Dassault Falcon 7X
OVER THE LAST DECADE, Dassault has delivered 275 of its long-range trijet Falcon 7Xs, and the fleet has amassed 500,000 hours of flight time. With a range of 5,797 nautical miles, the 7X may not have the longest legs in the large-cabin bizjet “uber-barge” derby, but it is the undisputed champ in the go-anywhere sub-category. Don’t believe it? Check out the online version of this article for a link to a YouTube video of the aircraft threading the Alps and then landing on the 3,570-foot runway at Gstaad, Switzerland with plenty of pavement to spare.
Even with its shorter legs, the 7X handles nonstop flights between such city pairs as New York and Riyadh, Paris and Singapore, and Los Angeles and Rome. Its cabin can be configured for 12 to 16 passengers, and cabin altitude at 51,000 feet is a refreshing 6,000 feet (typically lower at airline altitudes). The aircraft climbs like a rocket, reaching 39,000 feet in as little as 15 minutes after takeoff, and has a fast cruise speed of Mach 0.90. And it burns up to one-third less fuel than comparable aircraft.
The 7X was the first business jet to come to market with full fly-by-wire computerized flight controls, and pilots praise its fighter-like responsiveness via sidesticks that require only the slightest fingertip pressure to put the airplane just where you want it. The four large cockpit display screens are easy to read, and minor carping associated with the first iteration of 7X avionics seems to have been largely addressed with the EASy II/II+ upgrade that most owners have opted for to comply with new avionics mandates. However, the price of the upgrade can top $1 million.
You may have read about a runaway trim incident in 2011 that grounded a portion of the 7X fleet for a few months and restricted its speed while a remedy was being designed. The problem related to a limited batch of electronic units used to control the horizontal stabilizer. Dassault fashioned a parts, software, and redesign fix that solved the problem. Aside from that incident, the 7X has been remarkably trouble-free.
While the model resembles the Falcon 900 trijet, the 7X’s 39-foot cabin is six feet longer and the aircraft features a new, longer wing with an 86-foot span that is more swept and efficient. The Pratt & Whitney Canada PW307A engines have overhaul intervals of 7,200 hours. The cabin is extremely quiet—with a noise level below 50 dBA—thanks to special engine mounts and cabin isolators. The 28 cabin windows are two inches higher and 20 percent larger than those on 900s and flood the aircraft with natural light.
THE 7X COMES IN various cabin configurations with features including forward and aft lavatories, a third flight-deck seat, a crew rest area, enhanced closet space, added passenger leg area, and a 50-inch-long galley/work area. The forward galley, lav, and crew rest areas can be closed off from the main cabin by deploying a sliding pocket door in the forward cabin divider.
A typical cabin configuration offers forward and aft lavs, galley, and three seating areas, including a club seating section with four facing larger executive seats and foldout sidewall tables; a conference grouping with four narrower seats and an electrically activated, folding hi-lo table and opposite sidewall credenza; and an aft stateroom with one or two divans that fold out into beds and/or executive single seats. These three zones have separate climate controls. You can access the main baggage compartment in flight through the aft lav.
The 7X is available with a standing/sitting shower, but adding that feature requires the rear cabin bulkhead to be moved forward. The shower features a “rain sky” ceiling and an electrochromically dimmable window.
Dassault began working with BMW Group Designworks to offer optional interiors for the 7X in 2011. The new designs introduce more curves, more contrast between the sidewalls and headliners, and different lighting throughout the cabin to create a more open and spacious feel.
In 2014, Dassault rolled out several improvements for new and used 7Xs, including a system that cuts in half the time it takes to refuel from 50 to 100 percent capacity and increases maintenance intervals. Dassault engineers also have devised fixes for flight delays triggered during the power-up sequence.
EARLY 7XS ARE COMING UP on their major “C-check” inspections, which are due every eight years or 4,000 cycles (a cycle means one takeoff and landing). This is an excellent time to make interior changes and modifications. If your aircraft lacks a head-up display/enhanced vision system, for example, the “C-check” is a good opportunity to add it. But like EASy II, it’s not necessarily easy on the budget: the price is around $1 million.
Besides installing a shower, you can take other steps to upgrade your 7X. Germany’s Ruag, for example, offers a seat reupholstery package that enhances comfort; an illuminated headliner that is light/color intensity adjustable; and a forward-cabin 32-inch HD monitor. You can also enlarge the conference grouping from four to six seats by replacing the opposing credenza with two single seats or a two-place kibitzer.
You can purchase hourly service plans for the aircraft from Dassault through FalconCare; from Pratt & Whitney Canada for the engines through its Eagle Service Plan; and from Honeywell MSP for the auxiliary power unit. These programs can be highly customized to your needs, but taken together they are not inexpensive.
Over the last several years, Dassault has made substantial moves to improve its product support, hiring more customer-service representatives and technicians, expanding customer service centers, expanding parts inventories, opening more aircraft service centers, increasing mandatory service inspections/intervals and right-pricing parts.
While the 7X has historically maintained its value well in its peer group, the introduction of the 8X last year, with its 43-inch longer cabin, could cause the used 7X market to
soften. Most 8X buyers will be trading up from 7Xs, potentially sending those aircraft into the used market and creating an opportunity for savvy buyers who value utility, speed, and great operating economics.