NBAA: Dassault discloses new delay for Falcon 5X

Safran has just informed Dassault Aviation of a new issue with the high-pressure compressor of the Silvercrest engine that will cause a new delay for the Falcon 5X programme, Dassault chairman and chief executive Eric Trappier announced today.

The scope of the new delay for the Falcon 5X are still being analysed by Dassault, Trappier says.

“The consequences will take some time” to assess, he says at the company’s news conference at the show.

Trappier called on Safran vice-president of commercial engines Cédric Goubet to answer questions about the new technical problem.

Safran discovered the problem during a “very recent” flight on the company’s flying testbed based in San Antonio, Goubet says. At high altitudes and low speeds, the tests show that the engine does not accelerate and decelerate as the pilot’s and aircraft’s designers expect, he says.

Asked if the new technical issue could prompt Dassault to consider an alternate engine supplier, Trappier declined to rule it out.

“It’s too early to say. We are trying to fix the problem with Safran. We are trying to keep all options open,” he says.

Development problems with the Silvercrest engine already forced Dassault to delay the entry into service of the 5X to 2020, and the new issue will push that schedule further back.

The Silvercrest’s high-pressure compressor features an axial-centrifugal architecture, which is rare for aviation gas turbines in the 10,000-12,000lb-thrust power range. It is a common architecture for engines in thrust classes below about 5,000lb-thrust.

Safran launched the Silvercrest nearly a decade ago and eventually secured positions in the 5X and Textron Aviation’s Cessna Citation Longitude. The previous delay announced for the Silvercrest coincided with a broader revamp of the Longitude programme, and Textron dropped the Silvercrest in favour of the less-powerful Honeywell HTF7000 turbofan. Subsequently, Textron selected the Silvercrest engine to power the large-cabin Cessna Citation Hemisphere, which is scheduled to reach first flight in 2019.

"We're very confident in [Safran] as a partner," says Textron Aviation senior vice-president of engineering Brad Thress. "A lot of that should be well behind them before we get to that point of our programme."

Despite the Silvercrest issue, Dassault continues to develop and test the 5X. Since first flight on 5 July, the 5X test aircraft has built up 50 hours in flight, with testing focused on basic handling and systems performance, Trappier says.

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