FNX / Falcon 7X
The ultra-long-range Falcon 9000 design was announced at the NBAA meeting in Dallas in 1992. Highly efficient CFE738 engines plus a totally new laminar-flow wing would allow a non-stop range of 6000 nm at high speeds. Though technically excellent, the project was later shelved over the market-size concerns.
When the G500/Global Express battle started, Dassault declined to join in with its proposed Falcon 9000. Their reason: market size-too small for three aircraft, and probably big enough for only one. Dassault got it wrong-over 400 G500/550s and Global Expresses have been sold, and the future of the segment looks bright. The result was the Falcon 7X, which is very close to the 9000 in size, cost, and capability.
Dassault launched the "FNX" at the 2001 Paris Air Show. The new tri-jet will fly 5700 nm and will be the first business jet equipped with fly-by-wire technology. Less than one week after the announcement, over 20 orders had been received. 2004 mark the beginning of the "new Falcon" age with the first flight of the FNX: a 10,500-km range, a wide cabin 20% longer than that of the Falcon 900EX, innovative aerodynamics, fly-by-wire, and a new "intelligent" cockpit, all with Dassault quality, reliability and versatility, at a very attractive purchase price and running costs.
For optimal efficiency, all "FNX" partners and Dassault engineers are co-located in Saint Cloud, near Paris, where a "plateau"- a common workplace - is set up for the Preliminary Design Stage. At the peak of the development effort, about 400 people from 27 companies and seven countries are involved. As a trijet, it can fly transatlantic and transpacific routes within airline safety standards.
In 2002 the "FNX" was renamed the Falcon 7X. Its first flight was scheduled for 2005, only four years after launching the program, despite its complexity and scale. Seven Key Features that Define the Falcon 7X as Extraordinary 1. Non-stop range capability of 5700 nm. 2. The ideal cabin - as wide as the spacious 900EX's 7'8" cross-section, yet 20% longer, combined with an even more quiet and healthful cabin environment. 3. Unprecedented value - a combination of a compelling price and low cost of operation, while maintaining Dassault's renowned standards for quality. 4. Innovative design - a highly swept, advanced technology wing, fly-by-wire controls and Dassault's new EASy Flight Deck. 5. Unmatched reliability from "Day One." Using a new, rigorous development approach, the first 7X is designed to deliver flawless operation, easier maintainability and reduced downtime from the first day of service. 6. Dassault's signature three-engine design, with all its inherent advantages. 7. Inspired Flight Performance. Agility. Versatility. Safety.
The Preliminary Design Stage for the Falcon 7X came to an end in 2002 and a "virtual plateau" is established to allow all partners, regardless of their location, real-time access to a single shared database. In effect, a seamless collaborative process is put into place. The 3D digital mock-up of the Falcon 7X allows perfect visualization of all components.
In seven short months, the first Falcon 7X is completed in 2004 and became the first airplane ever designed and built in an entirely virtual environment by using Product Lifecycle Management Philosophy (PLM). PLM sets a higher standard for the design and manufacturing process that brings collaborative teams closer together. The first Falcon 7X went together exactly as planned in about half the time required for the first productions airplane.
Falcon 7X s/n 01 is introduced to a crowd of 800 guests in Bordeaux-Mignac in 2005. "Today we have made a huge step forward in the industry," said Charles Edelstenne, Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation. "Due to the new and unique design and manufacturing process called Product Lifecycle Management that we pioneered with our sister company, Dassault Systems, we have started a new industrial revolution that will take us through this century." The ceremony included a real falcon swooping over the crowd. The Falcon 7X flew for the first time in 2005. Test pilots Yves "Bill" Kerherve and Philippe Deleume were at the controls when the airplane lifted from Bordeaux-Mignac for a flight that lasted one hour and thirty-six minutes. Numerous systems test were performed and the flight was considered a great success.
In the week following the first flight, the airplane flew five times for a total of 13 hours and 20 minutes of flight time. The aircraft was relocated to the Dassault Flight Test Center in Istres the day following the first flight. The first five flights were dedicated to progressive flight envelope expansion. The flight envelope was opened to 41,000 feet, Mach 0.82 and 280 knots Indicated Air Speed. Turns with bank angles of 80 degrees to test buffet and handling qualities were completed. Slow speed characteristics were verified down to 105 knots. The aircraft pulled 2 gs during various maneuvers. Testing for all of the modes of the fly-by-wire controls, including reversionary modes, were accomplished. The airplane also landed using fly-by-wire back up modes. "Real-time flight data analysis and excellent reliability have allowed us to move forward faster than expected," said Yves "Bill" Kerherve, Senior Chief Test Pilot for Dassault Aviation. "First results of the flight test program confirmed Dassault's predictions: The aircraft is incredibly stable and the fly-by-wire controls are extremely precise. In fact, the development simulator we used prior to the first flight accurately replicated the performance of the real aircraft."
As the Falcon 7X s/n 1 embarked on its flight test program, the 7X static test vehicle was being put through its paces at the Toulouse Aeronautical Test Center (CEAT) in Toulouse, France. The testing began in March 2005 and initially concentrated on static testing to support the early stages of flight envelope expansion during the first several flights of the Falcon 7X. Fatigue trials were on their way toward the equivalent of 300 "flights" per day. By June 2005, half of the life of the Falcon 7X (10,000 flights) will have been simulated at CEAT. By mid-2006, two aircraft lives (40,000 flights) will have been "flown." The Falcon 7X static test airframe has been built as a standard airframe, albeit without most of its internal systems that are not a factor during fatigue testing, and is fully representative of the real aircraft in terms of structural resistance. The "aircraft" arrived at CEAT in December 2004 for installation on the dedicated test rig. The test rig is comprised of 64 computer- controlled actuators and four pressurization systems for the main cabin and the fuel tanks. In all, more than 2,000 parameters are recorded simultaneously by 2,000 strain gauges. All static and fatigue tests will be accomplished using just one test article. The flight test program will eventually have three aircraft.
The Falcon 7X program came full circle on the eve of the 2007 Paris Air Show when the first 7X landed at Le Bourget airport after it was delivered from the Little Rock Completion Center. The 7X, which was announced at the same event in 2001, was delivered to Gilbert Chagoury, Chairman of the Chagoury Group on June 13. He then flew the aircraft nonstop to Le Bourget outside of Paris. Prior to the close of the Paris Air Show, Mr. Chagoury purchased another Falcon 7X.
When the program was launched, Dassault Aviation Chairman and CEO Charles Edelstenne promised the 7X would "combine dramatic improvements gained from our experience in building military fighters with new construction techniques to bring corporate operators unprecedented performance, comfort and value." That is clearly the case with over 165 orders for the 5,950 nm tri-jet received marking it the most successful launch of a business jet ever.
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