For aircraft designers, the chance to design an all-new jet may be a once-in-a-career opportunity. That’s because many aircraft are derivatives to keep development costs relatively low.
The Falcon 6X is a designer’s dream—a clean sheet airplane allowing Dassault Aviation engineers to use the latest in digital design technologies, aerodynamics, propulsion and more. Plus the ability to optimally size the cabin for the way passengers want to fly today.
Dassault’s engineering department, famed for developing both front-line fighters and business jets, seized the opportunity to build a jet with a big, big cabin that flies easily in and out of small airports. And one with exceptional fuel efficiency.
The cabin height is 1.98 meters and its width is 2.58 meters. The cabin can seat up to 16 passengers, but, as with most business jets, will usually fly with far fewer for maximum passenger comfort. The 6X is the leader in the long-range segment in terms of size and also range, which is 10,200 km. You might think such a big plane would only be landing at big city airports. But, in fact, the wing is designed with high-lift devices (as are all Falcons) to permit slow and stable approaches to runways of less than 1,250 meters. This lets the 6X use all sorts of small airports close to city centers and also in small towns.
The 6X has been in flight test since March 2021 in Istres in the south of France, where Dassault tests all its fighters and business jets. The production line in Mérignac (just outside of the city of Bordeaux) is ramping up, with the 12th aircraft already on the assembly line.
Three test aircraft are flying in a campaign that has proceeded very smoothly according to test pilots. They also report that the 6X has perhaps the best handling qualities of any Falcon they have flown (and all Falcons are famous for their precise handling). This assessment from the test organization should not be a surprise. The 6X has the latest generation of Dassault’s world-leading digital flight control system. These controls were pioneered on Rafale fighters and have been in use on business jets since 2005, when the Falcon 7X became the first business jet with a fly-by-wire system. The result has been easier flight management for pilots plus safeguards that prevent overspeeds, stalls and overstressing of the airframe.
The 6X goes to the next level with a digital flight control system that manages more control surfaces, including flaps, slats and a new device called a flaperon, which does double duty as a flap and aileron. The system also helps control nosewheel steering for better tracking in wet and gusty conditions.
A fourth 6X with a full interior will embark on a world tour next year as part of a campaign to test the aircraft in the field far from home, including rigorous use of all cabin systems, including Satcom, entertainment systems, galley, environmental controls and lavatory.
Recently, one of the flight test aircraft made its first appearance at Le Bourget Airport outside of Paris, where it became one of the first jets on the field to be refueled with a blend of sustainable aviation fuel supplied by TotalEnergies. The company’s SAF reduces lifecycle CO2 emissions by 90 percent. The 6X (and all current Falcons) can operate on a 50/50 blend of SAF and conventional Jet A fuel.
The 6X will continue to use SAF throughout the remainder of the test program, which will extend into 2022. It’s part of Dassault’s intensive effort to reduce its CO2 footprint.
The 6X will be certified before the end of 2022 and will soon be seen in countries around the world, including Asia. The Dassault service organization (rated number one for the last three years by the readers of Aviation International News) is training technicians and positioning $100 million in spare parts inventory to make sure first customers are well supported right from the start.
In the meantime, customers wishing to experience the size and comfort of the 6X cabin will have a chance to tour a mockup at the Singapore Air Show in February.
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