October 21, 2013
Bigger is better in the booming large-cabin business aircraft segment, and the debut of Dassault’s $45 million Falcon 5X is the biggest news at this year’s National Business Aviation Association Convention.
Formerly known as the Falcon SMS, this newest member of the family will have a cabin cross section that’s slightly larger than that of Gulfstream’s G650 uber-jet, but it is considerably shorter, in keeping with its 5,200-nm maximum range at Mach 0.80. The aircraft will cruise comfortably at Mach 0.85, but then range decreases to 4,750 nm.
The 5X is the first clean-sheet Falcon in a decade. It shares little with the 7X that entered service in 2007, having a new fuselage, new wing, new Safran Snecma Silvercrest turbofans and new digital flight control system functionality.
The new Falcon will compete head-on with Gulfstream’s 4,200-nm range but aging G450, and with Bombardier’s 5,400 nm-range but fuel-thirsty Global 5000. But its considerably lighter empty weight, more advanced aerodynamics and 10-15% more fuel-efficient engines will cut fuel consumption by up to one-third compared to those competitors. Dassault claims that the 5X will have 30% lower direct operating costs than the G450’s and 35% less than the Global 5000’s.
The 5X wasn’t always as large or as long-legged as it is today. When Dassault launched initial SMS design studies in 2006, it was intended to compete against Bombardier’s then hot-selling Challenger 300, Gulfstream’s G250 (now G280) and Embraer’s Legacy 600. But when world financial markets tanked in 2008, demand imploded for SMS and smaller aircraft.
However, the large-cabin market began to rebound as the first green shoots of economic recovery sprouted in 2009, so Dassault’s engineers went back to their CATIA screens and completely revamped the SMS. It has become a very different aircraft, the largest and most advanced Falcon yet built, and will provide the basis for larger and longer range Falcons in the future. Expect another member of the new family to be announced before EBACE 2014.
The 5X’s circular fuselage is 8 in. greater in diameter than any previous Falcon’s. Thus, while overall cabin length is 5 in. shorter than the 7X’s, its volume is 14% greater, with 4 in. more headroom and 10 in. more floor width. The main 25.3-ft.-long salon is divided into three: a forward, four-chair club section, a mid-cabin four-seat conference grouping and a separate aft lounge that will accommodate six passengers in full flat berths on overnight missions. Cabin altitude will be 3,900 ft. at FL 410 and 6,000 ft. at FL 510.
The cabin has several new design features. The seats have hollowed-out armrests and cocoon-like, wraparound bases and backs to make passengers feel as though they occupy a space that’s dedicated solely to them. There are plug-in ports for individual seat monitors, and Wi-Fi will support using iPads or iPhones as IFE monitors.
Dassault customers said they wanted more ambient light in the cabin, so the 5X will be fitted with 28 of the largest cabin windows ever used on a Falcon. They’re 1 in. taller than those on the 7X and provide as much window area per cubic foot of cabin volume as the 16 wide-oval cabin windows of the G650.