Dassault delays Falcon 5X business jet development

LONDON—Faced with a new set of delays associated with Safran’s Silvercrest engine, Dassault Aviation has announced it is terminating the development of its Falcon 5X business jet program.

The French manufacturer confirmed on Dec. 13 that testing of the troubled turbofan during the third quarter of 2017 had revealed problems with the high-pressure compressor. This resulted in a shortfall of performance and made the 5X’s planned service entry date of 2020 “impossible.”

The company said the “magnitude of the risks involved” both on the technical and schedule aspects of the Silvercrest program meant that the program would be terminated.

It will turn its attention to a new Falcon program to enter service in 2022 using Pratt & Whitney Canada engines.

“There is still a strong market need for a brand new long range aircraft with a very large cabin,” Dassault CEO Eric Trappier said. He adds that the new airframe will feature the same cross-section as the Falcon 5X and have a range of 5,500 nm.

In an emailed statement, Safran said engine tests in the third quarter of 2017 led the company to inform Dassault about delays to the certification schedule. Safran said these delays would enable it to achieve the performance required across the full flight domain.

But the company added that “Dassault Aviation does not share Safran Aircraft Engine’s view of the status of the program.”

Dassault said Safran has faced “recurrent technical issues” during the engine development that already pushed the Falcon 5X’s entry into service from 2017 until 2020. This resulted in order cancellations, 12 in 2016 alone, it says.

Dassault flew a prototype of the twin-engine wide-body business jet in July and began a preliminary flight test campaign using an early version of the engine that was “not compliant” with the specifications.

Flight trials of the engine on a Gulfstream II testbed have shown that the high-pressure compressor has suffered a mix of acceleration, deceleration and stall issues at high-altitude and low-speed conditions. Safran officials previously told Aviation Week that the issues lie in the four-stage axial element of the compressor.

Dassault says it will now begin negotiations with Safran to end the contract. Safran says some contractual penalties applicable to the engine development phase have already been provisioned for in its accounts.

The engine has also been selected by Textron Aviation for the Citation Hemisphere.

Textron Aviation remains committed to the Safran Silvercrest engine for the Hemisphere, said spokeswoman Sarah Estes. “As we currently understand it, the latest Silvercrest status does not significantly impact engine deliveries for the Hemisphere program. We will continue to stay closely aligned on their progress and how it may affect the Hemisphere’s development timeline.”

SOURCE: Dassault