The 10,550km (5,700nm)-range Falcon 7X will be the core aircraft in a new range of Dassault business jets that will eventually replace all existing models, and features numerous innovations. Orders to date stand at more than 40.

By far the most significant change is the introduction of a fly-by-wire flight control system, a business aircraft first.

"We had a debate about using fly-by-wire," says senior vice-president, civil aircraft, Olivier Villa, "but not a very big one. In fact, it's a 'no brainer'. We found it brings a lot to the pilot, but also affects the design in a major way." This is because the Falcon 7X is designed for a maximum operating speed of Mach 0.9, which demands a longer, more highly swept wing. "Fly-by-wire gave us a lot more solutions for optimising an aircraft which was capable of M0.9 but which also had to have exceptional low-speed performance." He adds: "The result is a more compact, lighter design compared to a mechanically controlled aircraft."

The other fly-by-wire benefit is improved safety, says Villa. "Pilots will be able to fly to the limits of the aircraft's performance if they need to get out of trouble - in windshear, for example." He adds that simulator trials have consistently shown that pilots using fly-by-wire react more quickly to potentially dangerous situations.

With the 7X, Dassault has introduced its first all-new design for a business jet wing since the mid-1970s. The wing is thinner, has 44% more area and an inner section sweep increased from 30¡ to 34¡. Lift-to-drag ratio will be 30% higher than current-generation Falcon wings, thanks to the transonic optimisation possible with full three-dimensional understanding of the airflow.

To improve visibility, the cockpit now features four double-curved windows, which replace the seven flat windows of current Falcons, and will be equipped with the EASy integrated flightdeck already introduced on the rest of the Falcon range. A new carbonfibre fin has also been developed, the same shape as that of the Falcon 900 but with 20% more area.

The Falcon 7X fuselage retains the same cross-section as the Falcon 900 and 2000, but is 2.43m (8ft) longer. It is also designed with more windows, providing 40% more glass area, while being 10% lighter. Dassault has also made a major effort to reduce internal noise by redesigning engine mountings, interior panels and insulation, aiming at a 4dB reduction over the Falcon 900EX.

An initial ground run is planned for the end of this year, with first flight in the second quarter of 2005 and certification and first deliveries a year later. Dassault says it hopes to present the Falcon 7X at the 2005 Paris air show.

Source: Flight International