PICTURE: Dassault begins 50th anniversary celebrations

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As part of its 50th anniversary celebrations, Dassault has taken the wraps off the first Mystère 20 business jet - ancestor of the ubiquitous Falcon business jet line - which has undergone a three-year restoration.

The revamped Mystère 20 s/n 1 was unveiled earlier this month at the third annual Air & Space Museum Airshow, in Le Bourget, Paris.

The aircraft makes its next appearance at the Paris airshow, to be held at the same site, from 17 to 23 June, before returning to its permanent home at the museum.

S/n 1 is presented in its flight test livery, with a banner commemorating the world speed record set on 10 June 1965 by famed test pilot Jacqueline Auriol. Flying the first production aircraft, Auriol covered a distance of 1,000km (540nm) at an average speed of 859km/h (464kt), says Dassault, "underscoring the Falcon 20's exceptional flight performance".

dassault mystere dassault

 Dassault  

The revamped Mystère 20 s/n 1 was unveiled earlier this month at the third annual Air & Space Museum Airshow, in Le Bourget, Paris  

The historic aircraft was restored by a team of enthusiasts, IT Mercure, which had refurbished the last active Mercure airliner, also exhibited at the French Air & Space Museum. The project, conceived in 2010, consisted primarily of repairing or replacing metal parts - the wing, airbrakes, engine pylons, cowlings, and aircraft interior - that had begun to rust away.

The presentations at Le Bourget help mark the 50th anniversary of the Mystère 20's first flight on 4 May 1963. Certificated on 9 June, 1965, the aircraft - renamed the Fan Jet Falcon 20 at the request of its first customer, Pan Am - helped usher in a new generation of executive jets designed for business aviation use.

The Falcon 20's advanced wing and flight control system - adapted from the Mystère IV fighter - combined with its aft-mounted Pratt & Whitney JT-12 engines and spacious cabin, provided an ideal marriage of speed, flying efficiency and comfort. "Performance that prompted Pan Am to order 40 of the 8-10 seaters, plus 120 on option, just days after the inaugural flight," says Dassault.

The aircraft was also acquired by FedEx founder Fred Smith for his then-nascent air express service; by the US Coast Guard; and care services provider Europ Assistance, which adapted it for air ambulance service.

More than 2,250 Falcons have been delivered worldwide to date of which around 300 Falcon 20's are still in active service, says Dassault.