Dassault Falcon Jet announced on Monday (June 27) that its flagship 8X aircraft outfitted in Little Rock has been certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), preparing the way for the French aviation giant to soon introduce the new luxury business jet into service by the end of this year.
Company officials said receipt of the approval from European aviation regulators is in line with the established program schedule for luxury jet that can travel across continents. Certification from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is expected in the coming weeks, officials said, with entry into service in the early fourth quarter.
“We’ve broken new ground with the 8X,” said Eric Trappier, Dassault Aviation chairman and CEO. “Not only did we meet customer demand for an aircraft combining increased range and cabin volume with the technological prowess of the popular 7X, but we were able to get it to market fully mature and tested in a remarkably short period of time, and exactly within our production schedule.”
In late April, Falcon 8X completed a global proving tour designed to demonstrate aircraft capabilities under different conditions of operation with a particular focus on cabin comfort and connectivity. The 65-flight 55,000 nautical mile campaign took the aircraft to 46 destinations, from North, Central and South America to Europe, the Middle East, China and Southeast Asia.
Missions varied in length, from 18 minutes to 14 hours, including ultra-long range flights from Singapore and Sao Paulo to Paris and from New York to Abu Dhabi. The aircraft experienced a full range of flight conditions, from hot weather and extreme cold (-33°C) to extra high and low humidity environments, officials said. Altogether, a total of 26 test and operational pilots took part in the tests, along with more than 60 engineers, technicians and flight attendants.
“Feedback from the operational trials – cabin comfort, air conditioning, and in particular cabin noise – was excellent and indicate the aircraft is poised for a flawless service entry,” said Olivier Villa, Dassault’s senior vice president of civil aircraft. “Moreover, new innovations in aircraft insulation will allow us to further lower cabin noise compared to the Falcon 7X, currently the quietest aircraft in the industry.”
The three aircraft used in the flight test program are now being redeployed following the completion of the flight test and certification campaign, which totaled over 830 hours and 400 flights. Company officials said production is continuing to ramp up to meet growing demand for the aircraft. The latest version of the 8x is currently in final assembly at Dassault’s Mérignac production plant near Bordeaux. Twelve aircraft are already in cabin outfitting at the company’s Little Rock completion facility.
In November, the French aerospace and aviation conglomerate held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Dassault’s new $60 million completion facility, called Hanger 14, at the Bill and Hillary Clinton Airport in Little Rock. Trappier said then that the debut of the newly unveiled flagship 8X aircraft enhances the French aviation giant’s luxury line of business.
According to company officials, the Paris-based aerospace company’s total facility footprint at the Little Rock airport complex is now 1.25 million square feet. At the sprawling hanger operations, more than 1,800 workers install cabinets, upholstery and complete other interior work on the company’s Falcon 8X ultra long range trijet and the Falcon 5X very large body twin.
In late May, Dassault announced it had signed a multi-year agreement with ViaSat Inc. to deliver and equip the company’s luxury jets with in-flight internet and complete corporate network platforms. Installation of the advanced broadband system is expect to begin this summer at Dassault’s new hanger. ViaSat officials said the first aircraft delivered with the system will occur before the end of calendar year 2016 at the Little Rock facility.
The successor to the popular Falcon 7X, the ultra-long range Falcon 8X was first unveiled in May 2014 at the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition and first flew on Feb. 6, 2015. Company officials say the 8X will offer the greatest range and the longest cabin of any Falcon, allowing it to fly passengers comfortably from Beijing to New York, Hong Kong to London or Moscow to Los Angeles nonstop.