Grin and Bear It
The only discomfort a pilot experiences while flying the Dassault Falcon 2000S comes from the huge grin plastered on his face for the whole journey. David Zara recounts his test flight with unabashed enthusiasm.
I don’t often relish being wrong but wrong I was. The 2000S is the least expensive member of the Falcon line up and I mistakenly thought I was going to be flying the poor cousin of the family. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Dassault got this aircraft right, very right.
Very, very right. The dilemma now is how best to tackle this article, as I am torn between describing the aircraft objectively as I ought to, and admitting how much fun I had. In the interest of journalistic integrity I have no choice but to fulfil my duty and do both.
The day started with a briefing in Falcon’s offices in Teterboro. Franco Nese and Woody Saland ably covered the technical aspects, while Grant Kielczewski followed up on Andrew Ponzoni’s views on the aircraft’s positioning in the marketplace. Technically, the aircraft is simplicity itself and although I am not particularly knowledgeable about the EAsy II EPIC Platform it takes me no time to EAse into it. It’s ultimately a matter of using the Cursor Control Devices (CCD). You look, you point and you click. You are done. Easy.
It’s a cold and bright day and the 2000S sits big on the ramp. At first glance it looks larger than all other super-mids and a quick study of the competition confirms this. Its wingspan at 70ft is seven feet longer than a Gulfstream 280 and a foot longer than the Challenger 350. It sits higher on the ramp than both of them too, though most people will tell you it’s the cabin that matters most and this is where the 2000S shines. Its cabin is not only longer and wider than its competitors’; it also feels larger thanks to clever design features.
Entry is via the usual beefy Falcon stairs and a turn to the right reveals an interior with tastefully muted colours. Falcon has eliminated much of the confusion in interiors choices and now offers a few options that cover the whole range of possibilities. I ease myself into the left seat and immediately feel at home. The seat controls make it easy to find the right position from which to fly this plane and the ergonomics are thoughtful. The overhead panel adheres to the dark cockpit concept and I believe this contributes greatly to safety.
Engine start is a simple affair and managing the Pratt & Whitney PW308Cs is simple thanks to dual FADEC systems protection. A quick check of the fuel system confirms we have enough fuel. The approximate usable fuel quantity is 14,600lbs and is good for 3350nm with six passengers and NBAA IFR reserves. That’s good for flights from New York to most of Western Europe, Paris to Dubai or Addis Ababa, or from a challenging airport like St Moritz to Riyadh.
One aspect in which the Falcon 2000S trounces the competition is its ability to operate out of London City. With its steep 5.5-degree approach and low noise restrictions, London City is a restricted airport, but its proximity to the city centre and lower traffic make it highly desirable. Unlike the G280, the 2000S can operate with ease in and out of the airport from where it can easily reach all of Western and Eastern Europe, Russia, parts of the Middle East and Northern Africa. One very advantageous feature of the 2000S is its structural strength, which allows it to land with 91% of its fuel load. This can save a lot of money for operators, who can purchase cheaper fuel and tanker it to their pickup points.
The engines are running and the systems are up when Teterboro ATC clears our flight to the flight test airspace we normally use. Franco and Woody warn me to use the brakes aggressively, much more aggressively than I ever have, that take-off will be ‘brisk’ and to expect a rapid acceleration and climb. This is good advice in a busy and complex airspace, where overshooting departure procedures could be result in a licence suspension. The take-off speeds are low, which is great for safer operations and the 14,000lbs of thrust the engines produce get you there in a flash. The aircraft practically leaps into the air and once airborne climbs like the fighter plane it was sired from – 4000 to 6000 feet per minute climbs are common if you are willing to point the nose towards the sky. I am having so much fun and I am smiling so much that Franco and Woody can barely contain their laughter. The controls are so crisp, I have to remind myself that the aircraft flies exactly where you point it and any overcorrection and lack of precision is solely my fault. My colleagues gently remind me it’s a civilian aircraft and meant to be flown as such. I feign a momentary hearing loss in response.
I look at the front panel and can’t stop marvelling at how great the EAsy II Synthetic Vision System is and how it improves situational awareness. Dassault makes fighter jets, and fighter pilots aren’t supposed to spend precious seconds trying to figure out where they are. Whatever their mission is it involves knowing where they stand and where they are headed. The information needs to be delivered in one glance. This system is the love child of fighter jet design and simplicity, and it delivers everything it promises. Combined with XM Graphical Weather it packs a punch and is intuitive to boot. The aircraft I flew didn’t have a Heads Up Display, but I can only imagine that, along with the Enhanced Vision System, it can only improve an already unbeatable system. I have seen the future and it’s right in front of my eyes. The 2000S is what science fiction movies predicted years ago and most people thought was unrealistic. They were wrong.
People who haven’t flown this aircraft may believe I sound over-enthusiastic about the 2000S. I may appear to have relinquished all journalistic objectivity, but I am merely translating the impressions I gathered while flying this machine and as such I am simply reporting on what I experienced and how the aircraft performed.
Back in the cockpit, we are cleared to FL400, so I point the bird up and we hunt for sky, while continuing to hand-fly until I engage the autopilot for a chance to take in the action on the screens. The climb is impressive indeed and though I didn’t test the competition, I believe Dassault’s claim that it beats competitors in timeto- climb to FL410.
Once level at altitude, we ask for a steep descent and test the aircraft’s descent capabilities. There is no rumbling until we use the air brakes, and quite frankly they don’t add much in the way of noise and vibration, though they are certainly effective in increasing the descent rate. We are routed to Stewart Airport north of New York City where we often go to practice landings. It has long runways and little traffic and very friendly and patient joint civilian-military controllers. Today was no different, with the tower controller in awe of the 2000S’ runway manners. We start with a regular approach and extend the slats and flaps for a slow approach and uneventful landing. A quick taxi back to the active runway and I jam the throttles forward and hold the brakes while the aircraft strains to hold position. I release the brakes and we jump out of the gate and into the air before my considerably slower brain catches up. We keep our climb angle steep enough that our controller, who is used to military jets, comments on how cool that looks. We come around for another landing and decide to replicate a London City landing. While preparing the approach I feel bold and decide to cheat a little by adding a couple of degrees to an already very steep approach. I set us up for a pretty extreme 7.5-degree approach to landing and manage to come to a full stop in 2,500 feet. This despite Franco’s gentle and constant reminder the brakes are meant to be used aggressively. The tower controller is giddy with excitement and confirms the landing distance. He doesn’t even know I wasn’t braking aggressively enough. I believe it can be done safely in less than 2,000 feet. That’s a number I have never seen in a civilian jet. Ever.
The fun thing about the 2000S is it’s a plane for everyone. The pilots may be having a great time upfront, and happy and alert pilots make for better flights, but the passengers are the real winners. The cabin is not only large; it’s also quiet and beautifully appointed. The quality of the furnishings is what you would expect from Dassault, which means no compromise. The days of complicated remote controls that require a PHD and the ability to decipher English written by a Japanese engineer to operate a DVD player are over. The FalconCabin HD+ system is simple and intuitive enough that even an adult can use it – and they can use from every seat. It’s all digital and fully integrated and takes just a few seconds to master. I have always loved pocket doors to isolate the galley from the main cabin and the folks who designed the 2000S thought of that as well. Most passengers don’t think of good galley design as an important asset, but they ought to. Efficient galleys often mean better meals.
A trip to the back of the aircrafts confirms that Dassault designed a good luggage compartment too. At over 130 cubic feet it’s big, but it’s the access I like. You can access it inflight, which is nice, but it’s a delight on the ground. Pilots and passengers can load and unload luggage without contortions and overhead Olympic tosses.
The 2000S is a quite simply a well-engineered precision machine. A lot of thought has gone into designing cabin areas away from engines, should the unthinkable happen. Exceptional low speed control and overspeed protections, coupled with a wide flight envelope augmented by high-lift devices, offer unmatched safety of flight. An ability to operate safely out of smaller fields than its competitors and to tanker fuel and travel farther are important considerations. So is its ability to comply with upcoming communication and operational requirements down the regulatory pipeline without major avionics changes, a large chequebook and serious downtime.
I think no flight report should be complete these days without mentioning the environmental impact it creates and this is another area of excellence. Falcon products in general, and the 2000S in particular, are leaders in this field and the 2000S is considerably more miserly on fuel consumption and carbon emissions than most of its competitors.
I have been thinking long and hard about the shortcomings of the 2000S since the flight ended, and my smile subsided into less embarrassing dimensions. No aircraft is perfect and all planes are by definition studies in compromise, but this one checks all the boxes. Can something be improved? Perhaps another 300nm range, but then it wouldn’t be a 2000S.
For now, I’ll savour the memory of this flight, and hope a 2000S owner will walk into the office and ask for my management services in the near future so I have an excuse to run to flighttraining school.