Dassault Falcon 7X
The Dassault Falcon 7X was fully certified by the FAA and the EASA in the first days of May 2007. This plane has caused much hype in the business jet industry; its every step along the way to certification has been carefully documented. At any given time, there are multiple business jets being developed and certified by the most venerable private aircraft manufacturers – so why is the 7X causing such a stir? The simple answer is that the 7X is not like any business aircraft that has ever been built.
Probably the most exciting aspect of the 7X’s design is its fly-by-wire system. The technology itself – replacing heavy mechanical linkage and hydraulic systems with electrically actuated flight control systems – is far from new. Dassault has produced several military aircraft with full FBW technology, but the 7X is the first business aircraft to be completely reliant on it.
The fly-by-wire system drastically reduces aircraft weight, improves aircraft performance, autopilot handling, and overall reliability. For obvious reasons, redundancy is a vital part of the FBW technology, which is why the 7X has six FBW computers: three primary dual-channel computers and three single-channel secondary computers. Only two secondary computers are needed to keep the 7X in the air.
The other groundbreaking component of the 7X is its all-virtual design and manufacturing process. The product lifecycle management (PLM) philosophy that was the basis of the 7X’s design and fabrication improved the quality and efficiency of the development and manufacturing processes. Manufacturing errors were all but eliminated and the overall time required to develop and manufacture the aircraft were dramatically cut. Dassault reported that time spent to develop and deliver the 7X was nearly half of what it had been for previous Falcons.
Clearly, the 7X stands out from the rest of the business jets on the market due to its technological advances – but how do its performance numbers measure up?
According to Dassault, better aerodynamics and higher-performing engines allow the 7X to match the range of its competitors while saving thousands of pounds of fuel. Published estimates for a 1,000 nautical mile trip with four passengers and required NBAA IFR reserves cite a fuel consumption of 4,702 pounds – 1,439 pounds less than the Gulfstream 500 would use on an equivalent trip and 2,058 pounds less than a Global 5000.
Much of this success can be attributed to Dassault’s choice of engines: the Pratt & Whitney PW307A turbofans. Each of the three engines on the 7X are flat-rated to 6,400 pounds of thrust. The three-engine configuration allows the 7X to take off in 5,700 feet at sea level and reach a maximum cruise speed of 488 ktas and a long-range cruise speed of 459 ktas. The Falcon 7X’s maximum range with four passengers, NBAA IFR fuel reserves, and crew is 6,070 nautical miles. This puts the 7X in competition with the Gulfstream 550 and the newer Boeing Business Jets.
The Falcon 7X’s cabin is almost identical to the 900EX’s cabin. It is typically configured for twelve passengers and includes all of the “standard” amenities which come with long-range luxury business jets. One marked improvement is the cabin noise level, which is lower in the 7X than in previous Falcons due to the soft mounted engines and improved soundproofing materials that cut sound without increasing weight.
Much of the hype about the 7X’s groundbreaking technologies may lead observers to overlook the great practical features of the jet: better fuel efficiency, longer range, and respectable overall performance. The 7X is a great business jet, which has been reflected not only by the excitement surrounding its certification but also by the more than 160 Falcon 7X aircraft already sold.