Dassault Rolling Out Long-Range 8X
February 22, 2015
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  • Test pilots Eric Gérard and Hervé Laverne took Dassault Aviation’s Falcon 8X on its first flight earlier this month, rising into a hazy sky above the company’s Mérignac plant near Bordeaux, France.

    During the one-hour-and-45-minute test, they took the sleek-bodied jet up to 15,000 feet and put it through a regimen of maneuvers and systems checks before climbing to about 40,000 feet, where they accelerated to cruising speed, in excess of 500 miles per hour.

    “We reached each of the performance objectives set for the first mission and, in a few cases, surpassed target goals,” Gérard said in a statement the company issued on the day of the flight.

    With a price tag of about $55 million, Dassault hopes the 8X, which has the longest range and lengthiest cabin of any Falcon jet, will build upon the success of its 7X, which is priced at $50 million and has been flying since 2007. Dassault has delivered more than 200 7Xs in the past eight years, but the pace of deliveries slowed last year, as long-range, large cabin jet shipments industrywide dipped to their lowest level since 2011.
    First deliveries of the 8X are not expected until the latter half of 2016.

    Unfortunately for Dassault, which has its U.S. private jet headquarters at Teterboro, the 8X rollout comes as industry experts are dialing back expectations for sales of roomy corporate jets with trans-Atlantic reach.

    “There is likely to be some softness in 2015,” said Brian Foley, an aviation analyst in Sparta and former Dassault marketing director. “The big-cabin category was actually down last year,” he said.

    He blames the 2.8 percent industrywide decline in part on economic weakness in developing countries such as China, Russia and Brazil, which for the past few years have been important contributors to a rebound in jet sales.

    The General Aviation Manufacturers Association said this month in its year-end report that long-range, large-cabin aircraft sales volume slipped last year to 242 planes from 249.

    Dassault shipped only 27 Falcon 7X jets last year, down from 43 in 2013.

    Including deliveries of business jets made for shorter hauls, Dassault shipped a total of 66 jets in 2014, a decline from 77 in 2013, and unchanged from 2012.

    Dassault did not respond to requests for comment.

    Airplane makers are “facing headwinds,” including a “tepid” U.S. economic recovery and “political and economic uncertainties in Europe,” Peter Bunce, the trade group’s president, said in a statement.

    Even so, there is some optimism in the aviation industry mostly because of pent-up demand from the recession. Total general aviation aircraft shipments by all makers — not including commercial passenger aircraft — rose 4.3 percent last year to 2,454, led by a nearly 10 percent rise in shipments of planes with piston engines, such as the Cirrus SR20 and the Piper Arrow, and a 6.5 percent increase in total business-jet shipments. Billings increased 4.5 percent to $24.5 billion.

    General aviation does not include commercial jetliners, a market dominated by Boeing Co. and Airbus.

    In October, Morris Township-based Honeywell International Inc. said in its latest business aviation forecast that it expects 4 percent annual growth in new business jet sales over the next 10 years, on average. It projects 9,450 deliveries of new business jets worth $280 billion through 2024.

    The General Aviation Manufacturing Association data released Feb. 11 showed that overall deliveries of small and midsized jets rose by 12 percent to 480 airplanes last year, the first increase in five years for that category, which has had a lot of room to grow since the recession, said Foley.

    Market ‘decimated’

    “I could use the word decimated,” Foley said of the impact the financial crisis and recession had on the small and midsized jet market. Deliveries were down by nearly two-thirds from 2008 through 2013, he said.

    The small and midsized jets, which include Cessna Citations and Learjets, are used mainly for domestic travel. The companies that buy them are generally more price sensitive than the multinational corporations most inclined to buy large jets with international range.

    The small and midsized jets, which include Cessna Citations and Learjets, are used mainly for domestic travel. The companies that buy them are generally more price sensitive than the multinational corporations most inclined to buy large jets with international range.

    Because of the recent strength of the U.S. economy, there may continue to be increased shipments of small and midsized jets “for the next year or two,” Foley said. “I think there will be some nice follow-through.”

    Falcon also is a player in the “super midsized” category of business jets with transcontinental reach. These include the Falcon 2000, Challenger 300 and Hawker 400, among others.

    Dassault is building a new jet in that size category, the Falcon 5X, which is expected to be in service in 2017.

    “You have to keep updating products or coming up with new ones,” Foley said. “If you don’t, they start looking like what’s on the used-airplane lot.”

    Janine Iannarelli, chief executive officer of Par Avion Ltd. in Houston, a Ridgewood native, said this week that she saw evidence of a pickup in the pre-owned jet market, especially with aircraft that are less than 15 years old and priced in the range of $3 million to $5 million.

    “The domestic supply of these models has dried up,” said Iannarelli.

    She recently brokered separate sales of two used Falcon 2000LXs to Texas–based charter operators with ties to the oil and gas industry.

    “I’ve had a good past couple of months but if you talk to other brokers, you will probably find that results are mixed,” Iannarelli said.

    Demand is still a far cry from what it was in 2007, she said.