Dassault Aviation’s Falcon 5X, the first in a line of next-generation business aircraft from the French firm, rolled out in front of 500 company guests, employees and partners at its Bordeaux Merignac plant on June 2nd. The $45 million new model, true to Falcon Jet design roots, will provide virtually best-in-class fuel economy, the largest cabin cross section and the lowest empty weight.

“Technology is what sets the Falcon 5X apart from other executive jets,” says chairman and CEO Eric Trappier. “Its 5,200-nm range allows it to connect the majority of the world’s most heavily travelled city pairs. Yet, it will be far the most fuel efficient jet in its category and will demonstrate the approach speed of a typical turboprop.” Approach speeds will be as low as 105-106 KIAS, according to Dassault.

The aircraft has a clean sheet wing with 33 degrees of sweep at quarter chord, a straight leading edge from root to tip and a 779-sq.-ft. area. High-speed buffet margins are increased by 15%, compared to the Falcon 8X. It’s 500-lb. lighter in weight than the wing fitted to the Falcon 7X/8X because of internal structural changes. Dassault designed its own curved winglets for the 5X and they’re noticeably different from the Aviation Partners’ blended winglets fitted to the Falcon 2000/900 series aircraft.

The Falcon 5X will be able to fly 200-nm farther than Gulfstream G500 on 650-lb. less fuel, Dassault engineers predict. It will be able to fly from London to Los Angeles, Shanghai to Seattle or Teterboro to Tel Aviv. But, its long range speed is Mach, 0.80 rather than Mach 0.85 for the G500, adding as much as 40 minutes to the longest trips.

The new Falcon is the launch platform for the Safran Snecma Silvercrest turbofan, a new 12,000-lb. thrust class engine with a 6:1 bypass ratio and active clearance control that should give it unsurpassed fuel efficiency, along with the lowest noise and emissions characteristics in class.

While seven Silvercrest test engines have logged more than 200 hr. of bench test time, flight testing aboard a modified Gulfstream II based in San Antonio was delayed by several months because of difficulties encountered in adapting the new powerplant to the vintage airframe. In addition, a fuel-oil heat exchanger on the engine had to be upgraded to meet new certification rules. Flight testing now is well underway, but slated certification has been rolled back until first half 2016. Dassault officials are cautiously optimistic about the certification schedule.

First flight of the Falcon 5X still is on track for third quarter 2015, but with pre-production engines. Dassault’s chief test pilot Philippe Deleume will honcho the 5X flight test development program, most of which will be conducted at the French Flight Test Center at Istres, just west of Marseilles. 

Ground test facilities at Dassault’s St. Cloud headquarters facility and the French flight test center at Istres are being used to develop airframe systems, avionics and the flight control system. Four flight test aircraft will be used in the certification campaign, including two “heavily instrumented” airplanes that respectively will be dedicated to envelope expansion and performance testing, one with partial test equipment and a full interior for cabin systems testing and one with in full production conforming configuration for function and reliability checks and entry-into-service preparation. The fourth aircraft also will be used as a demonstrator after certification.

FAA and EASA certification is slated for the end of 2016 with the first customer deliveries, including one for family patriarch Serge Dassault, to being in 2017.

“We wanted this wide cabin to be every bit as innovative as its airframe and systems . . . where every detail has been designed to ensure optimum passenger comfort, environment quality and connectivity,” Trappier says. Cabin sound levels, for instance, should be at least as quiet as those of the Falcon 8X. The cabin will feature the latest version of the FalconCabin HD+ cabin management system, with audio/visual on demand entertainment, WiFi and an iPhone remote control app.

The new aircraft has a 1,770-cu.-ft. cabin, the largest of any Falcon Jet yet built, including the Falcon 8X. Its cabin windows also are 10 percent larger than 7X and 8X. The cabin cross section indeed will be slightly larger than that of Gulfstream’s G650 flagship, Dassault officials assert, although the 5X’s cabin is shorter.

Yet, basic operating weight will be close to 40,000 lb., 6,600 lb. less than the G500’s BOW. Similar to Falcon 7X/8X, the 5X has a 10.2 psi pressurization system. That provides a 6,000-ft. cabin at FL 490, the aircraft’s maximum altitude and a 3,900-ft. cabin at FL 410, the initial cruise altitude when departing at MTOW. The beefier G500, in contrast, has 10.7 psi cabin pressurization. Thus its cabin altitude never exceeds 4,850 ft.

The Falcon 5X’s forward galley is the largest ever fitted to a Falcon Jet and it has a dimmable skylight that provides bright illumination of work surfaces. There is a forward crew lavatory and an aft passenger lav, both equipped with vacuum toilets. The 155-cu.-ft. aft baggage compartment will be accessible in flight with no altitude limitations.

Dassault pioneered digital flight control systems for business aircraft. The triple dual-channel primary flight control computer and triple single-channel secondary flight control computer architecture of 7X/8X are carried over into the 5X. However, the Falcon 5X will have a more advanced version of the DFCS that integrates the operation of slats, flaps, flaperons, spoilers and nose wheel steering through the flight control computers. When the airbrake handle partially is pulled back, for instance, the ailerons and flaperons will extend in opposite directions to increase drag, but without the buffeting associated with extending the spoilers. The split control surface feature will facilitate smooth, steep approach capabilities at airports such as London City and Lugano.

The Falcon 5X’s cockpit is equipped with EASy III, Dassault’s third-generation EASy flight deck using Honeywell Primus Epic avionics. It retains the basic T-configuration of EASy I and II, but it adds left- and right-side touch-screen EFBs. Elbit Systems is supplying a new and larger standard left side HUD that features triple band EVS and SVS imagery. 

The Merignac unveiling of the Falcon 5X truly was an extravaganza, with spinning mirrors, dancers and acrobatics, plus ground fog clouds through which the aircraft slowly emerged, towed forward to center stage by a robotic tug. Dassault has great reason to celebrate the unveiling of the 5X, as it’s the model upon which many future Falcon Jets will be based. Trappier hinted that the next in the series could be announced as soon as 2017. B&CA