Dassault has secured European type certification for its 8X business jet, and is preparing the ultra-long-range flagship for service entry early in the fourth quarter. US approval, meanwhile, is expected in the coming weeks.
The trijet was launched in May 2014, as a stretched and longer-range version of the now nine-year old Falcon 7X. Key differences also include an extra fuel tank within the centre fuselage section, which enables the 8X to carry up to 15,800kg (34,900lb) of fuel – compared with 14,500kg carried by the 7X; a redesigned ultra-efficient wing derived from the 7X; and more powerful Pratt & Whitney Canada PW307D engines.
Eric Trappier, Dassault Aviation chairman and chief executive, says the company has “broken new ground” with the 8X. “Not only did we meet customer demand for an aircraft combining increased range and cabin volume, with the technological prowess of the popular 7X, but we were able to get it to market fully mature and tested in a remarkably short period of time, and exactly within our production schedule.”
In late April, 8X serial number 3 completed a global proving tour, designed to demonstrate the aircraft’s capabilities under different conditions of operation, with a particular focus on cabin comfort and connectivity.
“Feedback from the operational trials – cabin comfort, air conditioning, and in particular cabin noise – was excellent and indicate the aircraft is poised for a flawless service entry,” says Dassault’s senior vice-president, civil aircraft, Olivier Villa.
The three aircraft used in the 16-month flight test campaign notched up over 830h across 400 flights, and will now be redeployed. Serial number 1 will be used to certificate Dassault’s FalconEye combined vision system (CVS) on the 8X, and to gain approval for its use in dual head-up display (HUD) configuration.
FalconEye, which blends synthetic and enhanced vision capabilities, and the dual HUD approvals are slated for the fourth quarter of 2016 and in late 2017, respectively.
In preparation for the 6,450nm (11,930km)-range 8X’s entry into service, Dassault has begun ramping up production at its Bordeaux Mérignac final assembly plant. Serial number 26 is now being manufactured at the facility in southwest France, and 12 aircraft are being outfitted at Dassault’s US completion centre in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The 8X will enter service at a fragile time for the top-end of the business jet sector, which has been hit hard by the collapse in demand from emerging economies. Last year, Dassault recorded its lowest annual delivery tally in a decade, with only 55 2000S/LXS, 900LX, and 7X aircraft shipped during the period. That compared with 66 Falcon deliveries in 2014, and 77 the previous year.
In a recent study, Flightglobal’s Ascend consultancy revealed second-hand values of large-cabin, long-range business jets are falling faster than those of their smaller counterparts. The 7X alone saw its value plunge by 9% in 2015 and a further slide is expected in 2016, as the soft market conditions persist.
Source: Flight International