Dassault has made remarkable and welcome strides in cockpit automation with the 7X. Most noticeable is that the circuit breaker panel is gone from the cockpit. Those dozens and dozens of push-pull CBs that line the cockpit walls and overhead of other jets are replaced by remote CBs located closer to the equipment they protect. If a CB pops in flight you get a crew advisory message (CAS) and fly on because you can't reset it in flight, and everything necessary is triple or more redundant.
Dassault people want to discuss the levels of system redundancy forever, because, well, there is so much to say. They worry that pilots and passengers are concerned that the DFCS is new, and totally automated, so they need to explain all the steps taken to ensure there will always be electrical and hydraulic power for the multiple levels of computers that are DFCS. Let me summarize. There are three engine-driven generators, two permanent magnet alternators, a wind-driven ram air turbine generator (RAT) and finally two batteries, any one of which can power the DFCS. There are three main hydraulic systems powered by five engine-driven pumps, one standby pump and bootstrap type reservoirs. You only need one to get back to the airport.
The entire range of critical systems exceeds 109 (one in a billion) probability of failure, which is the same standard for wing spars and other primary structure. I trust Dassault implicitly to build a wing strong enough to meet the 109 standard without me counting spars. I feel the same about the redundancy of the systems, including the DFCS. 7X pilots will spend five weeks learning about the backup systems upon backup systems in training at CAE, which has a spectacular 7X simulator, but then will undoubtedly fly their careers without seeing the backups in action. And, in any event, the level of automation is so high that little, if any, crew action is required when something fails.
The high level of cockpit automation has Dassault almost insisting that crews use a true checklist rather than a "do list." In most airplanes a pilot reads a command on the checklist and then acts on that command. That's a do list. In the 7X there are very few buttons or switches to move to get going, and they flow very logically from the overhead down to the pedestal, so you move the switches, press the couple buttons, get the engines started, and then consult the very short checklist to make sure you didn't forget anything. Even if you did, there would be a white, yellow or red, depending on importance of the item, CAS message telling you what you forgot.
The 7X is the first Falcon without a tiller to control nosewheel steering, so you use the rudder pedals. I found it very easy and natural to maneuver the 7X because the DFCS adjusts nosewheel deflection to suit your speed. At slow taxi speeds you can spin the 7X on the ramp with the pedals commanding 60 degrees of nosewheel deflection. But on takeoff and landing the effect of pedal inputs washes out so you don't swerve at high speeds. An important feature is that the pedals have a strong centering spring, so when you want to taxi straight just release all foot pressure and the airplane goes straight. Other jets I have flown with pedal steering lack a centering spring, so you have to kind of lock your legs in position to taxi straight ahead without unintentionally moving the pedals.
The 7X has an autothrottle system but you don't use it for takeoff as in other jets. Instead, you simply move the power levers full forward and the computers set takeoff power. It's the same for go-around. Once up and climbing you engage the autothrottle with odd little buttons that are somewhat hard to reach on the back of the levers. Then you select the airspeed you want, or as assigned by ATC, or you turn the knob and have the system look up the optimum or required speed from the flight management system. I like the automatic airspeed selection because it observes the airport traffic speed limits, and then the transition speed limits, and finally goes to optimum performance climb. It does the same on descent and arrival, and if the STAR has airspeed limits it will automatically observe those, too.
It was a windy day with gusts to 35 knots when I got to fly the 7X at Istres, a military airfield in the south of France where Dassault has its flight test headquarters. With that much wind blowing from the north over the rugged Mediterranean coast of southern France, there was turbulence. The design of the 7X couldn't overcome every disturbance, but I have to say the ride was excellent, with no sharp jolts and very little deviation from the present flight path.
At altitude I made steep 2 G turns at high speed, which are possible only by holding the stick over. If you release pressure on the stick in a steep bank the 7X will roll back and hold a constant bank angle of just over 30 degrees, the normal maximum bank angle for maneuvering any jet. But the DFCS gives the pilot the authority to roll the 7X to any angle by holding the stick over. And the roll rate is a brisk 60 degrees per second if you jam the stick hard over. However, during normal maneuvers the initiation of a bank is so smooth you couldn't feel it if you closed your eyes.