Dassault Celebrates 60 Years of Falcon Business
Dassault celebrates 60 years of Falcon business
jets in 2023, as new, even more advanced models prepare for take
“For an aircraft to fly well, it must be
beautiful,” Marcel Dassault famously said. Already well known for
the sleek Mirage fighters, Dassault - the man and the company - proved
the adage once again on 4 May 1963 with the first flight of the Mystère 20, the company’s first business jet.
With an eye toward
the sizable American market, the Mystère 20 would be
rebranded the Falcon 2 and sixty years and more than 2,700 business jets
later, Dassault Aviation continues the tradition of building
beautiful, advanced-technology aircraft.
“The formula has not changed,” said Dassault
Aviation’s Chairman and CEO, Eric Trappier. “Every Dassault
aircraft must have superb handling, beautiful lines, and rugged
construction. And, of course, it has to provide state-of-the-art
The Falcon 20 wowed some of the top aviation
leaders of the time, including Charles Lindbergh, Pan Am chief
executive Juan Trippe, and FedEx founder Fred Smith.
It went on to
spawn 27 different model types that found eager buyers among
entrepreneurs, government agencies, and several nations’ armed
Its pioneering safety features, including the use of
rugged fighter structures and systems, set the standard for
countless future safety improvements, from head-up cockpit
displays to digital flight controls - technology that subsequently
became widespread across the industry.
Today, Dassault’s strong corporate values, design
ethos, and relentless focus on elegant lines, inside and out are
embodied in two brand new models, the 5,500nm Falcon 6X and the
7,500nm Falcon 10X (pictured).
The 6X, which enters
service this year, is equipped with Dassault’s most advanced
digital flight control system to date, whilst the 10X, which is in the
early stages of assembly, will come with even more advanced
systems and safety features.
First Dassault Business Jet Takes Off
A little after 5 pm on 4 May 1963, test pilots
René Bigand and Jean Dilliare “gave it the gas”, as one historical
account recalls, taking the Falcon 20 for an inaugural one-hour
The flight occurred late in the day because of the
visit of Charles Lindbergh, who dropped by to inspect the new
business jet on behalf of Pan Am. It was only after he had
departed Dassault’s Mérignac final assembly plant near Bordeaux
that the flight team readied the aircraft for flight.
Lindbergh reportedly wired Pan Am CEO Juan Trippe:
“I’ve found our bird”. The airline promptly ordered 40 units with
an option for 120 more and established Pan Am Business Jets to run
its executive jet operations. The new entity later evolved into
Dassault Falcon Jet (DFJ), a fully owned Dassault Aviation
affiliate. Headquartered in Teterboro, New Jersey, DFJ is
responsible for representing and supporting Falcons in the U.S.
and elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere.
More Major Orders
In 1973, Fred Smith launched FedEx with a fleet of
33 Falcon 20s modified with a large cargo door, helping set that
company on the road to success.
In the 1980s, the U.S. Coast Guard
ordered 41 Falcon 20’s (designated the HU-25) modified for search
In all, Dassault went on to build nearly 500 20-series
In the years following, the company introduced a
series of aircraft models and there are currently more than 2,100
Falcons are operating in over 90 countries around the world.
The best-selling model has been the Falcon 2000,
which has been continuously
updated to remain at the top of its class. Nearly 700 have been
delivered so far.
The second-best seller has been the workhorse
Falcon 900, which has also gone through numerous iterations. To
date more than 550 of those aircraft have been delivered,
including two that were recently handed over to the Royal Air
Force for VIP transportation service.
Also popular has been the fly-by-wire Falcon 7X/8X
line. Some 400 of those ultra-efficient, very
long-range models have come off the assembly line.
“Through these different models, we have built up
a strong legacy and a solid base of technological know-how that
makes us confident in our ability to continue developing new
products that fully meet customer expectations,” said Trappier.
“Sixty years on, Falcons are still completely distinctive in the
business jet world: beautiful, delightful to fly, and always on
the leading edge of technology, bringing safety, comfort and
productivity benefits to operators around the globe.”
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