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More than 40 years and nearly 1-700 Falcons into its business jet history- Dassault designers and engineers are near to seeing the results of the ultimate expression of their skills and creative efforts – the 2005 first flight of the all-new Falcon 7X.

Dave Higdon   |   1st September 2004
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Dave Higdon Dave Higdon

Dave Higdon writes about aviation from his base in Wichita Kansas. During three decades in...
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More than 40 years and nearly 1-700 Falcons into its business jet history- Dassault designers and engineers are near to seeing the results of the ultimate expression of their skills and creative efforts – the 2005 first flight of the all-new Falcon 7X.

On track- according to the company- for a second-quarter lift off- the Falcon 7X should make its first public bow at next year’s Salon outside Paris – a grand debut on home turf for a cutting-edge expression of the aviation arts.

And what great symmetry that debut will represent – a pioneering business jet built in a building named for Charles Lindbergh- meeting its public for the first time at the same airport where Lindbergh himself first met the adoring French public in 1927.

As poetic as this sounds- the collision of history and the future also helps contrast just how much aviation progressed between the two public bows.

In 1927 Lindbergh’s Ryan NYP-1- The Spirit of St. Louis- was a singular manifestation of the latest in aviation thinking – designed solely for challenging the Atlantic to demonstrate the potential of aircraft to connect the peoples of two great continents.

The success of the venture made famous the aviator and the aircraft- one that needed 33 hours to cover just over 3-300 miles- guided by the skills and abilities of a sole aviator with little more than a whiskey compass and some rough maps for navigation – and some cold sandwiches and coffee for sustenance.

When the first Falcon 7X business jet launches from the Dassault factory runway in Bordeaux- it will also be the manifestation of the latest in aviation sciences – but a manifestation destined for serial production and global travel.

The Falcon 7X will be capable of covering more than 5-700 nautical miles in barely more than one-third the time Lindbergh spent flying between Roosevelt Field and Le Bourget. Although some form of wet compass will be on the flight deck- guidance for the Falcon 7X crew will come courtesy of a constellation of satellites- sophisticated electronics and long-range communications.

Rather than nibbling on cold sandwiches- the Falcon 7X crew can count on hot food at any hour of any trip – as can the passengers in the main cabin- a collection that can number more than a dozen- ensconced in bed chairs- sleeping quarters or wide- cushy reclining first-class-style seats.

Ryan charged Lindbergh and his backers several thousand dollars for the NYP-1; Dassault quotes about $37 million for the upcoming Falcon 7X. Indeed- one other noteworthy contrast: Ryan received no follow-on orders for the relatively slow- single-seat Spirit. Dassault reports a standing backlog of more than 40 orders for the Falcon 7X. Clearly- times have changed in the world of business travel.

Sophisticated lady
Launched in 2001- Dassault’s Falcon 7X offers operators a blend of performance- technology and redundancy unmatched within the world of corporate aviation – and much of the unique status grew out of Dassault’s military-technology expertise.

A prime example: The fly-by-wire control architecture Dassault chose to employ on the Falcon 7X. It’s not a first in civil aircraft – the Airbus ACJ line of corporate jets enjoy fly-by-wire (FBW) technology pioneered in civilian aircraft on the 1980s Airbus A320. Nonetheless- the FBW on the Falcon 7X represents a first on purpose-built business-turbine aircraft and a significant departure from the norm.

Most by now know the basic idea of FBW technology- likely through the use of a personal computer’s joystick or even a PC mouse: A user’s manipulation of an input devise results in an electrical input to a computer that generates a code further transmitted to an actuator- or servo- which translates the coded instructions into movement.

FBW replaces the heavy components of hydraulically actuated control systems- as well as replacing with relatively tiny wires- the thousands of feet of high-pressure hoses and lines required to connect the control-input devises with the pressure pumps and the actuators required of fluid-driven systems.

The benefits are many. Weight- for one- falls about 30 percent from a hydraulic/mechanical system for the same aircraft. Other benefits offer equally impressive advantages: Increased reliability and reduced maintenance; lighter weight; even the ability to program redundant control computers to prevent the airplane from entering potentially unsafe attitudes under specific sets of conditions.

Dassault designed the Falcon 7X with a side-stick controller as the primary input device- a decision with multiple benefits. Coupled with FBW- this approach provides for precise flight path control- automatic trim adjustments during configuration changes- even the ability to ensure no excessive airframe loads occur during maximum performance maneuvers- such as those needed to recover from wind shear or during an emergency abort of a landing or maneuvering for collision avoidance needs.

Even the interfaces between navigation devices and flight-management systems benefit from the sophistication of FBW.

A working environment made EASy
Up front- where the crew interfaces with the machine- Dassault Aviation also offers considerable sophisticated technology- some developed specifically for the Falcon 7X out of similar advancements used on other models of Dassault Falcon business jets. The most-obvious example here is the new EASy flight deck.

Since the side-stick controls eliminate the conventional yoke as a panel-design obstacle- the Falcon 7X’s expansive panel easily accommodates the four 14.1-inch touch-screen displays that make up the visible heart of the EASy system.

Developed in partnership with Honeywell- the EASy cockpit employs both a cursor-control device and a touch-reactive input pad. Together- these tools allow crew members to manage the Falcon 7X systems totally through data and images shown on the screens. EASy means never needing to stretch across the panel to turn a control knob or push a button.

Dassault and Honeywell developed the first EASy application for the Falcon 900EX; earlier this year- the EASy system also won approval on the Falcon 2000EX twin. But the Falcon 7X version will be the first to enjoy the near-seamless integration possible only with a fly-by-wire control system.

Throw in the option for a Flight Dynamics Head-Up Guidance System and the likelihood that Dassault will adapt some form of Synthetic Vision System- and you have a Falcon 7X flight deck that surpasses anything yet flying.

Visionary Magic
Dassault long ago took the lead in pioneering computer-aided design (CAD) technology with its CATIA software package – Conception Assistee Tridimensionnelle Inter Active. CATIA moved into three-dimensions (CATIA 3D) and then- with the Falcon 7X- into virtually reality. All this is possible thanks the ability of the systems and software to show where things don’t fit- fit poorly or interfere with the movement or action of some airframe part.

With the ability to electronically design- assemble and operate the airframe and system components – and the ability to tilt- swing and rotate the ship to see the interfaces of those systems from any angle – Dassault believes it has raised the bar on accuracy and efficiency to a new high.

The combination of CATIA 3D and the virtual-reality capabilities also moves well into the Computer Aided Manufacturing field (CAM). According to the company- accuracy levels of one micron are possible- making it possible for the engineering and production prototypes to share identical- serial-production-grade components.

The savings in hardware and labor costs to tool and assemble the aircraft stand in the range of 50 percent- according to Dassault.

Dassault’s Web site offers an interesting low-level demonstration of how the Virtual Reality system works on an image of the Falcon 7X. Just click on the following link and follow the instructions: http://www.dassault-aviation.com/gb/media/anim3d/

Power with a purpose
The PW307A first ran in December 2002 and in the time since has logged hundreds of hours in test cells and on the wing of Pratt & Whitney Canada’s test-bed aircraft in preparation for the engine’s first flight on the Falcon 7X next year.

Developing 6-100 pounds of thrust at their flat-rated maximum- these new engines will be running so far below their thermodynamic limits that the first overhaul won’t be due until 7-200 hours time in service – in the life of the typical long-range business jet- a good 14 or more years after delivery.

A multi-channel Full Authority Digital Engine Control system- or FADEC- will help assure the engines never exceed a limit that might shorten the life of the powerplant or otherwise threaten its reliability. And with more than 1.3 million hours of PW300-series time already flown by airliners and other business jets- the reliability expectations for the PW307A is based on plenty of solid experience.

Think slippery
Dassault also created an all-new wing for the Falcon 7X- one optimized to deliver both extremely high cruise speeds – efficiently – and excellent low-speed handling and among the shortest runway numbers of its kin. This new high transonic wing design employs optimization that includes an increase in sweep of the inboard segments to 34 degrees- while the rest of the wing remains closer to that of the 900 series wing.

The outcome of this work- and other refinements- is a decrease in drag of about 30 percent – all the better for getting the most range out of the fuel supply.

The attention to airframe details also includes a reduction in cabin noise to levels below that of any other Falcon flying – about 52 decibels- an extraordinarily low level.

The sum of the parts
Brought together- the precise airframe- new airfoil- reduced drag and high-efficiency power bring to this class an incompatible set of performance numbers. At the high end- for example- the Falcon 7X offers a maximum operating speed of a scorching Mach 0.9- nearly 600 KTAS. At it more-nominal operating speed of Mach 0.85- the 7X still outpaces many of its class and keeps the major range benefits alive. And at a more-common Mach 0.8- the 7X offers a still-air range of 5-700 nautical miles- up with the best of the ultra-long-range jets already flying. At that range limit- a 7X flying out of New York offers as a destination virtually all of Europe- South America- most of Africa and Riyadh- going east- and Honolulu and east Russia going west.

From San Francisco- the Falcon 7X brings within reach Tokyo and Seoul- Paris- Moscow- even Buenos Aires. The rest of the world you can reach on the second leg.

Despite its long range and high speed- the 7X offers extreme airport flexibility- in part due to that new wing which allows approach speeds down at a leisurely 104 knots indicated for Vref – so slow that at a 37-000-pound landing weight the big jet needs but 2-350 feet of runway to touch down and stop.

Such solid low-speed maneuvering numbers also help during departures. At a departure weight of 63-000 pounds – a weight that offers a full-range trip for eight in the cabin- plus the crew of three – the 7X needs only 5-200 feet of runway for safe departure. And remember- that’s a balanced field length number- one at which the 7X can accelerate to Vr- reject the take off and still stop safely before the end of the runway.

Flying large and lovin’ it
For the creature comforts- Dassault gave the Falcon 7X business jet a cabin altitude of 6-000 feet at normal cruising altitudes- a fatigue-fighting environment 2-000 feet lower than typical among business jets.

The 7X retains the height and width of the 900EX- but thanks to an eight-foot cabin stretch offers far more space than any of its predecessors out of the Falcon nest. The 7X’s roomy cabin stands 6 feet- 2-inches high and spans 7 feet- 8 inches across at its widest. That fuselage stretch makes the cabin more than 39 feet long.

Dassault’s use of its 'signature' three-engine design on the Falcon 7X offers operators with the most in redundancy- reliability and global operational flexibility – routings for ETOPs rules are a worry for twin-engine jet crews- not for those who will fly the 7X.

Unique control system- enviable aerodynamics- new engines and power: there’s little new ground Dassault left unplowed in its development of this new globe trotter. And at its price- what else offers such a value package? The world will get to see the results starting next June – with two score of eager customers anxious for airplane deliveries to start in 2006.

More information from www.falconjet.com

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