Dassault celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Falcon business jet

Dassault’s Falcon business jet series started with the Mystère 20, which first flew 60 years ago

“For an aircraft to fly well, it must be beautiful”. The famous quote by Marcel Dassault, founder of the French aircraft manufacturer that bears his surname, was proven in practice on May 4, 1963, when the Mystère 20, the company’s pioneering business jet, flew for the first time.

Aircraft with slender lines and a great performance in its time, the Mystère 20 was designed with an eye on the executive aviation market in the United States that was beginning to emerge at that time.

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Because of this well-defined target, the name of the plane was changed to an easier pronunciation in English. Thus was born the Falcon 20, the first model of the long-lived Falcon family from Dassault Aviation, which has just turned 60 years old.

“The formula has not changed,” said Dassault Aviation President and CEO Eric Trappier. “Every Dassault aircraft must have superb handling, beautiful lines, and rugged construction. And, of course, it has to provide state-of-the-art comfort.”

Marcel Dassault, founder of the company that bears his name, aboard a Falcon 50 (Dassault)

Six decades later, Dassault claims to have delivered more than 2,700 Falcon series jets, which today, in the most recent versions, is recognized as one of the most advanced VIP transport aircraft on the market.

Falcon 20, the pioneer

The Falcon 20 maiden flight, scheduled to take place on the morning of May 4, 1963 in Mérignac, ended up being postponed until the late afternoon of that day. The reason? Dassault decided to wait for the arrival of Charles Lindbergh, legendary US aviator, who would inspect the new jet on behalf of the extinct Pan Am airline.

Charles Lindbergh, second from right, inspects the Falcon 20 before its maiden flight, May 4, 1963 (Dassault)

The aircraft took off only after a visit from Lindbergh, who according to Dassault allegedly telegraphed the following message to Pan Am CEO Juan Trippe: “I’ve found our bird.”

Shortly thereafter, the famous US carrier ordered 40 Falcon 20s with an option to purchase a further 120 aircraft. The French jet was the spearhead of the Pan Am Business Jet division, one of the first executive aviation companies in the world.

Later (with the end of Pan Am), this company was acquired by Dassault Aviation, which created the Dassault Falcon Jet division and which provides support services to Falcon jets in the United States.

In the following decade, Fred Smith, founder of the express delivery company FedEx, became interested in the French jet. In 1973, the US company ordered 33 Falcon 20s modified with a large cargo door on the left side of the fuselage.

Another important Falcon 20 customer was the US Coast Guard, which in the 1980s ordered 41 jets (designated HU-25) with adaptations for search and rescue missions. In all, Dassault built 512 20 series aircraft in 27 different versions until 1991, when the jet was discontinued.

Falcon dynasty

The almost instantaneous success achieved with the Falcon 20 motivated the French company to design a series of other executive aircraft, including the famous three-engine jets, a concept started from the Falcon 50, which was produced between 1976 and 2008 and totaled 352 deliveries.

Falcon 8X rollout: three-engine jet is the largest executive aircraft from the French manufacturer (Dassault)

Considered a replacement for the Falcon 20, the twin-engine Falcon 2000, launched in 1993, has been Dassault’s best-selling aircraft ever since, with around 700 units delivered as of early this year. Next comes the Falcon 900 trimotor, which has more than 550 jets delivered so far.

Dassault’s most recent business jets, the Falcon 7X and 8X models are today some of the main references in the large and long range VIP aircraft niche.

These were also the first civil aircraft from the French manufacturer equipped with a fly-by-wire system on all flight controls. On the market since 2004, these models total around 400 deliveries.

Dassault is still working on two more products: the Falcon 6X, which should debut this year after a series of project tribulations (the model was originally conceived as a Falcon 5X), and the Falcon 10X, which will be the first large-scale business jet size of the French brand propelled by just two engines.

Dassault Falcon 6X (Dassault)

“Those past decades have allowed us to build the legacy and the technical grounds which makes us confident in our ability to develop future airplanes that fit our customer expectations,” said Trappier.

Sixty years on, Falcons are still completely distinctive in the business jet world: beautiful, delightful to fly and always on the leading edge of technology, bringing safety, comfort and productivity benefits to their operators.”

Currently, over 2,100 Falcons are operating in over 90 countries around the world.


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