Eric Trappier, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation, provided an update at EBACE in Geneva. He spoke about the impact of the war in Ukraine as well as the impacts of the global pandemic.
“We are finally back to an almost normal situation, at least close enough to normal to say we are back again on the right track, thanks to the incredible adaptability and resilience of our industry. And thanks to that, I can report that our company is doing well, as 2021 results show. But before I get to our Falcon activity status, I’d like to stress that the Covid epidemic is still active – fortunately, not at the crisis levels we knew before, but strong enough to disrupt business.”
The recovery from the global pandemic has not been easy, particularly with supply chain disruptions. Trappier noted: “In particular, the fast recovery with limited resources of the global economy is creating unprecedented constraints on the supply chain, not only in our industry but across the entire manufacturing sector.
In addition, the war in Ukraine is adding its own disruption in many ways, sparking further rise in energy prices, shortages and when there are no shortages, forcing us to find alternative sources of supply for some key products.
Together, these crises are fueling inflation, which is driving up our costs and therefore our prices.”
Trappier summarized Falcon’s achievements and progress in business aviation: “2021 was a great year for our new aircraft programs. We performed the first flight of the extra-wide body Falcon 6X and launched the all-new ultra-long range Falcon 10X, which features an even bigger cabin. 2021 also witnessed a rebound on the business side as reduced pandemic risk began generating renewed demand for air travel. Flight activity climbed above pre-2019 levels, and continues to grow.”
“The sudden demand for business jet flights has stimulated aircraft sales, starting with the pre-owned market and, now that the availability of second–hand aircraft has dried up, new aircraft purchases. This translated into 51 Falcon orders last year compared to 15 in 2020.”
Trappier also spoke about Dassault’s commitment to the environment. “At the same time, environmental concerns are continuing to trigger tax, regulatory impulses, and also the taxonomy currently being discussed within the European Commission. This trend is of particular concern at a time when we have been studying new technologies to help our industry meet growing emissions constraints and support the environmental transition.”
He continued: “The use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel is one of these and actually the most promising way in the short term to decarbonize aviation and meet the commitment of achieving zero emissions by 2050. It is then of utmost importance that we quickly define international standard for SAF production and distribution, and that we and other OEMs continue to promote its usage through various industry partnerships and alliances. Hopefully, this will soon help make SAF readily available around the world.”
“We also need to take steps to ensure our airplanes are SAF compatible. This is already the case with all current Falcons, which can fly with a 50% SAF blend. And by the way, this morning I came in board an airplane fueled with SAF. Our latest aircraft, the Falcon 10X, will be 100 percent SAF compatible. In addition we are working with engine manufacturers to find more ways to decrease fuel consumption. We are also developing lighter structural materials and improved aerodynamics, as well as designing new flight planning tools that help pilots map out the most fuel efficient routes.”
EIS Falcon 6X has slipped until mid-2023
The Falcon 6X is progressing as planned through its certification program and has completed most of its major flight tests. More than 850 flight hours have been flown by three flight test aircraft, across the entire flight envelope as a part of the EASA certification process. However the successive waves of Covid and supply chain issues are taking a toll, and impacting the 6X development and manufacturing timetable. As a result, the entry into service timetable has shifted by six months from year-end 2022 to mid-year 2023.
The fourth Falcon 6X, with a full interior, is on display at EBACE, and the first customer aircraft is currently in completion in Little Rock, Arkansas, and aircraft 7 through 15 are in final assembly in Mérignac.
The Falcon 10X program is moving forward smoothly. Trappier stated “most of the detailed design is frozen and parts, major structures and subsystems have entered production, with final assembly of the first aircraft scheduled early next year. Rolls-Royce has begun bench testing the Pearl 10X engine, surpassing target thrust levels on the first run. It has accumulated over 1,000 hours on the bench to date, including runs with 100 percent SAF. We’re targeting entry into service for late 2025.”
Eric Trappier also spoke of Dassault’s commitment to customer support. “Now, a few words on how we’re doing on the support side of the business. Our primary focus right now is on tailoring our expanding worldwide maintenance, repair, and overhaul organization to have it ready for the 6X and later the 10X. Over the past three years, we’ve considerably grown our factory-owned MRO network. It now includes four wholly-owned companies—Dassault Falcon Service, Dassault Aircraft Services, ExecuJet, and Tag Maintenance Services—and offers MRO services at 40 locations around the world.”
“We are currently building major new facilities in Kuala Lumpur and Dubai designed to serve our growing customer base and accommodate the new FALCON 6X and 10X. In the US, we recently closed our maintenance center in Wilmington, Delaware, and will soon open a new facility in Islip, near New York City. We are also considering future expansion of capacity in the US”
Speaking of Dassault’s latest innovation for an enhanced customer experience, Trappier said: ”While I’m on the subject of customer experience, I would like to unveil our latest innovation, something we think customers are going to be very excited about. It’s called the Falcon Privacy Suite.”
“The concept – an individual compartment and an electrically reclining seat that converts into a lie-flat bed – was pioneered by commercial airlines. But up to now, it has not been available on purpose-built business jets, and I can tell you the engineering challenge to applying the concept to executive jets, from a certification standpoint, is significant.”
Dassault’s turnaround in new product development and sales in 2021 bodes well for the future of both the Falcon 6X and Falcon 10X programs, and regaining market share in a highly competitive top end of the market.