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Falcon 7X Update

A new era in aircraft design and production was envisioned when the Falcon 7X program was announced at the 2001 Paris Air Show. Since that time, Dassault Aviation and its numerous partners from around the world have helped turn that vision into reality.

AvBuyer   |   17th March 2005
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A new era in aircraft design and production was envisioned when the Falcon 7X program was announced at the 2001 Paris Air Show. Since that time, Dassault Aviation and its numerous partners from around the world have helped turn that vision into reality.

As reported in the March issue of World Aircraft Sales Magazine, Dassault introduced Falcon 7X s/n 001 to an audience of 800 guests at its Bordeaux-Mérignac facility, marking ‘a huge step forward in the industry’.

"The business jet market has been looking for a large cabin aircraft for long range missions that can deliver superior fuel efficiency, speed and maintenance," explained John Rosanvallon, president and CEO of Dassault Falcon Jet. "From the response we’ve received from our customers, its apparent that the Falcon 7X has filled that need and will continue to do so in the coming years."

Fifty firm orders from 16 countries have already been placed for the tri-jet. Six aircraft are currently in various stages of production.

The Falcon 7X will be larger – including 20% more cabin volume – and deliver 26% more range (5,700nm) than the versatile Falcon 900EX, but it will need less runway for both take-off and landing, proving invaluable to operators wanting to use smaller airports closer to their destinations.

In addition, the Falcon 7X’s MMO will be an impressive Mach 0.90. Its VMO will be 370 knots, the highest, says Dassault, in its class. Indeed, 7X operators will be able to conduct most day-to-day flights at Mach 0.85 and above. The cruise performances are a result of a new wing design that incorporates a higher aspect ratio and a more pronounced sweepback angle.

Using new technologies already being applied to current Falcon horizontal stabilizers, the wing has a simplified structure comprised primarily of metallic alloys but also composites, in order to save weight and add stiffness.

Raising the Bar

Right at the outset of the Falcon 7X development, a 3D digital mock-up improved error detection by locating conflicts early in the design process. Wearing special glasses, engineers gathered in a dedicated movie theater - called the Virtual Reality Center - to examine a large 3D image projected on a screen. They could easily spot and immediately solve any problems.

Thus, all digitally designed parts and subassemblies were quickly verified, and possible conflicts were caught and corrected long before assembly began. Potential production and maintenance issues were identified early in the process meaning that all maintenance tasks have been fully optimized right from the early design stages.

Due to the company’s unique new design and manufacturing Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) process Dassault has started what it terms "a new industrial revolution," that will take it through this century. "What it means," explained Charles Edelstenne, Chairman and CEO, Dassault Aviation, "is that the Falcon 7X does more than just raise the bar a notch, it raises the bar to a whole new level, setting higher design and manufacturing standards for the whole industry."

PLM enables Dassault to design and build in an entirely virtual environment, allowing for a higher standard for the design and manufacturing process. All conflicts and issues that occur during a traditional manufacturing process are resolved before production even begins, resulting in an overall reduction in production time and costs.

Consequently, the first 7X was assembled exactly as planned in seven months – about half the time required for the first production airplane.

While PLM is an industry first, the 7X is expected to accomplish many other firsts too. Not least, the 7X will become the first pure business jet to be flown with Fly by Wire (FBW) technology. FBW in the 7X will replace mechanical linkage between the controls in the cockpit and the moving surfaces with electrical wires and circuits, essentially reducing pilot workload and increasing safety.

During development, the test pilots and ergonomics specialists used a digital mockup to refine the Falcon 7X flight deck. A virtual mannequin programmed to model pilot behavior was used to verify visibility from the cockpit and to check access to side stick controllers and flight management switches and controls, resulting in more refined interaction between man and machine.

In addition, Dassault’s EASy flight deck will serve to optimize crew performance and safety. EASy is essentially Dassault’s philosophy implemented on the hardware platform of Honeywell's Primus Epic system. Four large 14.1-inch displays in the Falcon 7X panel will provide everything from flight planning and automated checklists to presenting the aircraft’s precise position, situation and environment.

An innovative graphical interface allows pilots to keep their ‘eyes up’ while adjusting flight plans or mapping their route.

In short, the Falcon 7X flight deck will result in vastly improved crew coordination and situational awareness. And this means reduced pilot workload and increased safety.

Testing Times

So after s/n001 was presented before an audience recently, how is the Falcon 7X development and certification program progressing? Pretty well, really.

Shortly after it’s first public presentation, Falcon 7X s/n001 was moved outside its hangar for a series of ground tests on the engines and APU. "We conducted a full week of test runs, the engines were pushed to their limits, from idle to maximum power," explained Jean-Luc Sailliol, Falcon 7X production manager.

"During a typical ground run test, more than 1,000 parameters were recorded including engines, APU, avionics, fuel flow, FADEC and all moveable surfaces including flight controls and the landing gear," he continued. "We found that all systems were working as predicted."

First flight for the Falcon 7X is scheduled imminently from the Bordeaux- Mérignac facility, but before that milestone occasion takes place, a further fifty hours of engine ground run tests will have been conducted.

In total, three aircraft are scheduled to take part in the flight test program with about 1,000 total flight test hours before final certification, anticipated before the end of 2006.

With passenger comfort a key priority for the Falcon 7X program, one flight test aircraft will be fitted for noise level measurements to confirm Dassault’s targets for very low cabin noise level, while s/n 003 will be fully completed with a typical customer interior.

Meantime, virtual flights on the 7X have been ongoing during the past several months at Dassault’s Saint-Cloud facility near Paris where a ‘global test bench’ has been constructed to replicate every aspect of the actual airplane.

Exact duplicates of the length of the hydraulic tubes and electrical wiring were manufactured to ensure response times were accurate to the millisecond. Together with the flight computers, the global test bench has allowed the test pilots to ‘fly’ the aircraft and validate control laws well before the first flight.

Once the actual flight test program hits in with first flight, the 7X performance will be evaluated during icing conditions, which will include lightning strike testing. "The Falcon 7X has been subjected to numerous simulated lightning strikes on the ground at Mérignac," explained Sailliol. "The aircraft was also tested in a severe electromagnetic environment to determine if it was safe to fly close to powerful emitters. The shielding quality was said to be high enough to allow use of mobile phones in flight pending future tests."

Static and fatigue testing that began at the Toulouse Aeronautical Test Center (CEAT) during March will be completed using just one test article; an aircraft built as a standard airframe fully representative of the Falcon 7X in terms of structural resistance. Comprising a complete fuselage, the test article also includes windshield and windows for pressurization testing as well as wings, associated control surfaces, tail fin and the tailplane structural box. More than 2,000 parameters will be recorded simultaneously by 2,000 strain gauges.

The equivalent of 40,000 flights (two aircraft lives) will be ‘flown’ in about a year. The airframe will then be tested up to 100% of the Design Limit Load (DLL) before completing the ultimate load testing (150% of DLL). The static and fatigue testing will form a major step toward certification. The study of crack growth propagation and residual static strength of fatigue-damaged structures will be the final aspect of the test program, validating increased intervals for the maintenance program.

Evidently development and testing is well under way for the Falcon 7X as it remains on track for a late 2006 certification. The industry watches on, awaiting the arrival of an airplane that promises to set new standards in quality and technology.

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