““[Bill Gates] has been historically one of my best supporters…One of my favorite e-mails he ever sent me…I proposed this crazy project. And he sent back this two-line response: ‘This has got to be the craziest thing you’ve ever suggested. Please proceed.’” ”
Dassault’s Falcon 2000S
I first wrote about the Falcon 2000 for this magazine in 2006, for our “Used Jet Review” department.
Back then, I liked the airplane for its cavernous cabin, good fuel economy, great range, pleasant flying qualities and strong resale value.
Since the 2000’s introduction in 1996, Dassault has debuted several variants that built on its winning DNA. In 2004, the manufacturer unveiled the EX, which featured enhanced avionics and a better cabin pressurization system. The DX followed in 2007 with the updated EASy digital cockpit. The 2000LX came in 2009, with standard winglets, and pushed the model past the $30 million price point while delivering 4,000 nautical miles of range, giving it plenty of margin for transatlantic crossings.
While the 2000 is widely recognized as the first super-midsize business jet, it was really in a niche slightly larger than that. Its cabin, which uses the same fuselage cross section as the company’s larger model 900 and 7X trijets, is actually 10 inches wider and two inches taller than the tube of a large-cabin Gulfstream G450. In this regard, the 2000 was really more than a super-midsize and its price ($18.1 million in 1996) reflected this. Gas it up, load eight passengers in back and you can fly 3,400 miles.
The 2000 was followed in short order by the Gulfstream G200 (nee Galaxy) and Bombardier Challenger 300. Embraer began delivering the Legacy 600, a corporate version of its EMB 135 regional jet, in 2002. After a decade of development, Hawker Beechcraft received certification for the Hawker 4000 in 2006. These are all fine aircraft with differing strengths and weaknesses, but none boast quite the balance of performance and economy that the 2000 offers.
The 2000 also has a reputation for durability and has proven itself with high-use fractional and corporate operators. Customers could custom-order its cabins, which can seat up to 10. The highly individualized interiors, combined with the ongoing euro-dollar imbalance, helped to drive up the price, but buyers didn’t seem to mind because of the brand’s value proposition.
Alas, times have changed. The 2000S is Dassault’s recently announced, value-added entry into the super-midsize market. Slated for service in 2013, the $25 million model has shorter range (3,350 nautical miles) than the $32.1 million, 4,000-nautical-mile Falcon 2000LX. And unlike the 2000LX, it has standardized interiors.
Dassault claims the 2000S “is a large-cabin aircraft with fuel economy and operating costs that are much less than smaller aircraft in the mid-sized business jet category.” However, the 2000S is more than just a stripped-down and shorter-legged 2000LX. The new aircraft can access airports not previously available to other models in the 2000 series, thanks to its lighter weight–a fuselage fuel tank was removed–and the addition of inboard wing slats that allow it to fly steeper approaches into shorter runways. The slats–extendable portions of the wing’s leading edge that can be deployed at slower speeds–combined with standard autobrake, cut the approach speed to 108 knots.
Performance on hot days at high-altitude airports also improves, as does time-to-climb performance. The Pratt & Whitney Canada PW308C engines (7,000 pounds of thrust each) feature new Talon II combustors that cut emissions by up to 40 percent. The tweaked engines, along with the 2000LX’s winglets, help the 2000S to burn “10 percent less fuel than aircraft that are 20 percent smaller,” according to Dassault.
The 2000S’s interior was standardized into three distinct color/fabric/material “harmonies” and one seating configuration: 10 passengers. The forward cabin features a traditional executive “club 4” seat grouping followed by six smaller single executive seats arrayed in a conference grouping around a “hi-lo” table. Dassault claims this is the most popular seating configuration.
Dassault developed the 2000S cabin and modernistic, streamlined cockpit in collaboration with BMW Group DesignworksUSA, the same firm that fashioned highly creative interiors for the Embraer Phenoms and the new optional interiors for the Falcon 7X long-range trijet. Dassault and BMW came up with three initial harmonies: Alpine, Sedona and Havana. Alpine contrasts white with dark stone tones, Sedona is a collection of “earthy beige” colors and Havana uses warm browns. Creative lighting and color contrasts give the illusion that the cabin is even larger than it is. The BMW designers told me that they leveraged their work from the 7X and employed influences from the European furniture and kitchen industry to give the interior a thoroughly modern look. Their biggest challenge was fashioning a solution that cut costs while keeping the premium look and feel of a Falcon.
At first blush, it appears they have succeeded, not just aesthetically but functionally. The resculpted passenger seats not only appear more stylish than those on the previous model; they offer better comfort. The Falcon HD cabin-management system is based on the new Rockwell Collins’ Venue system with all the latest conveniences and features, including Blu-ray, Iridium satellite communications, widescreen HD monitors and the ability to control it all through a passenger’s wireless mobile device.
The restyled cockpit will be fitted with Dassault’s latest EASyII digital avionics, which are built on the Honeywell Primus Epic system. The equipment includes SmartView synthetic vision, satellite-based augmentation system with precision GPS approach capability, runway navigation display and electronic navigation charts.
The 2000S represents a serious challenge to the super-midsize market. In addition, it is the first aircraft to benefit from design and build efficiencies that could make Dassault’s future offerings very price competitive. The design of the fuselage tube on the 2000S may be old but the thinking inside of it definitely is not.