Largest Falcon Business Jet Takes To The Skies

A Mighty Falcon

Dassault Falcon are indeed pioneers of providing a stellar range of business jets that are known for its capabilities and performance. Still, the French aviation giants are venturing into a decisive future and its latest 5X business jet is not only its biggest jet yet, it is also the most advanced Falcon to hit the skies to date.

It is not surprising that a brand like Dassault Aviation, with a military core, are pushing the benchmarks higher as they traverse the aviation industry in search of the best product for its customer base. This has translated in their private aviation cum business jet arm, Dassault Falcon, in becoming a fast-growing pick amongst the elite of society when it comes to personal or private air travel. In recent times, we've seen how the Falcon 8X development heralds a bright way forward for the brand with its improved range and efficiency levels based on the older 7X business jet, making it the brand's new flagship since it was first introduced in 2016. However, the brand has not stood still and only recently put a new Falcon up in the skies for a first round of drills, the Falcon 5X.

By the time you do read this, the Falcon 5X has already gone through its first flight successfully early last July in Bordeaux-Merignac, France. From these preliminary test rounds, the ultra-wide-bodied twinjet Falcon will go through the paces in a further series of limited prelim flight tests before the actual, full-fledge flight test campaign, which according to Dassault Falcon, is scheduled to take place in 2018. Even so, as things stands, the new Falcon 5X is expected to have a decent enough order list by its 2020 scheduled formal introduction, as many will be looking to this mighty business jet because of what's on offer.

Despite a four-year delay beyond the initial timetable, the aircraft took off on the 5th of July from Dassault's Bordeaux-Mérignac final assembly facility with test pilots Philippe Deleume and Philippe Rebourg at the controls. The two-hour flight was performed with a preliminary version of the Safran Silvercrest engines, due to a few design issues have delayed the power plant development four years beyond the initial timetable.

This advanced flight test campaign will permit to collect a certain amount of airframe and systems data that could not be generated during a ground test campaign undertaken earlier this spring. The ground campaign included ground runs as well as low and high-speed taxi tests. The purpose of the present flight test campaign, that lasted for a short week, was in aims to help streamline the development process. Flight validation and certification tests will be performed next year according to Dassault, once Safran delivers certifiable engines that meet specifications.

"We're committed to limiting the consequences of the four-year engine development delay as much as possible and the short preliminary flight test campaign is part of this effort," said Eric Trappier, Dassault Aviation Chairman & CEO. "We will closely monitor the validation tests on the modified Silvercrest, which are scheduled by Safran in the few coming months, as their results will be critical for meeting the 5X entry into service by 2020." The CEO was also keen to highlight how Dassault's customer portfolio is "anxious to fly the new wide-body Falcon, "Combined with the 5X's new generation digital flight controls, the new ultra-efficient wing will make it possible to blend the spaciousness and comfort of large cabin jets with the maneuverability, efficiency and airport capability of much smaller aircraft, establishing a new benchmark for the long-range business jet market."

While most details and features of the new Falcon 5X are still in its developmental phase, what is certain is that the cabin of the Falcon 5X will be the tallest and widest in the industry. Yet, Dassault Falcon asserts the aircraft will land at a speed down in the turboprop range and have a fuel burn significantly lower than that of any other business jet in its class. Those are some promising highlights from the aviation experts, but at a glance the package is quite impressive, considering its overall dimensions.

Resting at 24.5 ft from tail-tip to tyres, the 5X boasts a wingspan of 85.11 ft. In total length, the big Falcon measures at a cool 82.60 ft, almost two-whole feet longer than the current flagbearer, the Falcon 8X. While the 8X takes flight with a larger wingspan (86.25 ft), compared to 5X's (85.11 ft), the upcoming new Falcon will have a larger cabin height than the 8X, at 6.5 ft, compared to the 8X's 6.2 ft. This larger cabin is according to Dassault, the tallest in business aviation, a wider cabin than previous Falcons.

The Falcon 5X will see a top speed reading of .90 Mach with a total range of 5,200 nautical miles, 1250 nautical miles short of the 8X's range. Bearing in mind that the two Falcon's serve different purposes, one should note that this new 5X will still have the short-field capability of much smaller jets. As is in Dassault's growing tradition for the future, all this performance and capability is achieved with the lowest fuel consumption in its category; the 5X is as much as 50 percent more efficient on short missions.

Other features of this new business jet are found in its state-of-the-art technology, such as business aviation's most advanced fly-by-wire system. Dassault has confirmed that the 5X, like the 7X, will come with Digital Flight Control System (DFCS) which will provide flight envelope protection to avoid inadvertently exceeding structural speed limits and stalls. Because of these protections, pilots can command maximum performance quickly and decisively without exceeding tolerances. Hazardous situations such as wind shear, sudden traffic avoidance maneuvers and traffic pattern go-arounds become far easier and safer to manage.

Another part of the Falcon 5X's promising features is a wide speed envelope. The wing of the 5X is optimized for both high-and low-speed performance, much like previous Falcons as well. Leading edge slats and trailing edge flaps yield remarkable low takeoff and approach speeds. In fact, typical (Vref) approach speed for the 5X is 105 knots. That's up to 20 knots slower than most jets with comparable range and near the approach speed of some short-field turboprops.

Low-speed capability equates to greater safety margins on takeoff and landing. It also opens up a variety of more airports the 5X can serve to. with a balanced field length of 5,250 feet, something not many of its competitors can provide. It can fly farther from them, especially the most challenging fields such as Aspen or London City. Even with a partial fuel load, there is an opportunity to land and takeoff at small airports with runways of less than 4,000 feet.