New Falcon in the making!
According to Dassault Aviation Chairman & CEO Eric Trappier, the French OEM will be unveiling new details for a new Falcon business aircraft by the end of the year. “We want to be in a position to launch a new Falcon jet at the end of 2017,” Trappier confirms. “Preliminary studies are focusing on enhanced comfort and a reduced environmental footprint, mainly by reducing fuel consumption and noise. That’s all I can say for now.”
The company’s 2016 annual report shows that Dassault experienced tough times, with a decrease in both Falcon orders and deliveries, mostly due to delays in the Falcon 5X timetable. Orders in 2015 ended on 25 units, coming from 45 gross sales, but decreased significantly through NetJets cancellation of 20 Falcon 2000 aircraft. 2016, on the other hand, ended on 21 units, including 12 cancelled Falcon 5X aircraft. According to the report, the decrease in orders was predominantly due to “a difficult business aviation market.” The Risk Management section of the report shines more light on the conditions of that market: “Weak global growth leads our customers to make their procurement decisions subject to increasingly demanding criteria, and sometimes even postpone them. In this context, competition is becoming increasingly aggressive, both in terms of commercial and price policies, and in terms of technological innovation. This pressure threatens the profitability of Dassault Aviation and our market share. To respond to this threat by adapting ourselves to a demanding market, we continue our innovation efforts, the expansion of our Falcon line, the streamlining of our production and the reduction of costs.”
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“2016 was a rather difficult year for the Falcon family,” Trappier admits. “While we were pleased with the success of the Falcon 8X, the same cannot be said for the general downturn in Falcon sales. This situation is due to a flat market for new business aircraft, the large number of pre-owned aircraft available, which put downward pressure on prices, delays in the Falcon 5X program because of Safran’s problems with the Silvercrest engine, and the other manufacturers’ advantages in terms of competitiveness and flexibility.”
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Safran Aircraft Engines’ delay with the development of the Silvercrest engine saw its initial delivery slipping from late 2013 to early 2018, leading to first customer deliveries being delayed from the end of 2017 to early 2020. “Engine modifications are now being developed,” Trappier further explains. “The first modified Silvercrest will be tested by Safran in 2017, on the ground and in flight on a flying testbed, prior to aircraft integration in 2018.”
However, the 2016 setback has not discouraged the company from investing in the future, says Trappier, referring to its objective to unveil a new Falcon by the end of the year.
“Most of our research and development in 2016 focused on the Falcon standard,” Trappier explains. “In addition to major programs, some of this work received support from either French civil aviation or the European Clean Sky Joint Technology Initiative.” Research and development milestones include:
- the test bench demonstration of a new cockpit concept for Falcon and related functions;
- detailed design review and the start of manufacture of a composite wing demonstrator;
- scale 1 ground tests to improve the design of the rear body of Falcon aircraft.
Furthermore, and regardless of the decrease in orders, 49 Falcon units were delivered in 2016, compared to 55 in 2015 – “in line with our forecast of 50 deliveries in 2016,” Trappier adds. For 2017, Dassault Aviation has defined its objectives as follows: to define the technological “building blocks” for the future Falcon, and establish the conditions to launch a new model, according to the results of a market survey. Additionally, the company forecasts that it will deliver 45 Falcons in 2017.