Dassault Aviation continues to feel the pinch from supply chain challenges which have forced the French airframer to slow the ramp up of its new Falcon 6X business jet and pushed back the arrival of the developmental 10X until 2027.

Briefing reporters on its 2023 financial results on 6 March, Dassault chief executive Eric Trappier said “disruptions and shortages” in its supply chain had continued last year.

6X in flight-c-Dassault Aviation

Source: Dassault Aviation

Falcon 6X was certificated in August but deliveries were held back by ramp-up constraints

In some cases, “missing parts” delayed the final assembly of Falcon jets, he says, adding: “We had to postpone our schedules.”

Last year, the manufacturer shipped just 26 Falcons, down on the 32 handed over in 2022 and lower than the 35 units it guided for.

While that was partly due to the late-running certification of the Falcon 6X – approval was only gained in August – supply chain issues also took their toll, says Trappier, despite Dassault’s efforts to catch up during the completions process.

He cites the flow of aerostructures from its European supply base as a bottleneck, naming Daher, GKN Aerospace and Latecoere as “companies that are late – so much so that we have to postpone our plans”.

Trappier singles out GKN, as it “put us in difficulty with the 6X”, he says, due to its selection of a “subcontractor far away from Great Britain or France” which was not performing: “We had to change, so that costs us money.”

As a result, “we had to find a new partner in France” – Potez Aeronautique – and dedicate time and resources to establish a new production line, he says.

“We have to industrialise in a certain way and set up new teams and this is done together with GKN.”

In response GKN says: “As a global manufacturing business, we are well-used to managing complex programmes and supply chains around the world.

“Occasionally, this means moving suppliers or exiting inappropriate work packages. We remain a long-term partner with Dassault, providing the 6X empennage and 7X moveables from the Netherlands.”

But the issues are not confined to larger companies, says Trappier: smaller suppliers have also needed additional support resulting in Dassault seconding staff or advancing payments as required.

“We are making advances so that these small companies are able to survive. But we are taking risks – when you are working with companies that are not totally secure you are taking a risk.”

An initial Falcon 6X was delivered in November for use by Dassault as a company demonstrator. Since entering service in early December, it has racked up more than 250h across 200 flights, covering destinations as far afield as North and South America, Asia and Australia. A further campaign in India will get under way shortly, says Trappier.

The first customer aircraft was also handed over in February, he adds; Cirium fleets data records the recipient as Take Off Aviation in Switzerland, with the jet to be operated by charter firm Cat Air.

But the late-running 6X has had a knock-on effect on the schedule for the ultra-long-range Falcon 10X, pushing back first deliveries until 2027 from a previous target of late-2025. Assembly of the initial aircraft is due to begin later this year.

Adjusted net Falcon sales in 2023 stood at €1.82 billion ($1.98 billion), down on the previous year’s figure of €2.1 billion.

Dassault expects to deliver 35 Falcon-family business jets in 2024, plus 20 Rafale fighters, generating group revenue of around €6 billion. Total revenue last year was €4.8 billion, with adjusted operating income of €349 million. Adjusted net income was €886 million, including €453 million from its near-25% stake in Thales.

This story has been edited to correct a date in the second paragraph.