Dassault Aviation has confirmed a two-year delay and production freeze on its all-new Falcon 5X because of ongoing problems with the Snecma Silvercrest engine. The large-cabin, long-range twinjet – which was rolled out in June 2015 – is not now expected to fly until 2017, with first deliveries in early 2020. After unveiling the 5X in 2013, the French manufacturer had planned the jet’s maiden flight in the third quarter of last year but shortly after roll-out, hitches with the Silvercrest engine began to emerge, and Dassault said late in 2015 it would announce a new testing and production schedule early this year.
Dassault has informed 5X customers of the delay. Although he will not reveal backlog details for the type, chief executive Eric Trappier says he expects “some order erosion” and says the company will try to offer “other solutions” to buyers expecting an aircraft before 2020. The 5X is the launch platform for the Silvercrest and it is the first time Dassault has chosen a French engine for a Falcon. The engine was originally also going to be on the new Cessna Citation Longitude, but Textron Aviation switched last year to Honeywell when the business jet’s design changed.
In a statement, Snecma says that more than 500h of flight tests and 3,500h more of ground tests have confirmed the Silvercrest’s “good operational performance”. However, it adds that the tests have “showed the need to carry out additional developments in order to extend the engine’s operational life and optimise its performance”. These developments include designing and producing new parts, says the company, which now anticipates engine certification in the first half of 2018. Trappier says the 5X – which has the widest cabin among its peers – “remains a fantastic aircraft”. He adds: “I am not a happy man [about the delay], but in the end, if we have the right aircraft and the right engine, it is only two years.”
Confirmation of the new schedule comes after a tough 2015 for the airframer, with 55 deliveries its lowest figure for 10 years. This compares with 66 Falcon shipments in 2014 and 77 the previous year. Orders in 2015 were 45 aircraft, 45 fewer than the year before. The manufacturer blames a slowdown in some of its key markets, including China, Russia and Brazil, which has offset a modest recovery in Europe and North America. Dassault will release its output target for 2016 in March, but the figure is expected to be around 60 units. The manufacturer’s other new type – the top of the range 8X trijet – flew a year ago and Dassault expects to begin deliveries in the second half of this year. Trappier says production of the more than decade-old 7X – of which the 8X is a development – will continue for now. “We will see how [the 7X] performs in the coming months or years and we will decide [its future], but we will build them in parallel for the time being,” says Trappier.