Flourishing Dassault plans new mid-size jet

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Dassault is demonstrating its confidence in the future of the business jet market by forging ahead with plans to launch a new mid-sized offering. It also predicts a record number of Falcon deliveries in 2007, writes Helen Massy-Beresford.

Chief executive Charles Edelstenne says that the company has put out requests for proposals for major elements of the new aircraft, opening the programme up to new partners. "We still have the same supply chain strategy, but we will give the opportunity to new partners to bid."

Edelstenne says Dassault is now deciding on the performance, size and technologies of the new aircraft, which should be complete within the next few weeks. "We will begin to develop at top speed once the 7X is certified," he says. The 7X is expected to be approved in April and has "passed all the critical tests", says Edelstenne.

It is now awaiting Federal Aviation Administration approval for the software used by one of its partners, but Edelstenne is confident that first deliveries of the Falcon are on track for the second quarter of this year.

Meanwhile, the manufacturer is planning to deliver more than 80 Falcon aircraft in 2007 - including 15 7Xs - after taking a record 158 orders in 2006. Production of the 7X is set to ramp up to 10 a month in the coming two years, says Edelstenne.

Including military aircraft, Dassault Aviation had an order backlog worth €5.3 billion ($6.9 billion) at the end of 2006, with sales last year of €3.3 billion, of which 62% was accounted for by Falcon business jets. Sales overall were lower than the 2005 level of €3.4 billion, while net profit dipped from €305 million to €281 million.