* In the early 1960s, the Dassault company of France introduced a twin-engine executive aircraft, the "Falcon 20", that proved very successful in commercial and military roles. It led to a series of refined Falcon twinjets and trijets. This document provides a history and description of the Falcon 20 -- plus its twinjet successors, the downsized "Falcon 10", and the bigger next-generation "Falcon 2000".
* In the postwar period, executive aircraft were typically piston twins, often refurbished military aircraft left over from the war. With the jet engine coming of age in the 1950s, by the end of that decade, there was an urge to bring executive aviation up to date. Military forces were also interested in obtaining jet aircraft for the liaison, utility, electronic services, and crew training roles.
Following preliminary studies in late 1961 Marcel Dassault, head of the French Dassault Aviation firm, formally initiated development of an eight / ten-seat executive jet / liaison aircraft, with Sud Aviation -- later Aerospatiale -- being a partner in the program, with a share in manufacturing. The prototype of the "Mystere 20" performed its initial flight in at Bordeaux-Merignac on 4 May 1963. It made a public appearance at the Paris Air Show later that year.
The configuration of the Mystere 20 was representative of the future of executive jet aircraft: an all-metal aircraft with low wings, all-swept flight surfaces, tricycle landing gear, and a jet engine mounted on each side of the rear fuselage. The original powerplants were Pratt & Whitney (PW) JT12A-6 turbojets with 14.6 kN (1,495 kgp / 3,300 lbf) thrust each. In consequence of discussions with Pan American airlines, the prototype was re-engined with twin General Electric (GE) CF700 rear-fan turbofans. It performed its first flight with the new engines on 10 July 1964. The prototype eventually made its way to the Air & Space Museum at the Le Bourget airport near Paris.
The first production Mystere 20 performed its initial flight on 1 January 1965, with both French and US certification awarded in June 1965. Later that year, the second production machine established several performance records for its class.
Pan Am had signed a contract with Dassault to distribute the Mystere 20 in the Western Hemisphere, with the deliveries beginning to a Pan Am outfitting facility in Burbank, California -- aircraft for the rest of the world were flown out of Bordeaux-Merignac. From 1966, American-delivered Mystere 20s were sold as the "Fan Jet Falcon", this later evolving into "Falcon 20". Since the "Mystere" name for this aircraft series would eventually be dropped, the name "Falcon" is generally used here.
* The initial production "Falcon 20C" provides a baseline for the series. It was of all-metal construction, mostly aircraft aluminum alloy. The wings had a sweepback of 30 degrees at quarter-chord; there was a two-segment single slotted flap inboard and an aileron outboard on each wing; a wing fence about 40% of the span from the fuselage; a leading-edge flap outboard of the fence; and a two-segment spoiler / lift dumper behind the fence. The production machine was 46 centimeters (18 inches) longer than the initial prototype, and had a wingspan 100 centimeters (40 inches) wider.
All the wing control surfaces were hydraulically driven; the wings and the engine intakes were de-iced by engine bleed air. The tailplane, which featured electrically-driven variable incidence, was mid-mounted on the tailfin; rudder and elevators were also hydraulically driven.
It was powered by CF700-2C turbofans -- hence the "20C" designation of the aircraft -- with 18.3 kN (1,870 kgp / 4,125 lbf) thrust each. There was an integral fuel tank in each wing; sources also mention twin auxiliary tanks in the rear fuselage, but specifics are unclear. The fuel systems were independent for each engine, though there was a cross-feed capability.
All three gear assemblies had dual wheels, all being hydraulically actuated, the main gear retracting inward towards the fuselage, the steerable nose gear retracting forward. They had disk brakes and an antiskid system. The initial prototype had featured single wheels. Sources claim that a brake chute was standard; it is unclear if many users took advantage of that feature.
In an executive jet configuration, there were eight passenger seats; high-density configurations included 8 to 14 seats. There was a toilet in the rear, a buffet with refrigerator up front, and baggage / wardrobe space front and rear. Accommodations were pressurized and climate-controlled. There were four vertical-oval passenger windows on each side of the fuselage; there was a downward-folding "airstair" door on the front left of the fuselage, and an emergency exit over each wing.
A "quick-change" kit was eventually offered to permit a Falcon to be rapidly changed from passenger to freight carriage, and back again; there being no freight door, it appears the cargo capability was for parcels and other items that could be hand-loaded. Falcons have also been used as airline crew trainers, radio navigation systems calibration platforms, and photographic geophysical survey. Avionics were typical for a jetliner of the era: flight instrumentation, radios, navigation gear, ATC transponder, with weather radar being optional.
Some sources seem to hint that there was a "Falcon 20" variant that preceded the Falcon 20C; but supposedly it only differed in having a smaller fuel supply. It is unclear if any of such "Falcon 20" machines were built. A single Falcon 20C was modified to a rough-field configuration, the "Falcon 20CC" -- it seems for "cross-country" or the like -- for an Australian customer. It featured low-pressure tires, no main gear doors, and a reinforced belly to deal with gravel kicked up by the landing gear. Incidentally, some sources identify the Falcon 20C as the initial production variant; it is unclear if any baseline Falcon 20s were built.
The Falcon 20C was followed by improved variants:
DASSAULT FALCON 20F: _____________________ _________________ _______________________ spec metric english _____________________ _________________ _______________________ wingspan 16.3 meters 53 feet 6 inches wing area 41 sq_meters 440 sq_feet length 17.15 meters 56 feet 3 inches height 5.32 meters 17 feet 7 inches empty weight 7,530 kilograms 16,600 pounds MTO weight 13,000 kilograms 28,660 pounds max cruise speed 865 KPH 465 MPH / 405 KT service ceiling 12,800 meters 42,000 feet range 3,347 kilometers 2,080 MI / 1,810 NMI _____________________ _________________ _______________________
From the early 1970s, a number of Falcon 20s were converted by Little Rock Airmotive -- of Little Rock, Arkansas -- to "Falcon Cargo Jet" AKA "Falcon 20DC" cargo haulers for Federal Express, featuring a hydraulically-actuated, top-hinged cargo door on the left forward fuselage, the door being 1.88 meters wide and 1.44 meters high (6 feet 2 inches by 4 feet 9 inches). An aluminum cargo floor was fitted, the floor being flush with the bottom of the door, and featuring a large number of tie-down points. Floor-mounted rollers were optional; avionics were generally modernized. An electronic system to automatically measure cargo weight and distribution was installed.
In 1973, one of these cargo Falcons flew the very first Fedex air delivery flight, this machine later becoming a prominent exhibit at the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport in Virginia. At the peak, Fedex operated 33 Falcon 20s, though the type was eventually retired in favor of larger and more cost-effective aircraft as Fedex business grew. Other firms later offered cargo conversions of the Falcon 20.
A number of Falcons were updated with Garrett TFE731-5AR-2C or TFE731-5BR-2C turbofans, along with modification of bleed air, anti-ice, hydraulic, fuel, electrical and engine control systems, plus installation of an automatic takeoff thrust control system (ATTCS). These "Falcon 731" conversions were redesignated "Falcon 20C-5", "Falcon 20D-5", "Falcon 20E-5", and "Falcon 20F-5". There was also an effort to re-engine Falcon 20s with Pratt & Whitney Canada PW305 turbofans, but it never actually happened.
* The last production variant in the Falcon 20 series was the "Falcon 200", originally designated "Falcon 20H" -- as a commercial follow-on to the militarized "Falcon 20G", discussed below. The Falcon 200 was generally improved, most significantly featuring Garrett ATF3-6A-4C turbofan engines with 23.2 kN (2,360 kgp / 5,200 lbf) thrust each. It also had a larger fuel supply. It was used in much the same roles as the original Falcon 20 series -- executive transport; radio navigation systems calibration; and quick-change cargo carriage, with some converted to a pure cargo configuration, like the FedEx Falcon 20s.
The Falcon 200 remained in production to 1988. At end of production, a total of 473 Falcon 20s and 35 Falcon 200s, including military machines, had been manufactured. The type remains in extensive service, though machines still flying had to have hushkits installed to keep their noise levels down. Other update options are available, most notably glass cockpit schemes.BACK_TO_TOP
* The Falcon 20 proving successful, Dassault decided to build a 70%-scale executive jet along the same lines, originally naming it the "Minifalcon". It actually emerged as the "Mystere / Falcon 10", the first of three prototypes making its initial flight on 1 December 1970. It proved to have excellent performance, with the prototypes setting records in their class. The type entered service in 1973.
The Falcon 10 was actually a new-design aircraft, with little or no parts compatibility with the Falcon 20. General configuration was like that of the Falcon 20, with a low-mounted wing, all-swept flight surfaces, an engine on each side of the rear fuselage, and tricycle landing gear. FLight control surface arrangement was similar, though the wing fence was shorter, full-span leading-edge slats were fitted, and there were double slotted flaps. Each wing had a slightly steeper sweep out to the fence. There were two hardpoints under each wing for external stores carriage.
The Falcon 10 was powered by twin Garrett TFE731-2 turbofans with 14.65 kN (1,464 kgp / 3,230 lbf) thrust. The initial powerplant for the first prototype was the GE CJ610, with the other two prototypes fitted with the Garrett turbofans from the outset. The fuel system was much like that of the Falcon 20, an integral fuel tank in each wing and twin auxiliary tanks in the rear fuselage. Each engine had its own fuel system, but the two fuel systems had a crossfeed mechanism; there was single-point refueling. Total fuel capacity was 3,440 liters (882 US gallons).
Landing gear arrangement was much like that of the Falcon 20, except the nose gear had a single wheel. The Falcon 10 had four passenger seats in a luxury configuration, up to a maximum of seven passenger seats in a high-density configuration. There were three windows on each side of the fuselage, with a split door on the front left side of the fuselage, the lower half of the door featuring an airstair. Avionics were conventional for the era, with instrumentation, radios, radio navigation aids, and ATC transponder. Weather radar was optional.
DASSAULT FALCON 10: _____________________ _________________ _______________________ spec metric english _____________________ _________________ _______________________ wingspan 13.08 meters 42 feet 11 inches wing area 24.1 sq_meters 259 sq_feet length 13.85 meters 45 feet 5 inches height 4.61 meters 15 feet 2 inches empty weight 4,880 kilograms 10,760 pounds MTO weight 8,500 kilograms 18,740 pounds max cruise speed 915 KPH 568 MPH / X KT service ceiling 13,720 meters 45,000 feet range 3,555 kilometers 2,210 MI / 1,920 NMI _____________________ _________________ _______________________
The Falcon 10 could also be kitted up for roles such as aerial photographic survey, air ambulance, and radio system calibration duties. The type's performance was excellent, the Falcon 10 setting speed records for its class.
A "Falcon 10MER" version was built, with seven sold to the French Navy; it had no significant military optimizations, being used for liaison and training. Its high performance made it suitable as a mock intruder in tactical exercises. A single "Falcon V10F", presumably modified from a stock Falcon 10, with carbon-composite wings, as part of an experimental program sponsored by the French government. After trials, it was actually put into commercial service, though it was the only Falcon 10 to have composite wings. However, Dassault would use the technology in later members of the family.
189 Falcon 10s were built. In 1983, production switched to the "Falcon 100" variant, with greater takeoff weight, an extra passenger window on the right side of the fuselage opposite the door, a larger luggage compartment, and glass cockpit, with 37 built to end of production in 1989 -- for a total of 189 + 37 == 226 Falcon 10/100 jets in all. The type still lingers in service.BACK_TO_TOP
* While Dassault was getting the Falcon 20 out the door, the company was also considering a stretched jetliner derivative. The project remained on the back-burner for several years, to eventually evolve into a new-design aircraft, development of the "Mystere / Falcon 30" being finally initiated in late 1967. The prototype, powered by twin Lycoming ALF 502D turbofans, performed its initial flight at Merignac on 11 May 1973, aircrew being Jean Coureau and Jerome Resal. It was displayed at the Paris Air Show later in that month.
Along with the 30-seat Mystere / Falcon 30, a 40-seat "Mystere / Falcon 40" -- with a revised wing and reduced range -- was envisioned. Although orders were taken, economic circumstances coupled to the oil crisis of the time led to the cancellation of the project in 1975.
Dassault did move on to a trijet follow-on to the Falcon 20, the "Mystere / Falcon 50", which led to the refined trijet "Falcon 900". Removing an engine and reducing the length of the Falcon 900 led, in turn, to a next-generation Falcon twinjet, the "Falcon 2000", with 8 to 10 passenger seats. It was announced in 1990; initial flight was on 4 March 1993, with certification late in the next year, and initial customer deliveries in early 1995.
The Falcon 2000 was similar in configuration to the Falcon 20/200. It was a low-wing aircraft with all-swept flight surfaces, the tailplane being mid-mounted on the tailfin, with a turbofan on each side of the rear fuselage. It had the same tricycle landing gear arrangement, all assemblies with twin wheels, the steerable nose gear retracting forward, the main gear tucking in from the wings into the fuselage.
The Falcon 2000, however, was a new design. While it was primarily made of aluminum alloy, it also had some composite assemblies. It was powered by twin CFE738-1-1B turbofans with 26.7 kN (2,720 kgp / 6,000 lbf) thrust each and clamshell thrust reversers. There was an integral fuel tank in each wing, plus a fuel tank under the floor fore and aft -- total fuel capacity being 6,865 liters (1,814 US gallons).
The wing had compound sweep, 24.8 degrees inboard, 29 degrees outboard, at quarter-chord; each wing had double-slotted flaps, a slat on the outboard section, and three spoilers / airbrakes on the top of the wing. The tailplane had noticeable anhedral droop. All flight control surfaces were electrically driven.
DASSAULT FALCON 2000DX: _____________________ _________________ _______________________ spec metric english _____________________ _________________ _______________________ wingspan 19.33 meters 63 feet 5 inches wing area 49 sq_meters 527 sq_feet length 20.23 meters 66 feet 4 inches height 7.06 meters 23 feet 2 inches empty weight 9,405 kilograms 20,735 pounds MTO weight 16,240 kilograms 35,800 pounds cruise speed 850 KPH 530 MPH / 470 KT service ceiling 14,330 meters 47,000 feet range 5,790 kilometers 3,595 MI / 3,125 NMI _____________________ _________________ _______________________
The Falcon 2000 was also distinctly bigger than the Falcon 20/200, with a wider fuselage of 2.5 meters (8 feet 2 inches) diameter. Normal luxury accommodations were eight seats, plus a sofa, with tables and other niceties. High-density configurations of up to 19 seats were also available. There was a toilet in the rear and a galley / wardrobe up front. There was a baggage hold in the rear fuselage, accessible from the cabin, as well as from a door on the lower left rear of the fuselage. There were ten oval windows on each side of the fuselage, providing a recognition feature; a downward-opening airstair door on the forward left fuselage; and an emergency exit over the wing on the right fuselage.
Avionics featured a Collins Pro Line "glass cockpit" with four CRT displays, and color weather radar as standard. One of the noticeable options introduced with the Falcon 2000 was a satellite communications (satcom) transceiver system, the antenna being in a bullet fairing on top of the tailfin.
* A refined variant, the "Falcon 2000EX", was introduced in 2003. It featured Pratt & Whitney Canada (PWC) PW308C turbofans, and range extended from 5,555 kilometers (3,450 MI / 3,000 NMI) to 7,035 kilometers (4,370 MI / 3,800 NMI). A year later, it was replaced in production with the "Falcon 2000EX EASy", which was the Falcon 2000EX with the the "Enhanced Avionics System (EASy)" cockpit layout developed by Dassault and Honeywell, introduced in 2004.
EASy was derived from Honeywell's "Primus Epic" electronic flight instrumentation system (EFIS), and cockpit systems Dassault developed for fighter aircraft. The EASy cockpit features by four 36-centimeter (14-inch) diagonal flat-panel color displays, with both pilot and copilot having trackball-like "cursor control devices (CCDs)", allowing each to control their own "primary" display and the two shared central multifunction displays. Keyboards next to the CCDs allow the pilot or copilot to enter data.
A reduced-range derivative of the Falcon 2000EX EASy, the "Falcon 2000DX", was introduced in 2007; range was cut to 6,015 kilometers (3,735 MI / 3,250 NMI). In 2010, Dassault then introduced the "Falcon 2000LX", which was an extended-range version of the Falcon 2000EX EASy. It featured winglets designed by Aviation Partners, and a range of 7,400 kilometers (4,595 MI / 4,000 NMI), introduced in 2010. Winglets could be retrofitted to earlier variants.
Two variants were introduced in 2013:
Over 300 Falcon 2000s have been sold to date.BACK_TO_TOP
* Most or all of the Falcon executive jets have flown with government and military services in the VIP transport / utility role, these machines being generally or completely to civilian configuration. As noted above, the Falcon 200 AKA Falcon 20H was a follow-on to a militarized version, the Falcon 20G.
The story of the Falcon 20G began in 1976 , with Dassault promoting an upgrade program to refit existing Falcon 20s with ATF3-6-2C turbofans, the suggestion being that the company would eventually produce a Falcon 20G with those engines. The US Coast Guard (USCG) then announced a competition for a "Medium Range Surveillance (MRS)" aircraft; Dassault, through the US Falcon Jet operation, submitted the Falcon G, modified to meet the USCG spec, and won the contract, which was for 41 aircraft. Dassault abandoned the re-engining effort to focus on delivering the USCG machines.
The first "HU-25A Guardian", as it was designated by the USCG, flew in 1977, with 41 delivered in 1982:1983. The HU-25A / Falcon 20G was much like the earlier Falcon 20F, most significantly differing in being fitted with Garrett AiResearch ATF3-6-2C turbofans, with 24.65 kN (kgp 2,510 kgp / 5,538 lbf) thrust each; and featuring fuel capacity raised to 5,700 liters (1,524 US gallons).
The Guardian featured a large window forward on each side of the fuselage for search with binoculars, cameras, or handheld night imagers on each side of the forward fuselage; they had military communications and navigation kit plus a weather / search radar in the nose, but apparently no other sensors, at least as delivered. There were four stores hardpoints under the fuselage and two stores hardpoints under each wing. There was a hatch in the bottom of the forward cabin, with a roller track to permit paradropping of rescue stores. The baseline Guardian was subsequently updated into a series of variants:
HU-25s performed patrol duty in the battle theater during the First Gulf War. The HU-25 was retired from USCG service in 2014, being replaced by the twin-turboprop HC-144 Ocean Sentry, a maritime patrol version of the Airbus CN-235. One of the retired Guardians was passed on to the US National Aeronautics & Space Administration, being fitted with a precision laser altimeter for Antarctic surveys.
The French Air Force obtained a number of Falcon 20s as crew trainers, these "Falcon ST" aircraft being fitted with the combat avionics of various Dassault Mirage combat aircraft. Falcon 20s were also used as radar and other systems trials platforms by the French Centre d'Essais en Vol (CEV). In some cases, apparently the CEV trials machines went on to become systems trainers. At least one was used by the French as a target tow tug, with a tow winch on a pylon under each wing.
Five Falcon 200s were acquired by the French military in a configuration like that of the HU-25 -- with the big observation windows and militarized avionics -- to be designated the "Gardian". They were used for ocean patrol around French possessions in the Pacific. Dassault attempted to push a simplified version, the "Gardian 2", for the export market, but there were no takers. Incidentally, the Gardian 2 was advertised as capable of carrying Exocet antiship missiles, but it is not clear any Falcon 20 ever carried armament.
The Falcon 20/200 was also used in military, or military support, roles by a number of other nations:
For want of a better place to mention it, Canada's National Research Council operates a Falcon 20 for zero-gravity studies, the aircraft flying to height and then dropping in a parabolic arc. Incidentally, for obvious reasons such machines are known as "vomit comets".
Dassault also developed a militarized version of the Falcon 2000, manifested as the "Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA)" and "Multi-Mission Aircraft (MMA)". The Japan Coast Guard obtained a variant of the MPA, the "Maritime Surveillance Aircraft", with three ordered from 2015. They feature a search radar in a radome under the forward fuselage, a retractable electro-optic / infrared (EO-IR) imaging turret, and mission avionics including a satcom link.
Two MMA machines configured for surveillance were ordered by South Korea in 2011, with a third acquired later. Their configuration is secret, but they feature a synthetic-aperture radar antenna fairing, an EO-IR turret, and fairings for SIGINT gear.BACK_TO_TOP
* In 2006, Dassault began development of a new executive twinjet, the "Falcon 5X". The configuration was projected to be along the lines of the Falcon 2000, though with winglets by default and larger, with a capacity of 16 passenger seats. It was to have a long range of 9,630 kilometers (5,735 MI / 5,200 NMI), a relatively wide fuselage diameter of 2.7 meters (8.86 ft), and be powered by twin SNECMA (now Safran) Silvercrest turbofans.
Problems with Silvercrest development delayed the first flight of the prototype to 5 July 2017. However, Silvercrest problems continued; Dassault management, concluding that there was no way to introduce the Falcon 5X to service by 2020, killed the program. The program is being rethought, with a revised design to feature Pratt & Whitney Canada turbofans, to enter service in 2022. "Please stand by."
* Sources mostly included various editions of JANE'S ALL THE WORLD'S AIRCRAFT, plus Dassault press releases and reviews in flight magazines. Incidentally, I was flattered when I read a news release in THEDIPLOMAT.com on the Japanese Falcon 2000 MSA -- and found the article was using the photo of a Dassault 2000 that I took some years ago at the Rocky Mountain municipal airport in Denver. The photo was public domain, so they were perfectly free to use it.
* Revision history:
v1.0.0 / 01 jan 18BACK_TO_TOP