After multiple delays, Elon Musk successfully launched his Falcon Heavy. Also after multiple delays, Dassault scrapped its Falcon 5X project and on 28 February announced the launch of its new long-range Falcon 6X, claiming it to be the “most spacious twin-engined jet in business aviation” and that its 5,500 nm range is further than any other bizjet in its class.
The 6X draws heavily from the 5X project that it is replacing, both with aerodynamics and system features which were validated during the 5X preliminary flight test programme. The 5X was cancelled largely due to engine issues and delays with the proposed Snecma Silvercrest engines. For the 6X, Dassault has selected Pratt and Whitney Canada’s PW812D (‘D’ for Dassault) engines. The 13,000 to 14,000-pound-thrust PW800 family has already logged more than 20,000 test hours, having also been selected to power the Gulfstream G500, with the PurePower PW814GA, and the G600 with the PW815GA. In addition to improved efficiency over comparable older engines, the PW800 family offers 40% less scheduled maintenance than other engines in its class, according to Dassault.
At the launch of the 6X, Dassault chairman and CEO, Eric Trappier, said that in 2015/2016 Dassault engineers began developing a ‘Plan B’ for the Falcon 5X when the Silvercrest engine began experiencing problems with its high-pressure compressor. After discussions with Pratt and Whitney, the PurePower PW800 series engine was tweaked for Dassault and the 6X was adapted to match the engine, according to Olivier Villa, Dassault’s senior VP of civil aircraft. The result is a greater range and larger cabin than the 5X.
The 6X has a top speed of Mach 0.90 and a maximum range of 5,500 nautical miles (10,186 km) when flying at M.80. That means it can fly directly from Los Angeles to Geneva, Beijing to San Francisco or Moscow to Singapore at long range cruise speed, or connect Moscow to New York, Paris to Johannesburg or Los Angeles to London at Mach 0.85.
But bizjets are sold on their cabins, and that’s where the 6X really excels. At 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in) high and 2.58 m (8 ft 6 in) wide, the 6X might indeed claim to be the “most spacious twin-engine bizjet” – but then that must exclude the Airbus, Boeing, Embraer and Sukhoi converted airliners. The cabin can accommodate up to 16 passengers in three separate sections, affording room for multiple configurations, including a large entryway/crew rest area and a spacious rear lounge. There are 29 ‘extra-large’ windows, including a galley skylight – the first in business aviation – to maximise natural light, and yet the cabin altitude remains remarkably low. Cruising at 41,000 ft, the cabin altitude is just 3,900 ft.
And of course, a new bizjet must have the best inflight internet connectivity available, and the 6X comes with the high-speed Ka-Band network.
Like the cabin, the cockpit is roomy. The pilot seats recline to 130 degrees, and the broader cockpit allows entry and egress without climbing across the centre console. Decluttering the cockpit, Dassault’s FalconSphere II electronic flight bags are integrated into the console.
The cockpit features Dassault’s latest avionics and systems technology. The Digital Flight Control System (DFCS) optimises manoeuvrability and aircraft protection on primary and secondary flight controls, commanding all flight control surfaces, including slats and flaps, and provides nose-wheel steering. Engine control is highly automated, and, during start-up requires little more than monitoring the systems as they come online.
The FalconEye combined vision system (CVS) will be standard on the 6X. FalconEye features a fourth-generation multi-sensor camera whose six sensors present sharp 1,280 x 1,024-pixel images in both the visible and infrared spectrums. These images are combined with three dedicated worldwide synthetic vision databases that map terrain, obstacles, navigation, and airport and runway data, all of which is displayed to the pilot in a single view. FalconEye is the first HUD to offer such functionality and is especially useful in challenging weather conditions. Furthermore, the 30 x 40-degree field of view is one of the widest angles on any HUD.
The avionics package also includes the third-generation EASy III system, powered by Honeywell’s Primus Epic platform. Among new features are an integrated controller-pilot data link communication (CPDLC) system and RDR 4000 IntuVue 3D colour weather radar that provides predictive lightning and hail detection, as well as 60-nm range Doppler turbulence detection. Hazardous weather and the vertical definition of thunderstorms can be seen at distances up to 320 nm.
Another bizjet first on the 6X is the use of flaperons. In addition to range, Dassault is focussing on the 6X’s slow speed handling and short-field capability. Flaperons act as both flaps and ailerons, allowing for a larger portion of the trailing edge of the wing to increase drag and lift, while still providing roll control. They are especially beneficial during approaches with a steep descent profile into airports with short runways, which are often inaccessible to large business jets. At sea level, the approach speed is claimed to be as low as 109 KIAS (202 km/h) with eight pax, three crew and NBAA IFR reserves, with a steep approach capability of up to six degrees. Landing distance is just 760 m at maximum landing weight, while takeoff distance – which is often the determining factor – at maximum all up weight, operating from a balanced field, is 1,670 m.
Comparing apples with apples in the bizjet market is a tricky business. The 6X’s closest competitor is Gulfstream’s G500. It’s undisputed that the 6X has the roomiest cabin, but the range comparison is less straight forward. With eight passengers, NBAA IFR reserves, and flying at M.85, the 6X can fly 5,100 nm; the G500 has a range of 5,200 nm under the same conditions. This is the standard by which large bizjets are compared. However, the 6X can do 5,500 nm at a slower cruising speed of M.80.
Furthermore, being able to carry up to 16 passengers opens the 6X up to competition from Gulfstream’s G600, Bombardier’s Global 5000/6000 (both seating 13 passengers) and even the soon to enter service 7000 and 8000 (the Global 7000 has a passenger seating capacity of 17, and the 8000 seats 13). Other than the Global 5000, these aircraft all travel faster and further than the 6X, with the Global 8000 having a range of 7,900 nm.
It’s a closely contested market segment. The 6X has raised the stakes on comfort and innovation in the cockpit, and arguably has a little extra range in its class if you are prepared to travel around 50 kts slower. When you are travelling in such style, who isn’t?