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Business Aviation Industry Focus: Mystere Falcon

by Jeremy Cox 1. November 2008 00:00
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The race to design, build and sell a purpose-built, commercially viable Business Jet, had reached fever-pitch by the early 1960's. The race was originally set into motion by the U.S. Air Force's UTX program, but the newly created business aviation marketplace was riding upwards on the back of an up-beat post-war economy, that also saw the arrival of the commercial airlines 'Jet Age' and the fantastic possibility that a human being might soon be able to walk on the surface of the moon.

As a prospective business jet buyer in these early days, you could now choose from the Lockheed JetStar, the North American Aviation Sabreliner, the Learjet, and very soon, the Jet Commander (see last month's article.) Pan American World Airways (PAN-AM) was such a prospective buyer because the companies founder and also it's President, Juan Trippe had a vision of getting into the business jet market for three reasons: (1.) It might provide a lower cost alternative for transitioning his crews from prop-liners into the passenger jet-liners of the day that were quickly changing his industry; (2.) There might be a VIP airline market segment that could be captured with the right aircraft; and lastly (3.) Money was being made in 'before, un-heard-of' amounts by the companies that were supplying the ever increasing market demand for business jets, and Trippe believed that through his global airline network, he was better placed than anyone to be able to market and sell business aircraft. First however, he needed an aircraft. For this he commissioned his long-time friend and business colleague, Charles A. Lindbergh to find the right aircraft for his future plans. When Charles Lindbergh first saw the MystÉre 20 (MystÉre, meaning Mystery) at the 1963 Paris Air Show, Lindbergh wired Juan Trippe: "We have our plane."

The MystÉre Falcon would never have come into existence without Monsieur Marcel Bloch, a French pioneering Aeronautical Engineer who was born in 1892. After graduating from Engineering School, Monsieur Bloch first specialized in propeller design and construction. His most successful design series called the 'clair' provided great performance improvements on several of the French fighters flying over the Somme during the First World War. The between-war years saw Monsieur Bloch involved in the design and build of various all-metal aircraft under his own name, after he founded the Socit des Avions Marcel Bloch Aircraft Company (SAMBAC.) One his notable designs of that period was his MB 120 Colonial Tri-Motor, which was powered by 3 Lorraine Algol 9Na, 300 HP radial engines. With a crew of three, the Colonial could lift over 4,000 lbs of passengers, or freight to 20,000 feet, at a speed of 162 MPH. Its performance made it ideal for the French Government's Air Afrique airline operation based in Algeria, North Africa. Later in 1932 Marcel Bloch immediately became famous after winning a French government sponsored design competition that was created to seek out a specialized Medical Evacuation Aircraft. Marcel's successful design was designated the MB 80 and featured an all-metal monocoque single-engine monoplane design. It was powered by a Salmson 9Nd, 175 HP radial and could transport a pilot and a stretcher borne casualty over 400 miles. In 1936 SAMBAC was nationalized by the French Government, and Marcel stayed at the helm until the Nazi's occupied France during the Second World War. During the Occupation, Marcel refused to work for the Nazi's and was promptly shipped off to a prison camp near the Saxon city of Weimar in central Germany. During his incarceration, his brother, Darius Paul Bloch was causing immense anguish against the Nazi war effort, as a General in the French Resistance Movement. Darius-Paul's code name was 'char d'assault' which in English translates to: "the tank". After his brother's death prior to the Liberation of France, Marcel decided to change his family name from Bloch to Dassault, in honour of his brother. Upon his return to France after the war, Marcel picked up the remnants of SAMBA and renamed it: Avions Marcel Dassault. Later when Marcel Dassault passed away in 1986 at the ripe age of 94, he had also been credited with the design and building of the first French Jet Aircraft, the first French Supersonic aircraft, the first VTOL Jet Fighter, and lastly the first Computer Designed Business Jet.

No back to this business aviation historical account; the first production design drawings of the Mystere 20 were completed in November of 1961, and the prototype construction commenced in February 1962. The MystÉre 20s wing was derived from the MystÉre IV fighter series and its engines were two Pratt & Whitney JT-12's. The actual production aircraft differed greatly from the prototype because the Pratt's were replaced with General Electric CF-700-2C Aft-Fan engines (derived from the military J-85) that could produce up-to 4,360 lbs of thrust each. The later variants of the MystÉre Falcon 20 that allowed a 28,880 Lbs MGTOW, required the CF-700-2D-2 engines with their 4,500 lbs of thrust, to be installed. Also the production aircraft had a Messier undercarriage installed, that was of a lighter weight, but stronger design. Finally larger span drooped wing leading edges were installed (these became full-span with the F-Model version of the MystÉre Falcon 20.)

In 1963, the Avions Marcel Dassault Company (AMD) officially appointed PAN-AM, as the exclusive distributor of the MystÉre Falcon 20 business jet in the Western Hemisphere after PAN-AM ordered forty units from AMD, with an option to purchase an additional 120. PAN-AM promptly renamed the MystÉre Falcon 20, the "Fan Jet Falcon." On the 9th of June, 1965, the FAA awarded a Type Certificate to AMD for their 'Fan Jet Falcon.' PAN-Am took delivery of their first aircraft (serial number 004, registration number N801F) on June 3rd of the same year. The following day, PAN-AM displayed its demonstrator Fan Jet Falcon at the Reading Business Aviation Show and Airshow (the then forerunner to today's National Business Aviation Association, Annual Meeting and Convention. PAN-AM's first customer sale occurred immediately, when FMC Corporation of New York ordered serial number 005 (N747W.)

Sales soon racked up for PAN-AM in the U.S.A. While AMD in Europe, also took enthusiastic orders for its aircraft. By the time that the last AMD MystÉre Fan Jet Falcon 20 rolled off the production line in Bordeaux in Aquitaine, Western France in 1990, PAN-AM Business Jets had been merged into Dassault Falcon Jet (the merge completed in 1980), there were 8 separate variants of the same basic design. These were, as designated and certified by the FAA in the U.S.A.: The Basic Fan Jet Falcon; Fan Jet Falcon C Model (only 2 were produced, but unfortunately most 'Basic' models are incorrectly described by the populous as 'C' models); Fan Jet Falcon D Model; Fan Jet Falcon E Model; Fan Jet Falcon F Model; Fan Jet Falcon G Model (Designated the HU-25 'Guardian' by the U.S. Coastguard); the TFE-731 Conversion (applicable to all models except the 200, which like the HU-25 is fitted with the Garrett ATF3-6-2C Turbofan engine); and finally the MystÉre Falcon 200. In all, 472 civilian MystÉre series Falcon aircraft were produced and delivered, while an additional 41 units were built and delivered to the U.S. Coastguard. Two variants that deserve special mention are the Cargo Falcon 20 and the TFE-731 Conversion.

The economics college class thesis of native Mississippian, Fred Smith, while attending Yale in 1962 eventually spawned the famous cargo conversion of the AMD MystÉre Falcon 20. Before founding Federal Express Corporation (FEDEX) in 1971, Smith was convinced that the Falcon was the ideal aircraft to convert to a 'mini-freighter cargo jet' which was the basis of his working thesis and eventual business plan. Several Falcons were awaiting sale on the ramp at the Little Rock Airport in Arkansas. The economic slowdown of the early 70's was taking its toll, and U.S. sales by AMD/Falcon Jet were not immune to this slump. Seizing what appeared to be a great opportunity, Smith bought an ailing modification and maintenance company at the airport, and renamed it Little Rock Airmotive. Here eventually a carborundum disk-chop saw was presented to the forward fuselage of 33 MystÉre Fan Jet Falcon aircraft in the next 2 years. What Smith's Little Rock Airmotive did with the chop-saw, was to create a 75.6 inch by 67.0 inch cargo door opening, in place of the existing executive door opening. 5,000 man-hours of labour later, the business jets went to the paint shop for the unique, White, Orange and Purple scheme of the now operating FEDEX corp.; as dedicated cargo machines. Dassault Falcon Jet ended-up purchasing Little Rock Airmotive from FEDEX, and then turned the facilities into their U.S. completion and delivery centre.

Even as the FEDEX Falcons were being decommissionde, many independent freight carriers, especially those that were either mimicking FEDEX with mail and small package carriage contracts, or those that had contracts to supply the 'just-in-time' requirements of the automotive industries, were continuing with the purchase and conversion of the MystÉre Fan Jet Falcon. There was so much demand in-fact that three other companies elected to design and have approved a cargo conversion for the Falcon. These were Skycharter in Toronto, Canada with their 'narrow door conversion (the existing passenger door was retained); Amerijet in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with a conversion that provided a larger opening and a restraint net that did not attach to the cargo door; and finally Avtec in Sauget, Illinois who built the 'St. Louis Door' which was an improvement of the Amerijet conversion and utilized a set of Douglas latches, a continuous upper door hinge and a door mounted restraint net. The GE CF-700 powered freighters are now being replaced by TFE-731 converted Falcon aircraft. It is estimated that almost 90 MystÉre Falcon 20 aircraft have undergone a cargo conversion of one sort, or another.

The AiResearch/Garrett TFE-731 conversion was a re-engine-ing modification project that was carried out as a joint effort between AMD and AiResearch/Garret. It features the replacement of the GE CF-700 series engines with a much more fuel efficient TFE-731-5 engine. The joint conversion project was FAA and French Bureau Veritas approved in March of 1989. The modification had many options which included 4,500 lb thrust TFE-731-5AR engines, or 4,750 lb thrust TFE-731-5BR engines; thrust reversers; battery relocation; installation of a GTCP36-150 auxiliary power unit; and a structural weight increase to 30,000 lbs MGTOW. The main benefit, and reason for the conversion is increased fuel efficiency of approximately 45% (in the case of the TFE-731-5BR version, from 970 Lbs per hour, fuel flow down to 669 Lbs per hour) and a similar percentage increase in range (from 1,300 NM to 2,200 NM for the Basic Fan Jet Falcon model that has been converted; 1,450 to 2,400 NM for the F Model that has been converted.) To-date, 118 AMD MystÉre Falcons have been converted, and it is rumoured that there are only a 2 or 3 conversion kits that remain in existence, for anyone who still desires to undergo this conversion.

The MystÉre Falcon 20 program was ended by AMD three years after the second member of their Tri-Jet family of Falcons, the Falcon 900 was certified. We shall focus on this model (F900) and others, in future articles to come.

Okay so next month we shall focus on the Gulfstream G1159, GII as we further continue this look-back at the history of the various aircraft that have shaped modern business aviation. Since it will be Christmas, I will try and make the article as festive as possible. If you have a suggestion for me as to a specific business aircraft that one of these future Business Aviation focus articles should be dedicated to, please let me know your thoughts. Also remember that any input that you care to make will be of great interest to all of the readers here at Globalair.com. So don't be bashful. Go ahead and write your comments and suggestions here. Please don't forget that whatever you write here, can be seen publicly by everyone that visits this page, so please be funny, be inspired, but most importantly of all, please be nice.


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