Exceeding Lofty Expectations
A stunning feat of French engineering, the ultra-widebody Dassault Falcon 6X has an intercontinental range of 5,500nm (10,200km) and an MMO of Mach 0.90
By Andre Frois, Photos courtesy of Dassault Aviation
On 10th March 2021, the Dassault Falcon 6X completed its first flight. Splitting the cloudy skies above Dassault Aviation’s Mérignac plant near Bordeaux, the capacious jet wowed onlookers as it attained speeds of up to Mach 0.80. They were mesmerised by its aerial flair and dominating presence, as it sprinted across the skies of southwestern France and reached an altitude of 40,000 feet.
The maiden flight of the Dassault Falcon 6X was scheduled for the first quarter of 2021. Meeting this target despite the dismal global economy and COVID-related challenges, this flight marks the beginning of the Falcon 6X’s test campaign for certification.
Dassault Aviation reports that its new fly-by-wire flagship mettes the company’s high standards for handling qualities and performance, especially from short runways, thanks to approach speeds as low as 109 knots. It also raises the bar for widebody comfort. Boasting the widest and tallest cabin in business aviation, the 6X is the first ultra-widebody business jet to be purpose-built for the private jet industry. Its record-setting cabin measures eight feet and six inches in width, by six feet and six inches in height.
With an aisle that is five inches wider than preceding Falcon models, this spacious plane can seat up to 16 passengers in its three lounge areas. Its 155-cubic-foot baggage compartment can stow away large, irregular-sized luggage neatly. Beyond the pressurised vessel, the Falcon 6X has extra baggage space in the form of a 76-cubic-foot unpressurised compartment.
This groundbreaking jet will put its intercontinental range of 5,500 nm (at Mach 0.80) on display when it zips between London and Hong Kong, and between Los Angeles and Moscow nonstop. At Mach 0.85, the Falcon 6X’s range is 5,100 nm. Its maximum altitude is 51,000 feet and its maximum operating limit speed is Mach 0.90.
Aviation aficionados around the world were impressed by its advanced version of the digital flight control system, which was first introduced on the Falcon 7X and further refined on the Falcon 8X. The 6X expands digital flight control to secondary control surfaces, including flaps and slats, as well as a fighter-derived flaperon, which improves steep approach capability.
Most importantly, this revolutionary jet provides its passengers with peace of mind. A standard feature on the Falcon 6X, Dassault’s game-changing FalconEye head-up display with a combined vision system was developed in collaboration with Elbit Systems, and improves safety and situational awareness on approaches in darkness or poor weather. The first Falcon to be equipped with the FalconScan advanced diagnostics system, which monitors and reports on 100,000 maintenance parameters, the Falcon 6X can identify a fault and recommend a corrective maintenance procedure before it even lands, speeding repairs.
Featuring a 44-inch single-piece fan with a 4.5:1 to 5:1 bypass ratio, its smooth and capable Pratt & Whitney PW812D twin engines deliver 13,500 pounds of thrust and are bolstered by the low-emissions Talon X combustor. Bearing the initial “D” that stands for “Dassault”, the PW812D scored double-digit improvements in carbon emissions and fuel efficiency since previous models.
Other key features of the Falcon 6X include the newest version of Honeywell Epic-based EASy III avionics, with four 14.1-inch displays and Honeywell’s IntuVue RDR-4000 radar, as part of its flight deck.
“Today’s flight is another milestone in Dassault history, made all the more satisfying by the remarkable efforts of the entire Dassault organisation and its partners over the challenging past year,” remarked Dassault Aviation Chairman/CEO Eric Trappier.
“We dedicate today’s achievement to Olivier Dassault, who died tragically on Sunday,” said Trappier, in tribute to founder Marcel Dassault’s grandson, who had served as a deputy in France’s National Assembly. “Olivier was a Falcon pilot who perfectly embodied his family’s boundless passion for aviation. The 6X is the latest example of the fusion of military know-how and business aviation expertise for which Dassault Aviation is so respected.” Olivier Dassault perished in a helicopter accident.
“The new capabilities in efficiency, performance and safety (that the Falcon 6X) offers will set a new benchmark in the long-range segment. This airplane will also set a new standard in terms of cabin comfort and spaciousness, as demanded by our customers,” he added on a congratulatory and optimistic note.
The debut flight of the Falcon 6X serial number 01 was piloted by Bruno Ferry and Fabrice Valette. They lifted off from Dassault Aviation’s facility at 2:45 pm and flew for two hours and thirty minutes, as per the test plan. During which, they test the behavior of aircraft systems, aircraft handling qualities, and the response of its cutting-edge engine.
“The 6X flew exactly as predicted by our models. From a pilot’s perspective, it flies like a Falcon, which is to say with perfect precise handling in all phases of flight,” commented Ferry, who has been a test pilot with Dassault Aviation since 2014 and has been responsible for flight testing new civil and military aircrafts and systems. He has also performed acceptance, demonstration and ferry flights, and is currently participating as a project test pilot in the flight test programme for the Falcon 6X. Both pilots expressed their elation and satisfaction in the successful maiden flight of the brand-new Falcon.
“Fabrice and I are honored to have made the latest first flight in another fantastic Falcon,” he revealed. Valette has been a Dassault Aviation test pilot since 2010 and Dassault’s Chief Test Pilot at its Istres flight test centre since 2019, which is located near Marseille. The decorated pilot has accumulated 6,000 hours, including 1,500 hours in the Rafale and 2,700 hours in Falcon models, from the Falcon 10 to the 8X, and has made 450 carrier landings.
Following this inspiring aerial display of power and elegance, Dassault Aviation will next conduct the bulk of the Falcon 6X’s test programme at the Istres flight centre. Dassault Aviation will be launching the Falcon 6X serial numbers 02 and 03 in the coming months.