Company now able to assemble four long-range business trijets a month, but will start with two, pending market recovery

Dassault Aviation has inaugurated its €35 million ($40 million) 19,340m2 (210,000ft2) assembly facility for the Falcon 7X long-range trijet for which over 30 orders have been received.

The first aircraft is scheduled for delivery in 2006. "We can assemble four aircraft a month in this new building," says Dassault Aviation chief executive Charles Edelstenne, "but as the market is still depressed, we will start with two."

Edelstenne says Dassault is not expecting new orders this year for the Falcon 7X as it cannot deliver the aircraft before mid-2008. There are signs the second-hand market is "waking up", he suggests, which "based on past experience" should kickstart sales of new jets.

The USA is the main market for Dassault, accounting for 40% of the high-end business jet market, but Edelstenne warns: "If the dollar continues to be weak against the euro we will get hurt". Political tensions between France and the USA have hampered business, he adds, saying: "Some customers had threatened to cancel orders and US-built components are taking longer to arrive".

Dassault says flexibility is key to surviving the cyclical dips and rises of the aviation sector. Contrary to its competitors, no full-time staff have been laid off, although some sub-contracting work has returned in-house. "We are very careful not to damage our partners at any level, because we know that when the upswing begins we will need them," Edelstenne says.

Jean-François Georges, senior vice president civil aircraft, says half-year turnover targets should be met and that its mix of 60% civilian and 40% military is "ideal". Dassault has sold 20 Falcons this year, half the figure for the same period last year.He says the company's overall performance depends on the Falcon 900EX EASy cockpit gaining its US and European certification before year-end. "If so, we can deliver the six aircraft worth $35 million each, if not, we lose $210 million." If delivery goes ahead, consolidated sales will be on a par with 2002 at €3.44 billion, Georges says. Certification is being held up by software problems with the EASy cockpit developed with Honeywell, which Dassault blames for the delay.

Source: Flight International