With one of the company’s new 8X luxury jets looming in the background, Dassault Falcon executives praised the company’s growing Little Rock workforce during Thursday’s celebration of the French aerospace giant’s sprawling completion center adjacent the Bill and Hillary Clinton Airport Little Rock.
The centerpiece of the project is a new 250,000 square foot facility, called Hanger 14, where Little Rock employees of the Paris-based jet maker will complete work on Dassault’s latest two luxury jets – the Falcon 8X ultra long range trijet and the Falcon 5X very large body twin.
Dassault officials said the new completion hangar will bring the French aviation giant’s total facility footprint at the airport complex to 1.25 million square feet. The expansion also includes refurbishment of cabinet, upholstery and headliner shops and an upgrade to the 13 other older hangars.
Dassault spokesman Grant Kielczewski said the Little Rock expansion will include the hiring of additional employees, but could not provide an exact number of new hires needed for the multimillion dollar upgrade. He said the company has more than 1,850 workers in Little Rock.
Kielczewsk also said six of the newly completed 8X business jets will soon fly to Little Rock for completion and then be delivered to customers. He said production of Falcon 5X luxury jets, delayed by engine issues, are expected for delivery “sometime in early 2016.”
In the brief ceremony, where top executives from the French aviation firm shared the stage with Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola and other local and state airport and economic development officials, Dassault Chairman and CEO Eric Trappier thanked the Little Rock employees and officials for their commitment. He also told the Little Rock officials and hundreds of employees gathered in the brand-new Hanger 14 that the new, modern completion center would be the best in the world.
“I am very proud to say Dassault has built this entire facility … as the most advanced completion site in the world. This has been because of our strong relationship with the state of Arkansas, our dedicated and capable employees, and by designing and building the best business jets in the world,” Trappier said as hundreds of Little Rock employees applauded his remarks “At Dassault, we like to say, ‘at every moment of every day, there is a bit of Little Rock flying some place in the world’ because of the outstanding work that is done here.”
Trappier said the debut of the newly unveiled flagship 8X aircraft, which recently completed flight testing, enhances the company’s luxury line of business jets. The new expansion follows a $20 million 116,000 square foot upgrade in 2008 that added four new modern paint bays, along with new production, design and warehouse space, to accommodate the popular very long range Falcon 7X.
In 2010, Dassault Falcon Jet received approval from the FAA for the use of 3D data during the completion process, making it the first OEM to receive approval for 3D type design and completion. In addition to enhancing quality, 3D completion provides an opportunity for the customer to visualize the final configuration of the aircraft.
“This expansion is also not only a statement about the future of Dassault and our expanded product line, but also about the future of business aviation here in Little Rock and the 1,800 Dassault Falcon employees that work here,” Trappier said. “It is also proof of the commitment of the great actors in the United States of America, and in particular the state of Arkansas and city of Little Rock. Dassault is proud to be a vital part of the fabric of this great state.”
Although Dassault is based in Paris, the French executives at the Little Rock event did not directly comment about last week’s multiple terrorist attacks on the Parisian capital that has resulted in 129 deaths and several hundred more injuries. Those attacks have led to scaled-up assaults on the Syrian city of Raqqa, which is considered to be the crux of the ISIS militant group’s power in Syria.
Trappier briefly mentioned that the French aviation giant is seeing growth in orders of its military and fighter planes, but he did not specifically mention the company’s involvement in the fight against ISIS. Under France’s Operation Chammal, six Dassault Rafales warplanes and four Dassault Mirage 2000D/Ns tactical fighters are carrying out the bombing of ISIS’s strongholds in Syria.
Little Rock officials, including Mayor Mark Stodola, Little Rock Airport Commissioner Stacy Hurst and Danny Games, deputy director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, all thanked Dassault officials for their commitment to Central Arkansas and expressed their condolences to the French executives concerning the Paris attacks.
“When I look at the people assembled, and I see the diversity of our community. I know the unity that we have as we stand here to together, the people of Little Rock, the people of the United States and the people of France, It is so very important that bond continue to be cemented … especially in these troubled times,” the mayor said, pointing to his lapel pin. “We are so excited to have the commitment of the largest completion center in the world for Dassault Falcon jet here.”
Games, representing Gov. Asa Hutchinson and AEDC Director Mike Preston, who are visiting Japan and China on a Far East trade mission, told the French executives that Arkansans support the French people.
“This past week we have grieved with you and we stand with you,” he said.