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First To Fly: Dassault Falcon 6X

Sponsored Dassault Aviation
First To Fly: Dassault Falcon 6X
Dassault Aviation

Psychologists say that everybody has an individual ‘tell’, something that gives away how we are truly feeling, even when we are trying to hide it. Poker players look for this to try and figure out how opposing players feel about the hand they have been dealt, whilst criminal psychologists look for tells to see if they are being lied to.

So when I glance at the co-pilot on the flight I’m on and see a small sly grin appear in the corner of his mouth, I know we have just done something special.

Our flight today is on Dassault’s new Falcon 6X, which at the time of writing was part way through a tour of Asia. The particular aircraft we are flying on is msn 004, F-WSUP, which was officially the first aircraft to enter into service following its joint certification by the US FAA and EASA. The aircraft had already visited several Asian counties as part of its tour and had arrived at Bangkok’s Don Mueang International Airport several hours earlier from Laos.

The aircraft needed to fly to Manila to be shown to prospective buyers the following day, so Asian Sky Group was invited to join the flight from Bangkok, which is the type of invitation we never turn down.

Having arrived in Bangkok the day before at the back of a crowded Vietnam Airlines Airbus A321 from Saigon, my expectations for the flight were high. Not only would this (obviously) be my first chance to fly on the Falcon 6X, but it would also be the first time that the 6X had been to Manila. To cap it all off, I was invited to sit in the cockpit jumpseat for departure.

I’d been onboard the Falcon 6X before, and seen many pictures, so was somewhat familiar with the configuration. Effectively split into three zones, the 6X has a set of four club seats just past the galley, then a dining area with a table and seats for four, then a final area at the back of the aircraft with two sets of twin divans. Speaking of the galley, I was excited to see the unique Skylight on the 6X whilst flying.

But all of that would have to wait as I was strapped into the jumpseat, ready for departure. The Falcon 6X’s cockpit is a modern masterpiece. It’s clean, bright, and as I watch our pilots for the day go through their pre-flight checks, it seems logical, with a natural flow between panels and consoles as the pilots prepare us for departure. As the latest in the Dassault range, the 6X features the third generation of smart side stick controls, electronically linked to the Digital Flight Control System. Dassault was the first business jet manufacturer to use sidesticks rather than traditional yokes, although several other manufacturers have now begun following this trend.  

A short taxi to Don Mueang’s only runway saw us pass many older Thai Airways Airbus A330s and A340-500s, all fading in the blistering sunlight. We stop short of the runway and watch as a Thai AirAsia Airbus A320neo effortlessly glides itself down onto the runway in front of us.  

And then it’s our turn. Whilst I’m busy snapping pictures and getting ready to shoot video a Dassault quote that runs through my mind. We had featured an article about the 6X in one of our recent Asian Sky Quarterly magazines, and one quotes stayed with me. It was Dassault’s chief test pilot Philippe Duchateau, who is coincidentally our pilot in command today, who said “Passengers love the power. They invariably ask for a max performance takeoff.” So that’s exactly what I did.

Back in April 2005 I experienced the steepest takeoff that I had been on to date. The aircraft was a Varig McDonnell-Douglas MD-11, known to be a rocket ship anyway, but this flight was short, just two to two and a half hours long, very lightly loaded out of São Paulo’s Guarulhos Airport bound for Buenos Aires. I still vividly remember being pushed back in my seat and feeling like my stomach had been left on the ground as we powered out of Sao Paulo that morning. As I’d later learn through researching for this article, the MD-11 has a max liftoff angle of 10 degrees, whilst V2 + 10 is 25 degrees, and I’m pretty sure we got very close to that.

These numbers are impressive, but the reality is that ATC restrictions often prohibit these types of departures, so as we inch our way onto the runway, and I start filming, I’m wondering what will happen next.

I didn’t have to wait long. I was expecting us to come to a full stop at the end of the runway and rev up our engines like a teenage boy in his first car, but instead, as soon as we are lined up on the centerline, Duchateau pushes the power throttles forward as far as they go and without any hint of disagreement, the 6X jumps forward and begins picking up speed.

I’m pushed back hard in my seat, but before I can readjust myself, we are already off the ground and climbing like the MD-11 never existed. My view is unfortunately straight ahead, so I can no longer see the ground for reference, but luckily, I’m given the opportunity the very next day to sit in the back for departure from Manila back home to Hong Kong, so I can tell you that it’s a very strange feeling looking down from so high at the airport you’ve just left, whilst still being above the runway. 

Impressed, and hoping that my stomach would join me again soon, I stopped filming and prepared to join my colleague in the cabin. And that when I see it, I see the tell. As a put my phone away I glanced over at the co-pilot and saw a small sly grin appear in the corner of his mouth, and in my mind I can almost heard him shout ‘Hell yeah!”. 

Back in the cabin and we have already reached our initial cruise. This, as I’d later find out took only 18 minutes, with the 6X taking up a measly 800 meters of runway and rocketing up to cruise at an impressive 2,000ft per minute. So far, the ride has been as smooth, and as we watch as nature treats us to a spectacular display of deepening blues, oranges, pinks and purples as the sun sets rapidly in front of us. 

There are two things that immediately strike me about the cabin, the first being how much natural light comes into the cabin. This is not only due to the large size of the cabin windows, but also due to the fact that each of the windows is relatively close to each other. This reduced space between windows means that more windows can be fitted, which is turn means that more light can come into the cabin. And then there’s the skylight. 

Is it a gimmick? In all honesty that’s up to individual people to decide. It is, however, a talking point, and makes the aircraft easier for people that are perhaps less familiar with the different types of business available to remember the 6X. What I was looking forward to was being able to see the starry sky as we zipped across the South China sea, but unfortunately nature decided that treating us to a spectacular sunset was enough for us today, so all we could see was darkness as we stood looking up from beneath the skylight. During the day however the skylight lets even more day light into the galley, which is of course one section of the cabin that is traditionally dimly lit. 

The second thing, and this was immediately obvious, is just how quiet the 6X cabin is. I’d been lucky enough to fly on a Citation Longitude a few years, and I was stunned by how quiet it was, but the 6X was even quieter. Those that know me well know that I have fairly quiet voice, but the reality of the quietness meant that even when sat in the forward club section, those sitting on the other side of the aircraft could hear me speak, without me having to raise my voice at all. This has two effects: the most obvious one is that it’s great not having to raise your voice, or try to listen hard when somebody else speaks, but the second, and perhaps more important effect is that it has on how you feel after flying. The cabin altitude of the 6X is already low at just 3,950 ft when cruising at 41k, which reduces fatigue when flying, especially on long flights. But this is amplified by not having to raise your voice or concentrate very hard when somebody else speaks, both of which reduce fatigue even more.

After a celebratory glass of Chateau Dassault – after all, this will be the first time that the 6X has visited Manila, I’m called back into the cockpit for landing and strapped back into the jumpseat for the landing.  

Landing is of course one of the flight phases that Falcon’s excel at, with their legendary short field performance being well known across the industry. The 6X is no exception to this, with flaps and slats fitted, and for the first time, digitally operated rather than mechanically operated. The 6X also includes a new control called the which helps the 6X dive into shorter runways without affecting its decent angle of attack. Manila is of course a busy international airport and has the runway length to support the widebody airliners that regularly visit the airport, so unfortunately there’s no need for any diving today.

Once we are lined up with the runway centerline the landing happens all too quickly, but not before the lights of the Manila skyline came into view on our port side. In all honesty, the landing happened quickly because I’m busy taking pictures and shooting video, all of which are buttery smooth thanks to the 6X’s ultra smooth approach.

And then, as quickly as we started, the flight is over and we are busy navigating the confusing Manila taxiways, bypassing closed off sections due to works. And then we stop, parked up outside a nondescript hangar, ready to be shown to clients and potential clients the next day. But before that can happen, customs and immigration staff board to check our passports and baggage. Before they leave, they ask if they can take pictures of the aircraft, excited to see an aircraft type they haven’t had the chance to see before.

On the ride to the hotel my colleague and I reflect on the flight we have just taken. We have slightly different experiences as he sat in the cabin for the flight, whilst I had the pleasure of sitting in the jumpseat. Despite this our conclusions are exactly the same. It’s an incredible aircraft.

Dassault has, in the past, been semi criticized for making aircraft for pilots. I say semi criticized because this isn’t a real criticism.

Falcons have always been loaded with the most up-to-date technology in the flightdeck, as well as with the flight controls systems, which make them some of the safest aircraft flying.”

But as a very well-known broker always told me, it is cabins that sell aircraft. And the Falcon 6X has one of the best cabins of any business jet. The combination of its extra wide cabin and the amount of natural light that comes through the windows creates a feeling of space that you just don’t get on any other business jet. Couple this with the smooth, smooth ride that the Falcon 6X gives and it’s not hard to see how the 6X will be quickly become a favourite, not only with the pilots that fly the aircraft, but also with all of the very lucky passengers that get to sit in the back.

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