The 7X is the first "all new" Falcon since the three-engine Model 50 was developed in the 1970s. The big cabin 900 series and the twin-engine 2000 family are all derivatives of the excellent work done on the 50. Dassault has pioneered the use of computer aided design (CAD) and created the CATIA system that is used in all sorts of product design, including by Dassault's competitors. Though the company has used computers in the design of all of its airplanes since the Falcon 50, the 7X is the first that is truly a virtual design. Human experts used computers in every phase of the creation to optimize performance of the finished airplane, as well as to minimize weight, streamline manufacturing, and reduce maintenance requirements and complexity. And as final proof that aviation is now a complete and total global enterprise, all original documentation of the 7X was done in English, a big step for the French.
Dassault used what it calls "product life management" teams linked by computers with 400 people working on the design, even though they were spread across seven countries. Major airframe elements are built by half a dozen different companies and are brought together for final assembly at the Dassault facility in Bordeaux. The unfinished "green" airplanes are flown to Little Rock where all paint and interior completion is done. All business jets are at least a little international efforts, but the 7X is truly a global product from initial design to final completion, and support when in service. The 7X was the first business jet to be certified jointly by the FAA and the European authorities.
What didn't change in design of the 7X were Dassault's basic assumptions about intercontinental range airplanes, foremost being that they should have three engines. The 7X is undoubtedly the most technologically advanced business jet yet, but the company sticks to its conservative streak when it comes to the number of engines you should have when launching out over a big ocean. While the rest of the industry has moved to an extended twin engine operation (ETOPS) position that allows enormous twin engine airline jets to roam four hours away from a suitable alternate, Dassault and Falcon owners just feel more comfortable with that third engine. And the 7X is so comparatively light, and the design so low in drag, that even with three engines it has the best fuel efficiency in the ultra-long-range business jet class.
Another benefit of the third engine is on takeoff. The rules require that you calculate a takeoff path with the most critical engine failing at decision speed on the runway. So twin engine jets have to meet the takeoff flight path minimums with half the power gone, but with three engines you only lose one third of the power. That means the 7X can use shorter runways, or thinking of it the other way, it needs less total power for the same runway requirement, which is part of the reason for its excellent fuel efficiency.
A center engine has an aerodynamic advantage, too, in that it makes the airflow behave as though the fuselage were longer. The high velocity exhaust of the center engine helps smooth the air flow over the aft part of the fuselage just as though there were a long, tapering tailcone. You can see the impact of this phenomenon by comparing the twin-engine Falcon 2000 with the 900. The 900 cabin is 7 feet longer than the 2000 cabin, but the overall length of the fuselage is the same because Dassault had to extend the tailcone of the 2000 to make up for the missing aerodynamic effects of the center engine exhaust.
Lower fuel burn compared to other airplanes with similar-sized cabins is doubly important these days with the requirement to account for, and pay for, our carbon emissions. When you burn less fuel you save twice -- at the pump, and when picking up the carbon offset bill. Being headquartered in Europe, Dassault was aware of the carbon issue before it become apparent in the United States, but in any case, paying for carbon emissions is now a fact in Europe, and will probably also be a reality in most of the world soon.
The 7X cabin cross section is essentially the same as the Falcon 900 and 2000 family with 6-foot 2-inch finished headroom over a flat floor. Cabin width is just 2 inches short of 8 feet at its widest point. Passengers have been very happy with the space and comfort in the 900 so Dassault stayed with it, but stretched the length out to just over 39 feet, about 7 feet longer than the 900. There is plenty of space for three separate seating areas, a big forward galley and crew rest area and lava-tory, large passenger lavatory in the rear, and access to the aft baggage compartment in flight. And Dassault has upped the cabin pressurization differential to 10.2 psi so the cabin altitude will be only 6,000 feet when the airplane is at its 51,000-foot ceiling.
One big change to the 7X fuselage is the windshield, which is the first curved windscreen in a large Falcon. All other Falcons have an array of seven flat panels. Visibility from any Falcon cockpit is good, but it's better in the 7X, and the curved windshields blend more smoothly into the canopy to reduce drag and slipstream noise. And Dassault gave passengers a better view with more and larger windows, so the 7X has 30 percent more window area than a 900.