Forty years ago, late in the afternoon of May 4, 1963, the first Falcon business jet–then known as the Mystère 20 and powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney JT12A-8 turbojets–took to the air for the first time at Bordeaux-Merignac Airport in southwest France.
Over the past decade or so, Dassault Aviation has raised the eyebrows of some business aircraft industry analysts. Why, some asked, didn’t the French airframer follow Bombardier and Gulfstream in the charge to develop an ultra-long-range corporate jet? Why, others wondered, hasn’t Dassault matched the offerings of Cessna and Raytheon in the ever-expanding small and midsize business jet sectors?
The long-awaited competition to supply 126 new fighters to the Indian Air Force (IAF) is formally under way. The six contenders for the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) requirement have received a formal request for proposals (RFP), and must respond by next March. The Boeing F/A-18E/F, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-16, RSK MiG-35 and Saab Gripen will be evaluated.
In our final edition at the recent Paris Air Show we revealed that Saudi Arabia had already concluded a contract for 72 Eurofighter Typhoons with the UK government worth $16 billion for the airframes alone.
This year’s Paris Air Show at Le Bourget provided an opportunity for me to see Dassault’s new Falcon 7X up close before I got my chance at the left seat, alongside Dassault 26-year veteran senior test pilot Yves (Bill) Kerherve, who has since retired from the company. A former French Navy fighter pilot, Kerherve flew the ultra-quiet 7X through a series of maneuvers for the crowd on the opening day of the show.
Jack Pelton, chairman, president and CEO of Cessna Aircraft, and John Rosanvallon, president and CEO of Dassault Falcon, have been elected to the board of Corporate Angel Network, the nonprofit that arranges free flights for cancer patients using empty seats on business aircraft. Dassault Falcon also announced the promotion of Jeff Habib to senior vice president of U.S. sales.
Gil Michielin, v-p and general manager of Thales Commercial Aircraft Solutions, has been appointed president of EUROCAE, the European air transport electronic systems and equipment standardization body. With 20 years’ experience in the industry, Michielin has worked on programs ranging from the Mirage 2000 and Rafale fighters to the A380 and 787 airliners.
MBDA, the missile manufacturer owned by BAE Systems, EADS and Finmeccanica, has appointed Antoine Bouvier as its new chief executive. He replaces Marwan Lahoud. Bouvier was most recently chief executive officer of EADS Astrium Satellites, a post he took up in 2002, and before that he held senior positions at ATR culminating in his becoming chief executive in 1998.
As well as providing the avionics equipment for France’s high-profile Rafale program, Thales is active in the fighter upgrade business. As new-build combat aircraft programs become fewer and further between, so the military aircraft upgrade business has increased dramatically.
In the fighter aircraft business, there’s no substitute for combat experience, if you want to impress potential customers. The Dassault Rafale has now dropped bombs in anger as part of NATO’s stabilization effort in Afghanistan.