Dassault canceled the Falcon 5X program and terminated its contract with Safran over the much-delayed Silvercrest. This move was widely expected after the press conference at the recent NBAA at which a representative from SAFRAN, the engine maker, was “thrown under the bus” and asked to explain the delays and performance shortfalls of the engine. Instead, Dassault will begin a new program optimized around the PW800 engine of similar size.
“Considering the magnitude of the risks involved both on the technical and schedule aspects of the Silvercrest program, Dassault Aviation initiates the termination process of the Silvercrest contract leading to the end of the Falcon 5X program and plans to start negotiations with Safran.”
This is a major blow to the SNECMA unit of SAFRAN, which builds the Silvercrest engine. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the disclosure of additional performance issues with the high-pressure compressor just before the NBAA show that would have further delayed the program, initially scheduled for this year, from 2020 to 2022. Dassault’s CEO, Eric Trappier, indicated that apart from the engines, the initial flight test for the aircraft proved that the airframe design was sound.
The replacement for the 5X will be a new program with the same fuselage cross-section and a 5,500-mile range but is yet unnamed. It will be powered by the proven Pratt & Whitney Canada PW800 program, which shares its core design with other members of the Pratt & Whitney PurePower family, including the Geared Turbofan powering the A320neo, Bombardier CSeries, Embraer E2, Irkut MS-21, and Mitsubishi RJ. The PW800 also powers the Gulfstream 500/600 models, and the engines are certified. This should shorten the time frame for the development of the 5X replacement.
“We are honoured that Dassault Aviation has once again put its trust in P&WC for its new aircraft and we look forward to further develop our long-standing relationship with them on this new platform“, said Irene Makris, Vice-President, Sales & Marketing, Pratt & Whitney Canada. The advanced common core technology, employed in 15 different Purepower engine applications, has amassed more than 400,000 in service hours.
The Bottom Line
While new programs are often difficult and delays are more common, when delays become so long to tax the patience of customers and lose orders, actions need to be taken. SAFRAN was unable to deliver on its promises and has suffered the consequences. Dassault, facing additional uncertainty and delays, was unable to risk further customer losses because its supplier couldn’t deliver.
By choosing a proven engine, Dassault could rescue its program and deliver for its customers. Pratt & Whitney Canada will gain another application for an excellent engine. The question now is whether the Silvercrest engine will meet its 2019 EIS target for the Cessna Hemisphere, now its only application. A failure for that program could irreparably damage SAFRAN’s reputation and future in the business jet segment.