Dassault has opened a 23,230m² (250,000ft²) hangar at its US facility in Little Rock, Arkansas, that will house completions of the in-development Falcon 5X and 8X business jets. Work is under way installing the first full VIP interior on 8X serial numbers three and six. The former will set off early next year on an intensive, one-month world tour to validate a finished aircraft in extreme conditions. A customer aircraft, the latter arrived in Little Rock in late November after making the type's North American debut appearance at the National Business Aviation Association convention in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Little Rock’s latest $60 million extension boosts the centre’s overall footprint to 1.25 million ft², making it “the largest industrial facility in Dassault’s network”, says John Rosanvallon, chief executive of Dassault Falcon Jet. The ambitious project comes seven years after the previous $20 million upgrade, which added 116,000 ft² to support 7X completions. Flightglobal’s Fleets Analyzer database records 248 of the 5,950nm- (11,000km) range trijets in service. Its ultra-long-range stablemate, the 8X, has meanwhile completed its main flight test campaign and remains on track for certification and service entry in 2016.
Development of the all-new 5X programme has slowed, however, due to technical troubles with its Silvercrest engine – in development at Safran’s Snecma motors division. The large-cabin, long-range twinjet was rolled out in June 2015 and was originally scheduled for certification and service entry in 2017. Dassault plans to announce a new testing and production schedule for the 16-seat aircraft early next year. Demand for new Falcon business jets has slowed considerably over the past year, Dassault reveals, and overall sales in both 2015 and 2016 will fail to match a strong 2014.
Rosanvallon noted at NBAA that orders were proving particularly difficult in formerly hot markets like China, India and Russia. In 2011, he says, China accounted for half of the 7X orders, but this year the figure will be less than 15%.