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$45 million Falcon 5X to be finished out at expanded LR plant

By Jack Weatherly, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 10/23/13

"Comfort" is the word that Dassault Falcon is using for its latest business jet model, the Falcon 5X. The long-range jet has an expansive cabin and other improvements, the manufacturer said in a news release.

That translates into breathing room for Dassault Falcon's Little Rock facility that had been squeezed by the federal government shutdown that began Oct. 1 and ended Oct. 16.


The Falcon 5X prompted a $60 million expansion of Dassault Falcon Jet's plant at Little Rock, construction of which is to start early next year. The luxury jet with a 5,200-nautical-mile range will have a price of $45 million.

Falcon Jet had been sweating out the partial shutdown, but the company had enough work on hand to prevent serious thought about layoffs for a few more weeks, the company said Oct. 9.

The facility, which finishes out jets flown from France, where they are manufactured,employs about 1,800.

The Falcon 5X has a new a flight-control system, new aerodynamics and other advanced technologies, many pioneered in Dassault's military programs, the company said in the news release.

"The Falcon 5X is the new benchmark for the creative use of advanced technology in business aviation," Eric Trappier, chairman and chief executive of Dassault Aviation SA, the parent of Dassault Falcon, said in the release.

"Using design and manufacturing software and systems pioneered by Dassault, we have been able to build a larger, more comfortable and more capable aircraft that is also more environmentally friendly and much more economical to operate compared to other airplanes in its class." Its fuel efficiency is up to 50 percent better than competing aircraft, the company said.

"The Falcon 5X represents our biggest investment since the beginning of the Falcon programs," Trappier said. "It demonstrates our commitment to maintaining the technology leadership that we have displayed in this market since our first business jet flew 50 years ago."

Unveiled in Las Vegas at the National Business Aviation Association's annual convention, the company hailed the Falcon 5X as an industry breakthrough, offering the largest cabin cross section of any purpose-built jet.

Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Fairfax, Va.-based Teal Group, said the 5X looks like it will be "a solid performer" and a good addition to the company's portfolio. It will be in competition with a new plane from Savannah, Ga.-based Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. that has not been introduced yet, Aboulafia said.

The 5X has a cabin height of 6 feet, 6 inches, which the company said is important for passenger comfort on flights of 10 or 11 hours' duration. The 16-passenger aircraft cross section will be the widest of any plane made for business aviation, according to the company.

The new aircraft's digital flight-control system represents a major advance in making aircraft control more precise, easier and safer. Dassault Aviation SA pioneered digital flight-control technology on fighter planes some four decades ago. It introduced the first business jet with digital flight controls, the Falcon 7X, in 2007.

The Falcon 5X is expected to make its first flight in the first quarter of 2015 and to achieve certification before the end of 2016. The expansion at the facility at Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport/Adams Field is expected by early 2016.

The 5X reflects the change in the business-jet market after the last recession, with companies seeking to fly farther in roomier planes, Bloomberg News reported. Deliveries for large-cabin aircraft will grow more than 10 percent this year, while smaller jets will decline, according to a Honeywell International Inc. survey.