ANALYSIS: Access all areas with the Falcon 2000

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As the world of business aviation awaits details of Dassault's first all-new Falcon since the launch of the 7X in 2001, the French manufacturer is continuing its successful strategy of ensuring the brand meets as many mission requirements as possible by updating and introducing variants of its established twin-engine 2000 and 900 trijet.

The latest member of the family to get the makeover treatment is the 2000LXS, a more capable replacement for the 2000LX. The new model will be offered alongside the new entry-level 2000s in a large-cabin segment, where competitors include the Bombardier Challenger 605 and Gulfstream G450, and where demand has remained reasonably robust since the financial crisis.

The 2000LXS - details of which were revealed in October 2012 - is the seventh derivative of the 20-year-old 2000, almost 500 examples of which have been built.

It will replace the 2000LX in production from later this year and enter service early next - the first 2000S, which was announced in May 2011, has just been handed over to a Turkish customer.

OFFERINGS

The two 2000 variants now give Dassault two very different offerings in the segment. Despite it having the same cabin as the 2000LXS in terms of capability and price, the manufacturer pitches the 3,350nm-range (6,200km) 2000S against the smaller Challenger 300 and Gulfstream G280.

Although Dassault has not fundamentally altered the airframe for its latest aircraft, or the performance of the Pratt & Whitney PW308C engine, the 4,000nm-range 2000LXS - like the 2000S - is equipped with new inboard slats as well as winglets. Its main selling point, says Dassault, is that it combines the 2000LX's longer-range capabilities with the strong short-field performance and the improved sound-proofing of the 2000S.

The 2000LXS offers a balanced field length of 4,675ft (1,425m) at 19,400kg (42,700lb) maximum take-off weight - that is 330m better than the 2000LX. "What this means is that you can take off from much shorter runways without compromising payload," says Frederic Recher, sales engineer, speaking at Dassault's headquarters and design centre in the Paris suburb of St Cloud.

"In the USA, there are 50% more airports where you can depart with full fuel than you can with the Challenger 605. This aircraft goes where others can't," he adds.

On a wet runway, the difference between the two variants is even more marked, at 4,700ft compared with 6,120ft on the 2000LX. This figure, he also claims, is about 1,500ft better than the 2000LXS's two main rivals, the Challenger 605 and G450. "A lot of customers asked for this sort of wet performance," says Recher. "We are far beyond the competition on wet runways."

Arriving is also easier, argues Dassault. The 2000LXS's landing distance at total landing weight is 700m, a 130m improvement on its predecessor. London City - one of Europe's most popular business aircraft airports and also one of its most challenging - was only accessible on the 2000LXS's predecessors with autobrakes (an option on the 2000EX, standard on the 2000LX).

The 2000LXS, along with the 2000S, does not need autobrakes because the lower approach speed makes the landing more comfortable, says Recher. Dassault said at the time of the 2000LXS's launch that the plan had been to adapt the lessons learned with the 2000S development on to a longer-range variant.

"The main difficulty in adapting such features to the LX was our desire to keep the same payload at full fuel while maintaining LX climb and cruise performance," said Olivier Villa, senior vice-president of civil aircraft for Dassault, at the National Business Aviation Association convention in 2012. "This meant finding weight-reduction solutions to offset the weight of the new features."

The main external design change contributing to the improved low-speed performance - the inboard slats - does add weight, but this is balanced by a weight saving on the wing structure, says Recher. Dassault already uses the inboard slat design on the 900LX, but the trijet's wing - although the same size and shape as the 2000LXS - is heavier to support the 900LX's greater maximum take-off weight.

The 2000LXS - as with the 2000S - will come with the EASy II cockpit, developed with Honeywell, as standard; it has been ­baseline on the 900LX since 2011 and is now also being adopted on the 7X. As well as better display symbology and other aesthetic improvements, the package comes fitted with the ­Controller Pilot Data Link Communication aeronautical telecommunication network, mandated over Europe since 2011 for new aircraft - although new Falcons had an exemption until this year - and for in-service types from 2015. Also standard is a take-off go-around mode.

Options include the SmartView synthetic vision system and the SmartRunway runway awareness and advisory system, aimed at improving pilots' situational awareness and guarding against incursions or excursions by means of an audible warning.

Other EASy II features include real-time XM weather updates - available in North America only - and an auto descent mode, which takes the aircraft to a safe altitude in the event of cabin depressurisation. A further option with EASy II is the Future Air Navigation System - or FANS 1/A - mainly in use over oceans as well as India and Australia.

ENHANCEMENTS

Dassault is also offering a host of enhancements for those on the other side of the curtain, including its Falcon Cabin HD+ cabin management and entertainment system, which comes with touchscreens and Rockwell Collins' Airshow 3D interactive moving map. An icon-based screen allows passengers to alter lighting and temperature.

Carry-on devices such as iPads and laptops can also be plugged into monitors. As with the 2000S and earlier 2000 models, the cabin can be configured for eight, nine or 10 passengers, with most completions carried out at Dassault's in-house centre in Little Rock, Arkansas. From 2014, a fixed-configuration BMW Designworks cabin will be offered.

Dassault - which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Falcon brand, launched in 1963 with the Mystere or Falcon 20 - is poised to expand its range more dramatically later this year, when the long-awaited "SMS" project is likely to break cover.

Until then, the 2000LXS - like the 2000S - gives it another strong contender in a super-midsize to large-cabin marketplace, where global demand remains healthy, especially in emerging regions, and barriers to entry for new rivals are very high.

In the world of business aviation, where time, comfort and convenience are commodities as important to customers as cost, the short-runway versatility of the 2000LXS may prove a vital selling point.