When Dassault and Garrett AiResearch teamed to create the Falcon 20-5 in the mid 1980s, they succeeded in converting 126 aircraft that flew higher, faster and farther on one-third less fuel. Removing the 1960s era GE CF700 engines and replacing them with TFE731-5 turbofans made these classic Mystère Falcon 20 aircraft competitive with the contemporary midsize models offered by Cessna, Hawker, IAI and Learjet

With a maximum range of 2,400 nm, a 700 cubic foot cabin volume and seating for 9 passengers, it became the jet against which all other midsize competitors were measured.

This is a tough aircraft, with a 20,000 cycle/30,000-hr. initial service life and no hard life limits. Vmo ranges from 350 to 390 KIAS and Mmo is 0.88 IMN, higher than any other competitive aircraft of that era other than Citation X. It has fully powered flight controls and a speed-proportionate artificial control feel system. Falcon 20-F5 model has 270 lb. more fuel capacity than earlier models and full-span slats that reduce V speeds. It has non-stop U.S. West Coast to East Coast range, but the return leg usually requires a fuel stop.

Other features include a 5-parallel buss DC electrical system with manual load shedding, a rather anemic air cycle machine that isn’t up to cooling the cabin on the ramp in summer and an older generation pressurization controller. The 731-5 engines, though, produce ample bleed air to maintain an 8,000-ft. cabin at FL 420, the aircraft’s maximum cruising altitude.

Pilots rave about the aircraft’s soft control feel and docile handling qualities. Unlike newer Falcons, it doesn’t have automatic slat extension for stall protection, but large stall fences on the wings assure gentle high angle-of-attack handling.

The aircraft will climb to FL 360 to FL 370 at MTOW, step climbing to FL380 to FL390 at weights below 28,000 lb. First hour fuel flow is 2,000 to 2,100 lb. Plan on 1,500 lb. for the second hour, decreasing 50 lb. per hour thereafter. Long-range cruise speed is Mach 0.765 when heavy and Mach 0.725 when light. Most operators cruise the aircraft at Mach 0.77 to 0.79 unless range performance is critical. Westbound, they’ll push up to Mach 0.80, or faster, knowing that they’ll being making a fuel stop regardless of cruise speed.

Most aircraft are equipped with 200-lb. Nordam TR5020 (Dee Howard) thrust reversers and a 250-lb. GTCP36-160 APU. Added to the 260-lb .weight increase of the engines and the result is a tail heavy aircraft. Nose ballast is needed unless the aircraft has a Pro Line 4 or Pro Line 21 EFIS upgrade.

Cabins typically are configured with a forward galley, a forward four-chair club section, an aft half-club flanked by a three-place divan and a full width aft lavatory with a wet sink.

Typical BOWs are close to 18,500 lb. and fuel capacity is 9,170 lb. MTOW is 29,100 lb., unless the aircraft has the optional 30,350-lb. MTOW service bulletin. Similar to a Hawker, it has full-tanks/full-seats loading flexibility. The first models were fitted with 4,500-lb.-thrust -5AR engines, but almost all have been upgraded with 4,750-lb.-thrust -5BR engines, in accordance with SB 735. Even so, the aircraft needs 6,500 ft. of pavement when fully loaded, assuming ISA conditions. Departing hot and high airports, there are significant weight/altitude/temperature limitations.

The downside to owning a Falcon 20-F5 is potentially eye watering maintenance expense. There are 6-month A checks, 1,200-hr. B checks, 24-month Z checks and 72-month C checks, along with a 12-yr. landing gear overhaul and major corrosion inspections. Plan on tripling the quoted cost of most inspections to pay for fixing squawks. Deferred maintenance easily can balloon a 3C check to $700,000 and gear overhaul can reach $350,000. Corrosion damage can exceed economic cost to repair. Dassault spare parts are notoriously pricey for the aircraft.

The engines have 2,500-hr. MPI midlife inspections and 5,000-hr. CZI overhaul intervals. Having the aircraft enrolled in Honeywell’s MSP engine program is a must, unless you can negotiate a substantial adjustment to purchase price.

But, cost conscious Falcon 20-F5 operators have found numerous ways to slash maintenance costs. Some buy used midtime engines to replace worn out powerplants. Buy an airplane from well-established corporate operator or reputable broker and you could land a bargain. A cream puff with mid-time engines costs $1 million or less.

There are lots of midsize competitors that cost less to operate, including the versatile Citation Sovereign with superb short-field performance and 2,850-nm range that costs considerably more, the Learjet 60 with a much smaller cabin and similar range and the Citation VII, having less range and a smaller cabin, but better hot-and-high performance.

Ultimately, there’s a bit of snob appeal in owning a Falcon 20-F5. It has an almost palpable aura of quality. Some people say it’s one of the most beautiful midsize aircraft yet designed, a French fashion model that struts down the runway.

In 1963, Pan Am’s Juan Trippe was looking for the ideal mid-size jet to buy for his new business aircraft venture, so he asked Charles Lindbergh to evaluate candidate aircraft. When Lindbergh flew Dassault’s Mystère 20 prototype, he told Trippe, “We’ve found our plane.” The Falcon 20-F5, now in its golden years, hasn’t lost any of that mystique. B&CA