The top of the business jet market is a key position for an aircraft manufacturer. Over the last couple of decades, we’ve seen Dassault drop from the market position it once had competing with Gulfstream and Bombardier in the 1980s and early 1990s after Dassault decided not to build the Falcon 9000 but to instead stay with the Falcon 900, evolving into the smaller Falcon 7X and 8X models. After two decades of market share erosion, their strategy has changed dramatically with the announcement of the forthcoming Falcon 10X last week, which directly targets the two incumbents at the top of the market.
The top of the business jet market typically is a game of leapfrog in terms of range, cabin size, speed, and innovative technology. Gulfstream and Bombardier have been playing that game for some time, most recently with the Global 7500 leapfrogging the Gulfstream G650ER, which has now led to the forthcoming G700. Now Dassault is entering the game with an all-new design, the Falcon 10X with the widest cabin of any purpose-built business jet and specifications that just made a major, and potentially revolutionary jump with innovative technology in the game of leapfrog.
Let’s look at some of the characteristics of the competing jets, as shown in the following table:
Each of these aircraft is fantastic, and comparing them is like comparing diamonds at Tiffany’s, each brilliant in their own way. The question is who will be on top in terms of sales and market share a few years from now when the dust has settled on the new announcements and the Gulfstream G700 and Dassault Falcon 10X join the Bombardier Global 7500 and Gulfstream G650ER in service.
The first element is range, which tends to be the differentiating characteristic at the top end of the business jet market. Busy executives who travel internationally want to be able to reach most destinations non-stop, and with a 7,500 nm range, these aircraft fit the bill. The Global 7500, with a 7,725nm range does so at a slightly lower long-range cruise speed, but does have the edge in that category, with both the G700 and Falcon 10X at a more than adequate 7,500nm. All three check the range box.
Speed is another element, and both the G700 and Falcon 10X have the capability to cruise at Mach .925. If speed is important the advantage shifts to the two forthcoming players, which will cruise faster than today’s models. Getting there quickly, whether non-stop or at higher speeds, is another key factor at the top end of the business jet market.
Cabin comfort is phenomenal on all four aircraft, which have magnificent cabins with multiple salons that can be used for meetings, dining, and even private bedrooms with showers. Each aircraft at the top end of the business jet market has cabin innovations, whether in seats, entertainment, beds or on-board showers. But the all-new design of the Dassault Falcon 10X one-ups the competition with a cabin that is about 18% wider than the competition, enabling more movement across the cabin as well as longitudinally within the cabin. Advantage Dassault.
New technologies are typically introduced from the top end of the business jet market downward, and these aircraft are no exception. The Global 7500 utilizes the fly-by-wire system developed for the A220, nee Bombardier CSeries. The G700 incorporates active-controlled sidesticks with Phase of Flight intelligence to reduce pilot workload. The Falcon 10X incorporates a major upgrade in fly-by-wire operations, including the upset recovery system from the Rafale fighter to a high-definition heads-up display. Each of these aircraft has pushed technology and safety forward, with the newest designs incorporating ever more advanced technologies.
But Dassault has gone even further, pushing technology upgrades throughout the cockpit and cabin. Their heads-up display is full high-definition. The co-pilot’s seat can lay flat into a crew rest position to enable future single-pilot operations in cruise, as Dassault has anticipated future regulatory changes. The pressurization system will enable a 3,000 ft, cabin at FL410, lower than on the ground in Denver. The list of innovations is substantial in the cockpit, flight control systems, and cabin.
When we put these three elements together, the new Dassault Falcon 10X will, with an all-new design and larger fuselage, leapfrog the competition when it enters service. Dassault’s re-entry into the top end of the business jet market will be disruptive and turn the duopoly at the high end of the market into a three-way dogfight.
All three companies have loyal customers, and we expect that to continue. Owners of the Falcon 8X will likely move up to the 10X, owners of the G650ER will likely move up to the G700, and owners of older Global models are already trading up to the Global 7500. The real question is whether there will be any movement of market share from one company to another and whether Dassault will indeed take the 1/3rd of the market they plan to acquire from Bombardier and Gulfstream. We’ll need to wait and see to find out.
But one thing is certain. Innovation at the top end of the business jet market will continue, and the game of leapfrog will go on. Bombardier and Gulfstream have just been leap-frogged, and the question now is who will make the next jump, and when.