Inside Charles Lindbergh Hall at Dassault Aviation’s Bordeaux-Mérignac final-assembly facility in France today, Dassault faced the constraints of the coronavirus pandemic head-on and rolled out the super-midsize, wide-cabin Falcon 6X during an online ceremony broadcast live on YouTube—a first for a business jet program. The event, featuring Dassault Aviation chairman and CEO Eric Trappier, was hosted by pilot and broadcasting veteran Miles O’Brien.
“Instead of violins and Versailles, the virus has put us in the virtual world,” O’Brien said. “But that in no way diminishes the excitement we have for the accomplishment we herald today. Mérignac is a special, magical place. This is where Falcons come together and first take flight.” More than 10,000 Dassault aircraft, both military and civil, have been manufactured here, including 2,600 Falcons. “In this corner of Bordeaux,” he said, “the beautiful, bold vintages never stop improving. The Falcon 6X is just the latest baby, the best and brightest, of course, to hatch from this high-tech nest.”
Today’s rollout is a significant achievement,” Trappier said. “I am very pleased to present the addition of an all-new aircraft design within the Falcon family, the ultra widebody Falcon 6X.”
He explained the key goals of the program, first being efficiency. “Number two is comfort. It’s something which is important for us. The 6X is going to be 5,500 nm range, LA to Moscow...but what is great with the 6X is the roomy fuselage, it gives this cabin great comfort. By keeping the flexibility of all our Falcons, that is very important for our customers. Safety is something which is over everything. Thanks to the flight control system, we have a very safe aircraft. Thanks also to the flight control system, we have a very smooth flight, and that is also good for the passengers.”
The 6X program remains on track for first flight—which will be hull number three, the one rolled out today—in early 2021, and certification and entry into service will follow in 2022. Next steps for the 6X are ground testing and systems checks before the first flight.
During the rollout ceremony, Trappier shared some thoughts about the late Serge Dassault, who passed away in 2018. “This is the first rollout since we lost him. He would have liked and would have been proud to assist with this event. He was very fond of development of new programs, and the 6X progress and success would have been very important for him.
“We would also like to address thanks to our shareholder, Dassault Holding, led by Charles Edelstenne, and to the Dassault family—Marie-Hélène, Thierry, Laurent, and Oliver Dassault—they are always supporting the company in development of such new programs.
“Before we go to the next step,” he continued, “it’s time to address congratulations to the teams, the engineering teams, the manufacturing teams, for the job they have done to now. I would like to say good luck to them for the future because they still have a lot of work to perform up to the deliveries of the 6X to our customers.”
Addressing the test pilots, who stood near the 6X during the rollout ceremony, Trappier told them, “Now the bird is yours.”
When Dassault engineers were tasked with designing a new airplane to replace the canceled 5X, one challenge was how to manage the greater weight of the newly selected Pratt & Whitney PurePower PW812D engines. The basic dimensions of the cabin didn’t change, but the engineers added 20 inches to the cabin length to balance the increased weight. This not only enabled retention of the unique skylight in the galley area but also the 30 larger windows as well as more room in the forward galley or crew rest area or more space in the aft lounge.
Both the 5X and 6X cabin feature the largest cross-section dimensions of a purpose-built business jet—Dassault calls it an “ultra widebody”—with a height of 78 inches (1.98 meters) and width of 102 inches. By comparison, the flagships of competitors Bombardier (Global 7500) and Gulfstream (G700) have smaller cabin dimensions, although they are much longer. The Global 7500 cabin measures 74 inches high and 96 inches wide. The G700 cabin is 75 inches high and 98 inches wide. Baggage is accommodated in a 155-cu-ft compartment inside the pressure vessel, plus there is another unpressurized compartment of 76 cu ft.
Up to 16 passengers can fly on the 6X in three lounge areas. With the increased cabin width, the aisle is five inches wider than earlier Falcon models.
The 6X carries more fuel than was planned for the 5X and thus can achieve a maximum range of 5,500 nm at Mach .80 or 5,100 nm at Mach .85 with eight passengers and three crew. One significant difference is that the 6X is Dassault’s first business jet with a nitrogen-based fuel pressurization system to lower the risk of fuel tank ignition (although earlier Falcons do have pressurized fuel tanks).
The 6X’s maximum operating Mach number is Mach 0.90 and maximum altitude is 51,000 feet. Powered back to Mach 0.85, the 6X can link Los Angeles and London, New York and Moscow, or Paris and Beijing while maintaining a 3,900-foot cabin altitude at 41,000 feet.
Maximum landing weight is 85 percent of the 77,460-pound maximum takeoff weight, making possible short flights followed by longer unrefueled legs. Takeoff distance at sea level and mtow is 5,480 feet. Approach speed at typical landing weights (eight passengers and three crew) is a low 109 kias, and coupled with steep approach capability to 6 degrees, landing can be safely done at smaller airports such as London City, Lugano, and Saint-Tropez.
A feature that facilitates short-field performance is the fly-by-wire flight control system’s use of electrically driven flaps and flaperons. The flaperons act as both flaps (increasing lift) and ailerons (roll control) and are a first for a business jet. With the control surfaces working in tandem, lift-over-drag augmentation improves steep approach visibility, control, and comfort. The 6X’s wing is updated with new structural architecture and a curved trailing edge, adding to the buffet margin and lift/drag ratio to lower the impact of turbulence, according to Dassault.
Nosewheel steering is integrated into the fly-by-wire flight control system “for safer runway handling in strong crosswinds or on wet runways.”
Fabrice “Tom” Valette will fly the 6X first flight, and he has spent 40 days flying the simulated test bench 6X. Despite its larger size, he said, “We’ll still have the agility that we we’re used to with Falcon 7X. We still have the comfort because we have the same standard as the Falcon 8X. So regarding the flying qualities, the agility of the aircraft, the performance of the aircraft, it will remain the same. There’s a lot of pressure on this [first flight], but this aircraft is going to be very sure and we’re going to be very quick to get it in service. I feel very confident about it.”
The Pratt & Whitney PurePower PW812D ("D" for Dassault) engines that power the 6X each deliver 13,500 pounds thrust. The PW812D has a 44-inch single-piece fan and 4.5:1 to 5:1 bypass ratio and features the low-emissions Talon X combustor. Specific fuel consumption of PW800s is some 10 percent less than that of current in-service engines, according to Pratt & Whitney.
In a departure from previous designs, Dassault elected to source the nacelle design, integration, and production from Collins Aerospace (formerly UTC Aerospace Systems) instead of developing a proprietary system or working with the engine OEM to deliver the nacelle along with the engine.
In preparation for the 6X first flight, Pratt & Whitney has completed 2,500 hours of ground testing as well as 300 hours of flight testing of the PW812D on its Boeing 747SP flying testbed. The testing included bird strike, ice ingestion, and blade-off scenarios.
On the 6X flight deck, pilots will manage the jet with the latest version of the Honeywell Epic-based EASy III avionics, which also features four 14.1-inch displays, Honeywell’s IntuVue RDR-4000 radar, and the FalconEye head-up display with combined vision system (overlaid synthetic vision and enhanced vision system imagery). FalconEye is standard in the 6X and was developed with Elbit Systems. Dassault expects to receive operational credit approval for use of FalconEye’s enhanced vision system for instrument approaches to 100-foot minimums in the 6X.
FalconSphere II electronic flight bags are mounted in the console. Updated processors and displays make the EASy III avionics power up and down faster than ever.
The widebody cabin extends into the flight deck, giving pilots more headroom and 30 percent more window space and allowing entry and egress to the front seats without having to climb over the center console. Pilot seats recline to 130 degrees.
Dassault’s product support teams have been working alongside engineers since the beginning of the program to prepare the 6X for entry into service and normal operations. There are more than 60 Dassault service centers, 16 regional spares distribution depots, and more than 100 field representatives worldwide to support Falcon jets.
A new feature on the 6X is the FalconScan onboard integrated maintenance system. FalconScan monitors more than 100,000 parameters and Dassault experts have designed algorithms to facilitate fault detection and troubleshooting, as well as trends across the 6X fleet.