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Dassault terminates Silvercrest contract; cancels Falcon 5X programme

Serious delays in the development of the Silvercrest engine have forced Dassault to terminate its agreement with Safran, and cancel the Falcon 5X programme.

The ultra-wide business jet will be replaced in Dassault's four-strong line-up of twin- and tri-engined aircraft by a new Falcon model, which is scheduled to enter service in 2022, says the French airframer. The new aircraft will be powered by the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW800.

Dassault Aviation chairman Eric Trappier says: “There is still a strong market need for a brand new, long-range aircraft with a very large cabin, so I have decided to launch a new Falcon project powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada engines, featuring the same cross section as the 5X [and] a range of 5,500nm [10,180km].”

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Dassault

The delivery of the 12,000lb-thrust class Silvercrest engines was originally planned for the end of 2013 to comply with the 5X flight test schedule. It was the first time the airframer had selected its fellow-French engine manufacturer on a business jet programme. However, Safran has faced recurrent technical issues during the programme's development, forcing Dassault to delay entry-into-service of the clean-sheet twin from its target date of 2017 to 2020.

The most recent setback was announced by Safran in early October. The company revealed during a press conference at the NBAA convention in Las Vegas that it had encountered new problems with the turbofan’s high pressure compressor during ground and flight tests, further delaying 5X certification. In response, a frustrated Trappier declared that he had not ruled out switching to an alternative engine supplier.

Dassault says the three-year “slippage” has led to a number of 5X order cancellations, including 12 in 2016. It has been an especially painful blow for the company which desperately needs the new product to boost its falling backlog with sales and used aircraft values in the large-cabin segment continuing to languish.

“Considering the magnitude of the risks involved both on the technical and schedule aspects of the Silvercrest programme, Dassault Aviation initiates the termination process of the Silvercrest contract leading to the end of the 5X and plans to start negotiations with Safran,” says the company.

Pratt & Whitney Canada vice-president sales and marketing Irene Makris says the Montreal-based company is "honoured" to have its engine chosen. Variants of the PW800 already power the Gulfstream G500 and G600. "We look forward to further develop our long-standing relationship with [Dassault] on this new platform," she adds. P&WC PW300 family engines already power three members of the Falcon range: the 8X, 7X and 2000LXS.

The only other customer for the Silvercrest is the Textron Aviation Cessna Citation Hemisphere.

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