Who said the days of the trijet are over? Meet the Dassault Falcon 7X, second-largest business jet of the Dassault Falcon range.
A new Dassault Falcon 7X costs $54 million. Pre-owned examples from 2008-2010 can cost as little as $19 million depending on age, flight hours and maintenance. Powered by three Pratt & Whitney 307A turbofans give a maximum speed of 600 knots (690 mph) and an average fuel burn of 318 gph.
As a corporate pilot who’s had the good fortune of piloting this fine aircraft in both the left and right hand seats, it’s my pleasure to look over this amazing flying machine with you…
Dassault Falcon 7X Overview
The Dassault Falcon 7X is a three-engine, conventional landing gear, low-wing, large-cabin, intercontinental business jet, whose range is up there with commercial jets like the Boeing 767ER. It is still in production, having been launched at the 2001 Paris Air Show.
It had its first flight in May 2005 and entered service back in 2007. Up to now, 293 airframes have been built.
The Falcon 7X is built by the legendary French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation, based in Paris. The company was founded in 1928 as Société des Avions Marcel Bloch, becoming Dassault Aviation in 1990. The Falcon 7X is Dassault’s fastest-selling business jet.
It has a high sweep wing design which gives it a high maximum speed and longer range. It is the first jet in the Dassault Falcon family to have a wing come with factory-standard winglets. The aircraft was developed entirely through computer-aided design. The Dassault Falcon range is the only trijet series still in production.
With a landing distance of 2,070 feet, thanks to its very slow minimum safe approach speed, the Falcon 7X can get into and out of short airfields. Therefore, you can usually land right at your ultimate destination, without needing to transfer by car from a larger airport.
The Falcon 7X is designed for a crew of 2 or 3, and can carry up to 19 passengers, although 12 passengers is a more common configuration. It is the first business jet to be completely fly-by-wire (FBW), with sidestick controls and a glass cockpit (Honeywell “EASy” Enhanced Avionics System).
Dassault Falcon 7X Specifications
The Dassault Falcon 7X is an ultra-long-range business jet, with a commodious cabin.
How Much Does a Dassault Falcon 7X Cost?
The Dassault Falcon 7X is at the larger end of the business jet market and its price reflects that. A new Falcon 7X has a price tag of $54 million, making it a significant investment for any customer.
The used market ranges from between $27 million and $34 million for airframes built in 2019-2020, depending of course on flight hours, maintenance, original customer options and aircraft condition. For older examples, expect to pay $19 million to $24 million for aircraft built between 2008 and 2010.
According to aircraftcostcalculator.com, the overall average price for a used Dassault Falcon 7X is $31 million, based on the current market. Only a few airframes are found on the market at any one time, which tends to keep the price high. Remember to add financing costs, if required.
Of course, the initial purchase outlay and finance charges are only part of the story. Once you have your aircraft, there are the annual fixed and variable operating costs, such as crew salaries, fuel, hangar storage, maintenance and overhaul, and insurance.
Taking all of the operating costs into account and assuming 450 flight hours per year, the annual budget for a Falcon 7X comes out at just over $3 million. That is a lot compared to smaller business jets but, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for.
Dassault Falcon 7X Performance
The performance figures for the Dassault Falcon 7X are impressive. Let’s take a look at how the airplane achieves its performance.
What Engines Does The Dassault Falcon 7X have?
The Falcon 7X has three Pratt & Whitney Canada PW307A turbofans, all mounted at the rear of the fuselage. The PW307A was developed specially for the Falcon 7X, and was certified in March 2005 by Transport Canada.
The PW307A is a compact engine for its power output, measuring 86 inches in length, with a width of 41 inches and a height of 47 inches. It is a very reliable engine, requiring overhaul only once every 7,200 hours. The PW307A is noted for its quiet operation.
The number two engine of the Dassault Falcon 7X has an S-duct air intake, typical of trijet airplanes.
This means the number two engine’s air intake is above the level of the engine itself, which is situated at the very back of the fuselage. The number two air intake is at the base of the vertical stabilizer, similar to a Boeing 727 or Lockheed 1011.
An advantage of using an S-duct is that the number two engine can be placed in the center, on the airplane’s longitudinal axis, which is exactly where the thrust is most useful. Furthermore, if engine number two has to be shut down for some reason, there is no asymmetric thrust.
The three engines produce a combined thrust of over 19,200 lb, contributing to very lively performance, with a climb rate of over 2,000 feet per minute. Should an engine fail on takeoff, the aircraft can still climb out at a respectable 615 feet per minute.
What Fuel Does The Dassault Falcon 7X Use?
The Dassault Falcon 7X can use either Jet A or Jet A-1 kerosene. Jet A-1 has a lower freezing point (-52.6ºF) than Jet A (-40ºF). Therefore, Jet A-1 is a better choice for long cruise flight at high altitude, where the air temperature can be very low.
The Falcon 7X is capable of cruising at FL510 (51,000 feet). Its typical cruise altitude is FL410 (41,000 feet). If the fuel temperature gets down near its freezing point, it turns from a liquid into a waxy substance, and can no longer flow smoothly to the engines.
Therefore, although Jet A-1 is more expensive, it can work out a lot cheaper than the consequences of multiple engine failure in mid-Atlantic, for example.
Cruciform Tail Configuration
With all three engines mounted at the rear, the Dassault Falcon 7X has a cruciform tail. The horizontal stabilizer is raised above the exhausts of the two fuselage-mounted engines, but not placed as high as that of a T-tailed aircraft like the Boeing 727.
A cruciform tail configuration has the advantage of being less prone to deep-stall than a T-tail layout, where the horizontal stabilizer can get locked into the turbulent airflow from the stalled wings. However, cruciform configurations tend to have less elevator authority than other layouts, meaning bigger pitch control inputs are needed.
How Far Can The Dassault Falcon 7X Fly?
With a full fuel load and no payload, the Dassault Falcon 7X has a range of 5,870 nm (6,755 miles), enabling it to fly from San Francisco to Taipei in a single leg. In practice, that range is rarely achieved because of the need to carry passengers and baggage.
More typically loaded, the Falcon 7X can achieve a range of 5,490 nm (6,449 miles), meaning you can fly from Moscow to Los Angeles non-stop. Able to stay in the air for twelve hours at a time, the Falcon 7X truly deserves its classification as an ultra-long-range business jet.
How Fast Is The Dassault Falcon 7X?
In 2014, a Falcon 7X set a new transatlantic speed record, flying from KTEB Teterboro Airport, New York, to EGLC London City Airport, England, in 5 hours 54 minutes, with two pilots and three passengers.
Although the maximum speed of the Dassault Falcon 7X is a blistering 600 knots (Mach 0.89), a more typical cruise speed is 488 knots, which equates to Mach 0.73. The average cruise speed in the record-breaking flight was Mach 0.88.
The Dassault Falcon 7X owes its high cruise speed to the design of its high-transonic wing, as well as to its three power plants. The wing is over six feet longer than the wings of previous Falcon variants, with an improved lift-to-drag ratio, and 5º more backward sweep.
The Dassault Falcon 7X Experience
Walking out to the aircraft, pilots and passengers alike will notice the wide wingspan, and the swept-back wings with their distinctive winglets, for the best combination of lift and cruise speed. Passengers and crew board the aircraft via the forward left door, which hinges downward to form a stairway.
The Dassault Falcon 7X Flight Deck
On the flight deck, pilots will find a glass cockpit, and fully fly-by-wire controls, with sidesticks similar to those found on the Airbus A320 series of airliners. Sidestick inputs go to the six flight control computers, which in turn control servos to move the control surfaces.
Just as on the Airbus, the Dassault Falcon 7X’s digital flight control system will not allow the airplane to go outside its safe flight envelope, whatever control inputs the pilots make. This contributes significantly to flight safety.
In general, FBW technology has improved since it was first introduced, and pilots generally trust the system, appreciating its advantages. There have been some teething issues, though, including one that occurred on the Dassault Falcon - see ‘Pitch Trim Runaway Incident’ below.
Dassault has addressed one common criticism of FBW sidesticks - the lack of tactile feedback, should the two pilots make conflicting control inputs. This issue has arisen with Airbus FBW aircraft.
On an A320, for example, the captain experiences no force feedback on his or her sidestick in response to inputs made by the first officer, and vice versa. This contrasts with conventional, mechanical controls, through which each pilot will feel the effects of the other’s inputs.
On the Falcon 7X, the sidesticks will shake if the system detects conflicting sidestick inputs, reminding the pilots to decide and clarify who is flying the aircraft (‘Pilot Flying’), and who is ‘Pilot Monitoring’.
Pilots report that the Dassault Falcon 7X’s handling is precise and accurate, following the pilot’s commands exactly, with the airplane’s responses based on the Flight Path Vector (FPV) rather than on where the nose is pointing.
For example, on a slow fly-by at an airshow, the airplane’s nose will be pitched up to maintain angle of attack, but the aircraft is not climbing, so the FPV indicates straight ahead, which is the true direction of travel.
In other words, if the airplane is neither climbing nor descending, the FPV will sit exactly on the horizon, on the Primary Flight Display’s (PFD) attitude indicator. If there is a crosswind, the FPV will be displaced to one side, showing that the airplane is ‘crabbing’ to counter wind drift.
So, on the Dassault Falcon 7X, the pilot’s sidestick inputs are interpreted by the flight control computers as commands to change the flight path vector. Pitch inputs command a change of vertical speed. Roll inputs command a change of bank angle.
In both cases, the aircraft will maintain the new commanded vertical speed or bank angle, until commanded otherwise.
The glass cockpit features the Honeywell Primus Epic Enhanced Avionics System (EASy), with four flat-screen LCD displays. If you have flown the Gulfstream series, you will feel right at home in the Dassault Falcon 7X.
The LCD displays have been designed to be similar to a Head Up Display (HUD). The HUD is an option on the Falcon 7X. If it is fitted, the pilot can easily switch between the HUD and the PFD because the information is presented in the same way.
The congruence of the HUD and PFD, together with the synthetic vision system that shows terrain, rivers and buildings, is of great assistance to pilots in maintaining situational awareness during critical phases of flight, such as final approach.
When pilot workload is high, an additional source of stress can be ATC radio communications, requiring acknowledgment, readback and logging, as well as pilot action. On the Falcon 7X’s EASy display, ATC messages can be displayed as text, reducing the risk of a pilot mis-hearing or forgetting part of a clearance when busy.
Graphic flight planning is another pilot-friendly feature of the EASy system on the Dassault Falcon 7X. This contributes further to pilot situational awareness, giving a map-style mental picture of the route to be flown, rather than just a list of waypoints.
Thanks to the absence of bulky yokes and control wheels, the cockpit has a spacious, airy feel, almost like a small airliner. The pilot’s seats are straightforward to move, with scope to slide inboard and outboard, as well as fore and aft. Each pilot has a pull-out table.
Pitch Trim Runaway Incident
In May 2011, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) temporarily grounded all Falcon 7X airplanes, after the manufacturer reported an uncontrolled pitch trim event. The aircraft experienced an uncommanded, runaway pitch increase to 41º nose-up, placing a load factor of 4.6 g on the airframe.
The crew successfully brought the airplane under control and carried out a safe landing. EASA’s decision to ground the fleet was a precaution against any recurrence, as it was recognised that a pitch-trim runaway could cause the crew to lose control of the aircraft.
The problem was traced to some faulty soldering in one of the electronic control units. After modification to remove the defect, the Dassault Falcon 7X fleet was deemed safe to resume service. At the time of writing, there has been no known recurrence of the fault.
The Dassault Falcon 7X Cabin
The first impression that passengers will have is one of space. Unless you are more than 6 feet 2 inches tall, you can stand fully upright in the center of the cabin without banging your head. There are umpteen ways of configuring the interior, including an optional shower compartment.
With a cabin length of over 39 feet, there are many ways the space can be put to use. The cabin is 7 feet 8 inches wide, so there is no difficulty in moving from seat to seat or from one cabin zone to another.
There is a forward galley and lavatory compartment, as well as an optional crew rest area, which is a feature normally found on long-haul airliners. On the Falcon 7X’s longest flights, a third crew member means the flight crew can rest in rotation, and there are always two pilots in the cockpit.
Typically, the cabin is arranged in three zones, with four single seats in the forward section, in club configuration. In the mid-zone, there is a conference area with four seats facing across a table, and a credenza or a sofa. The aft section features two divan-style sofas, facing across the aisle.
The divan sofas in the aft zone can be folded to create a state room with either a queen-size bed and single sofa, or a king-size bed occupying the full width of the cabin. The latter configuration obstructs access to the rear lavatory compartment.
The cabin climate control is zoned and can be set to different temperatures if required, depending on passenger preference. A cabin humidifier is available as a customer option, to combat the dry skin we have all experienced on long-haul flights, as cabin air lacks moisture at high altitude.
Passing through the polished walnut galley with its neat, recessed drawer and compartment handles, you enter the light-filled forward seating area, with its plush upholstered seats and wide aisle. Each seat has a fold-out screen served by a central flight entertainment system. Cabin Wi-Fi is also provided.
Every seat in the forward cabin also has a fold-out sidewall table. The larger table in the central conference section can also be removed and stowed, if additional space is required in that part of the cabin.
There is something of the elegance of a stately home in the Falcon 7X’s cabin, with none of the somewhat cramped feel associated with smaller business jets, where one may be acutely conscious that every cubic inch of the limited space is being pressed into use.
All of the seats and sofas have folding backs and convert to berths easily. At the aft end of the cabin, along with the lavatory compartment, there is a 2,100 cubic feet baggage storage area. The cabin makes good use of daylight, with 28 large windows.
Cruising at FL410 (41,000 feet), the cabin is pressurized to 3,950 feet, making this one of the most highly pressurized airplanes available. The high cabin pressure contributes to passenger comfort as well as good crew cognitive function.
Even at the maximum cruise altitude of FL510, the cabin pressure is maintained at 6,000 feet. The cabin is very quiet, measured at less than 50 decibels, roughly equivalent to a quiet office environment. To achieve this, ambient noise in the cabin is limited by acoustic technology.
All of the above factors help to ensure a comfortable flight, allowing you to work or rest, and arrive at your destination relaxed, alert and ready to seal that all-important business deal.
Thanks to the long reach of the Dassault Falcon 7X, that destination could be a quarter of the way around the globe from where you set out.
About THE AUTHOR
After spending years watching every video I could find about flying, I finally scratched the itch and got my pilots license. Now I fly every chance I get, and share the information I learn, here.Read More About Joe Haygood