France’s Dassault Aviation comes to the EBACE show on a high after its Rafale fighter secured orders from Egypt, Qatar and India. Not only this, the first flight of its new Falcon 8X business jet took place in February, and the all-new 5X is due to be rolled out at the beginning of June, just ahead of the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget Airport–a location with strong Dassault connections, including its FBO.
But here in Geneva, the company is looking to demonstrate how far it has come in developing a state-of-the-art support environment for owners of its Falcon business jet family.
During a pre-EBACE visit to Dassault Aviation’s St. Cloud headquarters in Paris, the company outlined a growing worldwide network, increased use of the latest information technology, and support from its operations departments. The main planks of this support are through the following programs: Falcon Airborne Support, FalconResponse (for dealing with ‘aircraft on ground’ situations using two Falcon 900s), FalconSpares, FalconBroadcast and Falcon Operational Support.
AIN was able to see the Falcon Command Center at St. Cloud which receives and handles all customer calls and coordinates the Falcon ‘go teams.’ Soon the second Falcon 900 aircraft will be in place at the New York-area Teterboro Airport to give worldwide coverage in conjunction with the one aircraft already operating out of Paris Le Bourget.
The Falcons also provide alternative lift for customers should their aircraft become unserviceable. According to Pierre Thiélin, vice president of customer support, the company does “whatever it takes” to rescue a situation for its clients. “Customers expect reliability so the expectation we have is for more than 99.7 percent–that’s three delayed or cancelled flights per 1,000 attempted,” he said.
According to Jacques Chauvet, senior vice president for worldwide customer service, “What is most important is the front line people, the CSMs [customer service managers]…out of 17 CSMs, 7 are based near customers and 10 are based at St. Cloud and are traveling.”
Operators can feed back into the whole system via involvement in the operator advisory board. This has one main meeting each year (most recently in February 2015), but has 10 very active working groups “involving more than 120 customers.” There is also close coordination with Dassault’s sales force, which resides within the same division of the company.
Another aspect is having spares available at short notice. “Ten years ago we had Teterboro and Le Bourget but now we have 13 D/Cs, and the total spares inventory has increased from $300 million to $778 million [in that time],” said Chauvet. Soon Singapore will become the third main spare parts inventory and in 2015 two more D/Cs will be added, in Lagos, Nigeria and one in the Atlanta, Georgia, area.
Today, the service center network has 45 sites including the Dassault-owned ones in Le Bourget, Wilmington (Delaware), Little Rock (Arkansas) and São Paulo, Brazil–up from 26 in 2004. “The number of independent centers has decreased as we prefer to concentrate on our own,” said Chauvet.
In addition a major new maintenance, repair and overhaul facility is being built adjacent to its Bordeaux factory. Dassault Falcon Service Merignac will complement the Le Bourget facility using a dual hangar that has space for six Falcon 7X-size aircraft (the first 7X scheduled C-check was completed in March at Le Bourget so there is a growing need for capacity now). The new facility will open in mid-2016, helping Dassault support an in-service Falcon fleet that now totals some 2,000 aircraft.
Thiélin gave an overview of aircraft health monitoring using FalconBroadcast. “We are always looking at what we can do with the data,” he explained. “On the Easy aeroplanes [Falcons with Easy avionics] we have ECAM and can receive maintenance messages. So we can provide the customer with a diagnostic on e-mail alert. The customer can also go to the @FalconPortal to see all their messages.” He added that it is a system that is constantly evolving and for the new 8X/5X models it is developing a new algorithmic system.
The new aircraft will also have built-in data networks allowing the collection of some 17,000 parameters. “We are thinking now about what to do with all that data–20GB per flight,” said Thiélin. Much of this can be downloaded as the flight proceeds via satcom links and Dassault will use this as the basis for improved diagnostics.
So far some 130 aircraft have FalconBroadcast “equipped and activated,” concluded Thiélin, who also mentioned FalconCare, the company’s guaranteed maintenance program. This covers the aircraft but not the engine or APU, with a pay-as-you fly monthly fee, a flight hours fee and a fee based on number of landings.
The program, introduced in 2004, has 200 active contracts and half of the 7X fleet is subscribed. This year will see the incorporation of FalconSmart, a bundle of services including electronic flight bag updates covering performance calculations and tools.
Frederic Leboeuf, who has been vice president of the Dassault Operational Support Department since mid-2013, commented, “I think we are the only OEM to have such a directorate, supporting the customer before, during an after the aircraft delivery.” Dassault tries to be close to its customers and to understand their specific operational and environmental constraints and challenges.
The airframer has worked hard recently on digitizing its manuals. “Training is a challenge,” said Leboeuf, pointing out that both CAE and FlightSafety are Falcon training providers now. At the center of this activity is the Falcon Training Policy Manual, with this and the Crew Operational Document for Dassault EASy now being available in digital form, along with quick reference handbooks.
The Falcon Operation Support department has 30 people and is still growing. It acts to support operators in training and putting together the necessary flight operations documents for the new 5X and 8X aircraft. “We are delivering a modular training approach,” said David Sebaoun, Falcon 7X/8X programs operations manager. “It will be a huge improvement in pilot training,” he said.
“We are able to train people on everything from a Falcon 10 to a Falcon 7X,” added Leboeuf. This includes even very old aircraft with few models still in operation.
At the FlightSafety International/Dassault Aviation joint-venture training facility at Paris Le Bourget Airport AIN had the opportunity to experience how Dassault’s pilot support team can train crews for unusual or tricky approaches where additional familiarity training is required for safety reasons. One example was La Mole (St Tropez) Airport, which Philippe Micaud, chief pilot Falcon Operational Support, said “has a challenging VFR approach.”
Olivier Froment, captain, instructor and examiner, who is in charge of the 5X for the Operational Support Group, said that since it became an authorized training organization in 2014 it had carried out RI/TRI courses and base training courses. “The idea is to train the trainers,” he explained. “We will do this for the 8X and then the 5X as well.”
Froment said many operators have asked for the department’s support to find the best way to operate its aircraft, especially since it managed to fly a 7X from Singapore to Zurich “to show a customer that a 7X could fly a 13-hour leg. “We told our customers how they could manage fuel and plan. This is the kind of expertise we can provide,” said Froment.
Two Falcon 8X FlightSafety Level D full-flight simulators are coming on line soon–the first one at Teterboro and the second at the Le Bourget center. They will be equipped with a Vital 1100 visual system, electric motion control and cueing while training will feature Matrix, FlightSafety’s integrated training technology that includes desktop simulators and flight-deck simulators.