BUSINESS AVIATION | INTERVIEW
Vadim Feldzer, the Head of Global Communications at Dassault tells Arpita Kala of SP’s Aviation during Wings India ‘18, all about the fate of Falcon 5X and busts myths about Dassault’s mysterious new aircraft. And about 6X, 7X and 8X.
Rafale fighter jets and Falcon 8X may just be the hot topic of the month, but Dassault Aviation’s India connect dates back to the era of Mirage 2000. “The truth is that Dassault Aviation has had a relationship with India long before Gulfstream was even born. We started our friendship in India in 1985 by delivering Mirage aircraft to the Indian Air Force. So, it’s a long term relationship between our company and your government,” says the company’s head of global communications, Vadim Feldzer.
And if you noticed the subtle shade towards their competitor, it’s all in good faith. As Feldzer says, “They have a good aircraft, but it’s all about what you can offer differently to the customer.” Showcasing their ultra long range Falcon 8X at the recently concluded aviation expo in Hyderabad, where the Gulfstream G650ER was on display too, Vadim spoke to us about the unexpected demise of Falcon 5X and the question on everyone’s mind – what’s the difference between between Falcon 6X, 7X and 8X.
SP’s Aviation (SP’s): What exactly happened with Falcon 5X?
Vadim Feldzer (Feldzer): It’s very frustrating but very easy to understand. We launched Falcon 5X back in 2013 at NBAA’s Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition in Las Vegas. The 5X was created after we looked very carefully at the needs of the customers worldwide and found that the trend was definitively for a larger cabin. And, for the 5,000 nautical miles segment, there was no innovation to fulfill this demand in the market. Gulfstream came with G650, a very cool aircraft, but nobody really came up with a fresh product. So, we decided to come up with 5X and to bring the biggest cabin in this segment with the traditional flexibility, which is the DNA of the Falcon brand.
To produce this aircraft, we partnered with Safran engines because they came up with a product (Silvercrest) that on paper was the best engine in the market in this category. So, we trusted Safran and designed our aircraft based on the Silvercrest proposal while Safran also adapted the engine to our latest Falcon.
So, it was a win-win partnership until they failed to deliver because in 2016, they announced a three-year delay in the programme which was not only unacceptable to us, but our customers too. Still, considering the promise of the engine, we were patient and continued the partnership. However, they came to us last fall with a new problem in the core engine which would have taken even longer to solve...with no visibility on the time it would take to correct. So, we decided not to continue since we had lost almost half of our customers and even our reputation in the market. Éric Trappier, our CEO, announced the termination process of the 5X with Safran and we decided to launch a brand new airplane, which happened to be the Falcon that was also announced last week in Paris. Now with the Pratt & Whitney PW812D engine, the Falcon 6X will address the same concerns in the market and definitively replace it.
SP’s: What’s the USP of Dassault Falcon 8X?
Feldzer: The 8X is our new ultra long range aircraft at Dassault. It is derived from the 7X, which has proven to be very popular. We have sold more than 200 of those, so the 7X is the most popular aircraft in Dassault history. The 8X is inspired by that, but features more range, larger cabin, more comfort and more everything. So, it will be a successful aircraft. It entered into service in the late 2016, but we really started delivering the aircraft worldwide only last year and one of the first airplane was delivered in India...it is operating out of Delhi.
Typically what makes our aircraft different from the competitor... like if you compare the 8x with the G650, the latter will have more range. But the 8X is a more capable aircraft especially in terms of airport performance. You’ll be able to fly on more challenging airports, actually you will be able to fly almost anywhere, because the wing designs are optimised to cope with the slow speed approach on short runways or in adverse conditions such as altitude constraints, hot rivers etc. So the Falcon aircraft are a great asset because the 8X won’t fly as far as its competitor, but it will fly you to more destinations. So, that’s one of the key asset of this aircraft. The three engines help you fly more direct routes because we don’t have the ETOPS limitations (Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards). So, you can fly directly over the ocean and save time as well as fuel.
“If there’s one company that is capable of coming up with a supersonic business jet, it will be Dassault because of our credibility and the fact that we know how to fly close to Mach one”
Business aviation is all about productivity and that means that the company or corporation can go directly from point A to B without any constraints. For instance, the 8X can fly to London City Airport, which is the closest to the financial district in London. In fact all the Falcons qualify to operate in this airport, which is not the case for our competitors. The G650 has to go to the Farnborough Airport, which sometimes with the traffic situations is two hours away from the city. It’s all about agility and flexibility that we offer.
SP’s: Do you think time management is a problem in India?
Feldzer: Business Aviation is all about valuing the time of your key people and German people have understood that. They prefer to pay for expensive travel rather than have their MVPs stuck in lounges in the middle of nowhere waiting for a connecting flight. Well, the problem in India is all about slots, parking spaces...Charter services like Club One Air are providing solutions to the high net worth passengers, but sometimes they are not getting slots to land or to get airborne. We are all positive people and hopefully things will change, but it takes time. Four years ago I was saying the same thing, it will change, we know that, but it will take time. But I’m sure it’s more frustrating for Indian business aviation operators ...the lack of infrastructure, parking spaces and more.
SP’s: When is the 9X coming up? And, are the talks about the 10X true?
Feldzer: We’ve never talked about either of them; but at the moment it’s an exciting time right now in Dassault because we are not working or wasting resource on the 6X and at the same time we are working on the newcomer. We have never said if it was a 9X or a 10X or released any details. Maybe it could even be a 2X. We aren’t confirming or denying anything, we are just saying that the time will come for a great announcement.
SP’s: What’s the difference between Falcon 6X, 7X and 8X?
Feldzer: The easiest way to explain it is that the number of engines is the differentiator. The 7X is a three-engine aircraft so is 8X and the 6X is twin-engine. In fact, we often get asked if we would continue producing the 7X because it is close in terms of range. As the 6X has a maximum range of 5,500nm while the 7X is 5,950nm, so there’s not a huge difference in the range. The 8X has a much longer range so there’s no competition with 6X at all.
You still have aficionados for the iconic three-engine formula. Even in our Dassault family, there are some customers who will never come for a twin engine because they love the operational capabilities, ETOPS facility that come with a tri-jet aircraft. So, ultimately the market will decide, but for now, we will continue producing the 7X. We said the same thing when the 8X was launched too. For us, the 7X and 8X are two aircrafts with separate abilities.
SP’s: What’s your take on ‘Make In India’?
Feldzer: I am from the civil aviation side, but during the Rafale discussion, Dassault agreed to meet the ‘Make in India’ requirement. We set up a joint venture with Reliance and a new facility in Nagpur that will start operations before the end of this year. This is a strategic decision for Dassault because this facility will be included in our worldwide supply chain too.
SP’s: Are you also working on a supersonic programme?
Feldzer: It will be very challenging to design an aircraft in this class without knowing what will be environmental regulations because you can imagine that they will be very stringent. So, before they are in place, Dassault will not commit itself to any programme decision; but if there’s one company that is capable of coming up with a supersonic business jet it will be us because of our credibility and the fact that we know how to fly close to Mach one with all the Mirage fighters and the Rafale.
“Our CEO, announced the termination process of the 5X with Safran due to their complete failure with Silvercrest. And we also decided to launch a brand new airplane, which happened to be the Falcon 6X that was also announced last week in Paris. Now with the Pratt & Whitney PW812D engine.”