When Dassault rolled out the first Falcon 5X in June 2015, those invited were treated to a show where dancers used a series of mirrors to create a shape that when viewed from above, turned into the letter X. After this a screen parted, and the Falcon 5X finally started appearing through a bank of dry ice.
The first aircraft had been completed, less than two years after it was first announced. As is often the case, Dassault had already begun the manufacturing process before the official announcement.
The company’s press release accompanying the rollout said that the aircraft was expected to fly before the end of the summer. But soon after the rollout Dassault picked up on some issues with the new Safran Silvercrest engines, delaying the first flight until these were sorted out.
The French aircraft manufacturers decision to choose the French engine manufacturers first foray into business jet engines was always likely to be a risky choice. Safran, through its partnership with GE, produce the CFM series of engines that power a good proportion of the world’s narrowbody airliners, but had never designed or built an engine for a business jet before. The Silvercrest engine had been chosen to power the Citation Colombus, but that aircraft program was cancelled.
Dassault finally announced a revised schedule for the Falcon 5X, with the first flight being pushed back by two years. The aircraft finally flew for the first time on July 5, 2017.
Normally the first flight of an aircraft formally launches the flight test campaign. But the Falcon 5X that flew had a preliminary version of the Silvercrest engines, not the production version. These are due to be delivered later in the year. Dassault says it will perform a short series of test flights with the preliminary engines, then launch the full flight test campaign next year.
Dassault and its customers will be pleased that the aircraft has flown but smoke and mirrors cannot hide the frustrating delays.