Sizing up a busy week for Dassault

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It has been a busy week for Dassault Aviation’s chairman and CEO Eric Trappier. He began the week by revealing a second Falcon 6X had successfully completed a test flight. He ended it unveiling the OEM’s new ultra-long-range Falcon 10X – during an online launch event at Paris Le Bourget Airport.

Due to enter service in 2025, the Falcon 10X, powered by two Rolls-Royce Pearl engines will have a 7,500-nm range and a cabin cross section larger than some regional jets. It will compete directly with the Bombardier Global 7500 and Gulfstream G700 for customers looking to fly further. So, what are its prospects?

All three aircraft share a lot of similar numbers. All three have a range of 7,500 nautical miles plus an extra 200 claimed for the Global 7500. Both the Falcon 10X and Gulfstream G700 carry a price tag of $75m, with the Global 7500 priced at $2m less. All three share the same operating altitude of 51,000ft and the same maximum speed of 0.925 Mach.

But it is the Falcon 10X’s bigger cabin dimensions that the OEM is highlighting against its direct competitors – the Global 7500, which was introduced in 2018, and the G700, scheduled to enter service at the end of 2022. The 10X has a cabin height of 6ft 8in (2.03m) and a width of 9ft 1in (2.77m). That will make it almost 8 inches (20 cm) wider and 2 inches (5 cm) taller than the widest and tallest purpose-built business jet flying today, according to Dassault.

Key selling point in a crowded market

It could prove a key selling point in a crowded market. “Cabin size, both width and height, really matters and the longer range,” Steve Varsano, founder of The Jet Business told us. “As we all know, the longer you sit on these airplanes, the smaller they get. So, if you can make them wider and taller, they don’t get as small.”

Cabin size is a key metric, agrees Don Dwyer, co-managing partner at Guardian Jet. “I think all the entrants in this space are very comfortable,” said Dwyer. “If you were looking for a metric to win on, size would be one of them. I think the extra cabin size is big deal and their customer base is a big deal – they [Dassault] are entering a really crowded marketplace.” But never under-estimate the power of brand loyalty in this marketplace and for Dassault itself, he told CJI.

Brand loyalty is a theme picked up by Brian Foley, founder of consultancy Brian Foley Associates. “The segment is arguably a bit too crowded now,” he said. “With similar performance characteristics, brand preference will play a bigger role than ever.”

This is a significant advantage for the Falcon. Foley also agreed the bigger cabin size was crucial on the basis that “the person who pays for the aircraft typically sits in the back, so cabin size is a very important factor”.

Dassault is focusing on “purpose-built business jet” competitors (Bombardier and Gulfstream). But the 10X is also competing with the new Airbus ACJ TwoTwenty. The ACJ TwoTwenty does not have the same range but you do get an astonishing 143 cubic metres of space – and a cabin width of 3.3m.

Varsano also singled out the modular cabin, which promises both extra flexibility for owners and higher resale values, if new owners could reconfigure the cabin to their own needs more easily and cheaply than other models. But he did want to know more about what cabin modularity meant in practice. Varsano also thought the promise of noise levels at least as quiet as the Falcon 8X and the ability for its Rolls-Royce 10X engines to run on sustainable aviation fuel would impress prospective clients.

Whatever the model preferred by long-range private jet buyers, all the brokers noted OEM confidence in the ultra-long-range segment. “All three companies [Dassault, Bombardier and Gulfstream] have bet on the very high end of private aviation,” said Dwyer of Guardian Jet. “They have a lot of smart people working for them and I wouldn’t bet against it.”

‘The big three all now have their big jets’

Jetcraft agrees. Dan Kilkeary, its senior vice president Sales Americas, said industry trends and his company’s transactional data showed that large, ultra-long-range jets remain increasingly popular. “The ‘big three’ all now have their ‘big jets’ and we’re looking forward to seeing how the Falcon 10X will expand the category, offering greater choice.

“Dassault’s unveiling of the Falcon 10X highlights the engineering strengths they are known for, while the combination of cabin size, performance, and technology could open many doors to the most discerning buyers.”

Their faith in the long-range category is well placed, according to Richard Koe, WINGX MD and co-founder. Large cabin aircraft have been slower to recover, especially in flight hours compared with super-medium jets but utilisation will come back this year, as international and inter-regional travel restrictions are lifted, Koe told us. Also, international border regulations, even over the longer term, will remain more complicated due to pandemic and public health checks and trade networks have been shrinking in few years with on-shoring manufacturing. And large cabin aircraft will come under the spotlight for their footprint on greenhouse gas emissions.

But private jets, particularly ultra-long-range private jets, delivered valuable options for High-Net Worth Individuals. “The pandemic has triggered much stronger demand from super-wealthy, which is a demographic seeing very strong growth,” said Koe. “It is only modestly penetrated by business jets, especially outside the US; larger cabin aircraft give the user more options to mix work and leisure, business-colleagues and family.”

That could be very good news indeed for Eric Trappier at Dassault and his competitors at the other OEMs.

If you had a 700kbps internet connection on your light jet or turboprop, what connectivity would you want it to have?
 

Above: The Falcon 10X will take on the Global 7500 and the Gulfstream G700.

Below: The 10X was unveiled at an online launch at Paris Le Bourget Airport.

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