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Falcon 7X: The newest business jet

After its successful participation at the recent Abu Dhabi Air Expo, French aviation company Dassault is setting its sight on the growing market in India for its long-range business jets, in particular its flagship aircraft Falcon 7X. The aircraft has undoubtedly become Dassault’s bestseller, described as a “stunning advancement in business aviation” and the first fully “fly-by-wire” business jet.

The concept of “fly-by-wire” technology was developed as early as the ’70s, with its benefits fully appreciated by fighter jets since it gives pilots additional safety measures because computers give out automatic signals that allow the plane to perform functions such as aircraft stabilization without any input from the pilot. This is similar to a vehicle’s anti-lock brakes (ABS) where a computer regulates pressure so the brakes don’t lock up when a driver suddenly slams on the brakes to avoid getting hit (or hitting something) which makes the cars spin, with drivers also losing control of the vehicle. Falcon architects cite a lot of advantages with the “fly-by-wire” system because it is lighter than other mechanical systems, thereby giving more freedom to designers in reducing the aircraft’s weight and size for more maneuverability and lesser operating costs.

One of the first to acquire the Falcon bestseller is Malaysian businessman Ananda Krishnan – given the moniker “Kuala Lumpur’s Mr. Big” by Fortune magazine and whose net worth is estimated at over $6 billion, making him among the richest in the world. The reclusive and apolitical Krishnan first gained attention when he helped organize the Live Aid concert in the ’80s. He is known as a generous philanthropist who gave away more than 160 million ringgit to charities back in 2005.

A bit of a scare happened recently when Krishnan’s Falcon 7X was preparing to land in Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport, descending at 10,000 feet when the plane suddenly started climbing on its own with the pilots having zero control of the aircraft. No doubt it was a scary moment, with the jet continuously climbing uncontrollably, reaching 25,000 feet and doing a somersault before the pilots were able to take control of the jet declaring an emergency and successfully executing a safe landing. Fortunately, too, the billionaire Krishnan was not on board the aircraft when all this happened.

A similar incident last year led to a temporary grounding of the entire fly-by-wire fleet (about 112 of them) for several weeks by US and European aviation officials upon the French manufacturer’s request. Apparently, the Falcon 7X encountered a problem with the “horizontal stabilizer trim circuitry” (with the incident described by Dassault officials as a runaway pitch problem) that required software and hardware modifications. All the corrections have been made on the aircraft and the Falcon 7X is now fully certified with several orders lined up. Eurocopter Phils., together with Dassault of France, is planning to bring to Manila the shorter range Falcon 2000X around mid-April this year for showing and will conduct test flights for potential buyers in the Philippines. 

By Babe G. Romualdez


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