While it used to be normal to see Dassault Falcons landing and taking off from Santa Monica Airport (SMO) in Southern California, the April 24 arrival and departure of a Falcon 8X was somewhat unique—and not just because SMO's runway was shortened last year in an effort to reduce business jet traffic at the field. The flight, which originated in Portland, Oregon, was part of a successful effort to break the record for the Santa Monica to Teterboro leg.
The big trijet landed on Santa Monica’s shortened 3,500-foot runway early Wednesday morning after flying from Portland, using less than 2,000 feet for the landing. After a rapid fueling and turnaround at FBO Atlantic Aviation, the 8X needed a balanced field length of just 3,200 feet for the flight to Teterboro, carrying four passengers, 13,640 pounds of fuel, 200 pounds of payload, and two pilots. The 8X didn’t exceed the limits of the airport’s sensitive noise monitors during takeoff and departure, registering “significantly below the 95 dBA SEL sound limit,” according to Dassault.
With tailwinds averaging just five knots, the flight from Santa Monica to Teterboro took 4 hours, 28 minutes, besting the previous record by 24 minutes. That record was set when the airport’s runway was nearly 5,000 feet long.
Before attempting the landing and takeoff at Santa Monica, Dassault chief pilot and director of operations Franco Nese and captain Ryan Duveneck had practiced the day before short field takeoffs and landings at McNary Field in Salem, Oregon. They also practiced the precise timing of the noise-abatement power reduction needed shortly after takeoff to minimize the noise footprint over the city of Santa Monica. "Ryan makes the command for the power reduction; it's critical," Nese explained. "We had to be right on cue with the power reduction and still make a safe climbout from the airport and keeping it quiet for everyone there in Santa Monica." For the record flight, Nese flew left seat and Duveneck right seat.
AIN videographer Ian Whelan joined the 8X in Portland and experienced the maneuvering during the Santa Monica operation: “It felt very dramatic,” he said. “We were on the runway for what felt like a while with the brakes on, spooling the engines up, but it could have been only a few seconds. When Franco released the brakes it felt like a rocket taking off. We were going steeply into the air in no time. He lowered the nose shortly after takeoff to reduce noise and then went for it again. It was really apparent how fast we were climbing up to cruise altitude. The thrust was really noticeable. This was not something I’ve experienced before.”
On the descent into the New York area, time was of the essence as the pilots wanted to shave as much time as possible off the previous record flight. Local air traffic controllers helped facilitate the quick descent. "It felt like we were coming hot into Teterboro," Whelan reported. "It was turbulent; there were some definite zero-g sensations and it felt like a roller coaster ride."
The crew landed at Teterboro at 3:36 pm EDT. Dassault has applied for official ratification of the record flight by the National Aeronautic Association.
"The winds weren't as good as expected," Nese said after landing at Teterboro, "but we actually made up the last eight to 10 minutes on approach here, thanks to ATC—they helped us out quite a bit. They delayed our descent so we had higher speeds and then they shortened the approach for us, and that's where we saved a good five minutes. That made the speed record that much better. It was a challenging day. Short runway, landing, refueling, taking on a fairly hefty load of fuel, passengers, bags, still taking off out of a 3,500-foot runway, flying Mach 0.87 all the way to New York, and landing here with a decent fuel reserve. No other aircraft could do that."
“Business aviation is about flying precisely where you need to be,” said Eric Trappier, chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation. “Today’s flight on the Falcon 8X embodies everything that advanced design can accomplish: unparalleled airport performance, a quiet noise footprint, and extended capability, all in a large-cabin business jet. This is not possible in any other business jet in the ultra-long-range class.”