Dassault Aviation chairman and CEO Eric Trappier is encouraged by a stronger business aviation climate and growing demand for Falcon business jets, not just in the U.S. but in other parts of the world.
This improving picture for business aviation coincides with Dassault logging the first sales in its latest jet program, the Falcon 6X, which was unveiled in February following cancellation of the 5X. “The first firm sales followed shortly [after] the February announcement,” he said, “and the number of ongoing negotiations makes me very optimistic about the success of this big new twinjet.”
The 5X was canceled due to problems with its Safran Silvercrest engine, although the jet did accomplish some preliminary flight testing. Being able to react quickly to such a severe setback is critical to the health of the company, Trappier explained. “I have made a priority to keep the company agile and reactive. This is one of the keys of our success and it was again essential for the launch of the exciting Falcon 6X we announced in February.” Dassault (Booth Z89, SD3) has previously revealed that it is already planning another future next business jet program but has not yet released any details.
Powered by the Pratt & Whitney PurePower PW812D turbofan, the Falcon 6X is expected to achieve first flight in early 2021, followed by entry into service in 2022. The jet’s 40-foot, four-inch cabin will accommodate up to 16 passengers, and maximum range is 5,500 nm at Mach .80.
The introduction of the 6X coincided with a much-improved preowned market, which is evident by a significant drop in the 7X preowned inventory. Demand for used 7Xs in the Asia-Pacific region is especially strong, as is the case in the rest of the world, Trappier said. “And demand for new airplanes is starting to firm up, too.” He added that many of these buyers are new business aviation customers, “not just in China, but also the countries around China.”
7X backlog is solid through the fourth quarter of 2019, and demand for the 8X is strong with both current Falcon owners and, he said, “buyers coming from outside the Falcon family.
“The trend looks good in particular in the U.S. where our industry benefits from the [recent] tax reform. We still face very aggressive pricing by certain OEM’s, but the Falcon 2000LXS and 900LX confirm their good position on the market.”
In Europe, there is strong interest in the 6X. “I am also getting more optimistic about China and the whole Asia-Pacific region where the 8X and the 7X attract more prospects than we’ve seen in the past few years.” Dassault is seeing increased demand in Brazil and Mexico, but this “is tempered by political and economic uncertainties.”
Most Falcon 8X buyers have opted for the FalconEye combined vision system head-up display (HUD), which allows pilots to see enhanced vision system (EVS) and synthetic vision system (SVS) imagery combined together on the HUD. Dassault test pilots recently completed FAA and EASA certification flight testing of FalconEye to validate operational credits for instrument approaches to 100 feet minima.
Certification to this level is expected soon, with operational credit available to 8X FalconEye operators by the end of this year. FalconEye-equipped 2000LXS and 900LX models will be able to receive the operational credit in the first half of 2019.
Other upgrades available to Falcon operators include the latest version of the company’s electronic flight bag, FalconSphere II, as well as the new FalconConnect bundled service for airborne connectivity, in partnership with Honeywell. FalconConnect will be available for all Falcons as a retrofit starting in 2019.
For older Falcon models, the Falcon Elite II avionics upgrade is available for the airplanes’ Honeywell-based flight decks, offering modern air traffic management capabilities and other operational benefits. Gogo’s Avance 4G air-to-ground connectivity system is available, for Falcon jets needing reliable coverage when flying in North America.
In the multimission segment, Dassault sold a fifth Falcon 2000 maritime surveillance aircraft to Japan’s coast guard. Trappier has “good hopes” for selection of the 2000 for the French navy. The French government is buying at least seven maritime surveillance aircraft under a multi-year program, with first deliveries planned by 2025.
France’s air force selected Falcon aircraft for a future long-range electronic intelligence program, although the specific model has not been disclosed. Trappier said the air force requirements favor the 8X, “which can integrate a maximum number of operating stations, remain on station for up to 12 hours, and operate out of short, hard-to-access airstrips.”
Two Falcon 2000 signal intelligence aircraft were recently delivered to the Republic of South Korea. Last month, the German Aerospace Research and Space Center (DLR) signed an agreement for another Falcon 2000.
“To sum up,” said Trappier, “I’d like to reiterate that after a long downturn—the longest the business aviation industry has ever known—we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. And despite these difficulties, our fundamentals remain sound: a rapidly modernizing model line, the development of our Falcon 6X, the preparation of our future program, and our ongoing transformation plan designed to keep us ultra-reactive and competitive.”