Dassault Aviation has kicked off the flight test campaign for its Falcon 8X ultra-long-range business jet less than nine months after unveiling the 19-seater at the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition in Geneva.

The aircraft - serial number one – lifted off for its maiden flight from Dassault’s plant at Bordeaux Merignac airport at 14:00 local time on 6 February with test pilots Eric Gérard and Hervé Laverne at the controls.

8X takeoff maiden c Dassault Falcon

Dassault Falcon

“The 8X levelled off at 5,000ft (1,500m) and raised its landing gear before beginning flight handling manoeuvres and system tests at 15,000ft (4,500 m),” says Dassault. “It later climbed to FL400 (12,000m) accelerating to Mach 0.80. The aircraft subsequently descended to 5,000ft for approach and landing at 15:45.”

Throughout the flight “the 8X demonstrated excellent handling qualities,” Gérard explains. “We reached each of the performance objectives set for the first mission and, in a few cases, surpassed target goals. I am confident that the remainder of the flight test programme will proceed just as smoothly.”

Eric Trappier, Dassault Aviation chairman and chief executive, says the tri-jet is on track for certification in mid-2016 and first deliveries in the second half of the year.

Serial number one will be dedicated to flight envelope expansion, while a second test aircraft – now assembled and scheduled to fly in the second quarter – will focus on performance.

8X maiden taxi c Dassault Falcon

Dassault Falcon

Gerard + Laverne 8X maiden flight c Dassault Falco

Gerard, Laverne, 8X

Dassault Falcon

A third fully conforming 8X will help with cabin systems and preparation for entry into service. The trio are expected to fly around 500h in total.

The $57 million 8X is a stretched and longer-legged version of the 7X, which was launched in 2007 and is poised to hit its 250th delivery milestone.

The fly-by-wire 8X sits at the helm of Dassault’s six-strong, high-end Falcon business jet family, whose entry-level product is the 3,350nm (6,200km)-range super-midsize 2000S.

The aircraft has a range of 6,450nm (11,950 km) – 500nm more than the 7X – allowing it to connect Paris with Beijing and Sao Paolo with Los Angeles and Moscow.

The 8X has more powerful Pratt & Whitney Canada PW307D engines and a redesigned ultra-efficient wing derived from its stablemate. It also boasts a 13m cabin featuring up to 30 interior configurations.

Said Trappier: “The new Falcon has been well received in the market place and already shows every sign of being a commercial and technical success. This early achievement reflects Dassault’s half century of experience in the business aviation industry.”

More on the Dassault Falcon 8X:

Dassault 8X cutaway

VIDEO: Dassault rolls-out ultra-long-range Falcon 8X

ANALYSIS: Falcon 8X laid bare

Dassault to build new Falcon MRO facility in Bordeaux

Dassault reports strong performance in 2014

Source: FlightGlobal.com