In its newly released 2016 annual report, Dassault Aviation chairman and CEO Eric Trappier revealed that the company plans to launch another Falcon business jet later this year. “We want to be in a position to launch a new Falcon jet at the end of 2017,” he wrote in the report’s introduction. “Preliminary studies are focusing on enhanced comfort and a reduced environmental footprint, mainly by reducing fuel consumption and noise. That’s all I can say for now.”
Further in the report, under a section titled “Programs driven by innovation,” such a product launch appears more definite: “We are now readying the launch of a new Falcon jet, which will offer characteristics determined by our market studies and technological capabilities.” A company spokesman would not expand on aircraft characteristics or timing of the launch.
“I think that we are all waiting to hear if and when it is launching the Falcon 9X,” JetNet iQ director Rolland Vincent told AIN. “Assuming that this aircraft incorporates the 5X cross-section, this would surely address the ‘comfort’ feature of a long-haul jet.” Lower noise levels suggest lower-thrust engines than those that power competing ultra-long-range business jets, he said—“a design characteristic shared by other Falcons that have lower takeoff weights than aircraft they tend to compete against.”
The big question, Vincent said, is whether the new aircraft will have two or three engines. “Economics would seem to favor a twin, since fewer engines equals less maintenance with easier access for inspections and repairs,” he pointed out. “The twin configuration is also already designed into the 5X; reverting it to a three-engine airframe would no doubt involve substantial re-engineering cost and effort with arguably little payback.”
And if customers want a long-range trijet Falcon, “With the recently certified 8X, the good news is that Falcon operators already have just such an option,” Vincent noted. “If their missions take them into challenging airports and over deep blue water, they can line up for an 8X. The 9X? We think it’s time for a twin.”
As for what new technologies could be incorporated into a new Falcon, the company’s annual report also sheds some light here via an overview of aerospace research initiatives in which Dassault is involved. “We are funding our own research into the development of innovative technologies intended for tomorrow’s Falcon jets, including systems, composites, aerodynamics and more,” the report notes.
Research efforts highlighted in the report include a test-bench demonstration of a new cockpit concept for Falcons; detailed design review and the start of manufacture of a composite wing demonstrator; and “scale 1” ground tests to improve the design of the rear body of Falcons. “The 2016 commercial aviation research support project recently started, focusing on the development of new flight and ground pilot controls and functions, studies to eliminate uncertainties about the ruggedness (resistance to damage) of fabrications and composite assemblies,” the report adds.
Along with 18 partners and the same number of “major” subcontractors from seven European countries, Dassault is also involved in the Breakthrough Laminar Aircraft Demonstrator in Europe (Blade) under the EU’s Clean Sky initiative. This program seeks to validate, under actual conditions, the performance of a laminar-flow wing developed using technologies that are compatible with mass production.
With the follow-on Clean Sky 2 program, Dassault is also developing a second-generation of materials and manufacturing, maintenance and recycling technologies that will further reduce environment impact. Through the Hycarus project, Dassault is participating in research on aviation applications for fuel cells, “which opens the door to a number of new possibilities, especially for special-mission Falcons, since it will provide greater energy capacity on the aircraft.” By year-end, a demonstrator will be flight tested, the company said.
If implemented, many of these technologies would contribute toward the stated goals for the new Falcon, namely a reduced environmental impact mainly through lower fuel burns and noise levels.