started flight testing four of their latest aircraft. Two of the aircraft–the Falcon 7X and the Airbus A380–are equipped with fly-by-wire (FBW) primary control systems, but it is the Falcon 7X that is introducing this advanced technology to corporate aviation in a clean-sheet business jet design.
Dassault Falcon 7X
Since the maiden flight of the Falcon 7X on May 5, the 5,700-nm-range trijet has been flying almost daily from Dassault’s flight- test center in Istres, France. By the middle of last month, the 7X had logged 45 hours during 15 flights and had reached Mach 0.82 and 41,000 feet.
First the good news, or at least the news that most people in the international aerospace and defense industry can agree on. Last month’s 46th Paris Air Show was the most dynamic and commercially upbeat gathering of the global business since the June 2001 show, which had been staged in what now seem like halcyon days just before 9/11 and the still-unfolding torment of what has followed.
Cabin environment has been a major element of the completion process in the past couple of years, and it promises to become more so as concerns about air quality and drinking water grow.
Two years ago at this time, Jim Renfro, president and owner of Highlands Aviation at Avon Park, Fla., said he was spending most of his time on the road, “drumming up business and hanging on.” Last July, he allowed that things were looking better and his small independent shop was booked through the summer. As it turned out, last year was “the best year we’ve ever had,” and as of June this year, the company was booked well into the fall.
Dassault said it received orders for 52 Falcons in the first six months of this year, compared with 62 for the whole of last year. The company, which also said it had orders for 92 Falcon 7Xs as of June 30, forecasts that by year-end it will have orders for 100 copies of the new trijet. The first 7X is earmarked for delivery next spring to Serge Dassault the company’s majority stockholder.
Late last month Dassault flew a Falcon 2000EX EASy with an enhanced flight vision system (EFVS) for the first time. The event marked the beginning of a series of flight tests expected to yield European certification by the middle of next year.
Dassault Aviation’s second conforming Falcon 7X made a 2 hour 15 minute maiden flight on July 5. A day later the trijet was ferried to Dassault’s flight-test center in Istres, France. At press time, the 7X test fleet had logged more than 65 hours during 27 flights. FAA and EASA certification is slated for late next year.
The Flying Group is laying plans to add a new Falcon 900DX to its managed charter fleet next year, and it expects to have a Falcon 7X in its fleet in 2008. The Belgian company is opening a new hangar at its Antwerp headquarters later this year. It is also developing a new facility at Cannes-Mandelieu Airport in the south of France, where last year it acquired French charter firm Cap Camarat Business Jets.
Like the overall U.S. economy, the business aviation industry is still exceptionally strong, as reflected by the healthy number of new business aircraft in the works. There are now 31 business jets in development, in flight-test or certified within the last 12 months.