At Dassault Aviation’s NBAA-BACE press briefing today (Oct. 17) in Orlando, Florida, CEO Eric Trappier opened his comments with an expression of empathy for Florida in the wake of Hurricane Ian and admiration for the courage of Ukraine and its allies in the ongoing war. He also acknowledged that, based in part on those events, business aircraft manufacturers face some formidable strategic decisions. Though the COVID pandemic is winding down and business flying has made a significant comeback, concerns over sustainability take center stage, and fears loom over inflation and a possible recession.
On one hand, he said, demand for private air travel has never been stronger, as scores of new users have discovered that not only could they mitigate COVID health risks by flying privately, but it’s also more affordable and much more convenient than they ever thought possible. But “interest rates, energy, and supply chain are real worries,” he said. Still, Dassault emerges from the COVID pandemic with record backlogs for its Falcon line of business jets and a fresh order from the French air force for 42 Rafale jet fighters.
The French airframer’s Falcon 6X and 10X development programs are on track for entry into service on schedule—midyear next year for the 6X and in 2024 for the 10X. Senior executive vice president of civil aircraft Carlos Bruna called the 10X the next step forward in high-speed, ultra-long-range business jets, with the most spacious fuselage cross section of any purpose-built business jet. A completed Falcon 6X is on the static display ramp at NBAA-BACE along with a cabin mockup of the four-lounge Falcon 10X.
Trappier also highlighted Dassault’s latest advances in customer service, beginning with the candid admission that some missteps on Dassault’s part coupled with the COVID-induced supply-chain breakdown had tested the patience of its customers. Those issues have been resolved, he said, and the company announced it is establishing a new 175,000-square-foot maintenance center in Melbourne, Florida, to take up some of the slack from the closure of the Falcon Jet factory center in Wilmington, Delaware.
He also noted that ExecuJet’s Falcon maintenance bases were expanding in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (to 163,000 square feet) and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (130,000 square feet). Asked how Dassault Aviation would weather a significant economic crisis, Trappier pointed to the Rafale order as evidence of the company’s diversity. Income from the company’s military side has enabled the business jet division to better weather economic hard times in the past, he said, and it can do it again, if needed. He added that Falcons are renowned for their design efficiency, and innovation programs focus on reducing weight, improving aerodynamics, advanced avionics (including announcing EASY 4, the latest version of the Falcon’s signature flight deck) for more efficient operations, and partnering with engine manufacturers to eke the most out of every gallon of fuel. “We want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem,” Trappier said.