In the early 1970s, the Falcon 10 was the fastest business aircraft. It made its maiden flight at Bordeaux-Mérignac on December 1, 1970.
At the end of the 60s, Pan American, like the general staff of the Air Force, was interested in a small liaison aircraft with the performance of the Mystère 20 at a lower cost. The Dassault team first planned to derive a Hirondelle twin Snecma Larzac aircraft from the Hirondelle MD 320 with twin Turboméca Astazou turboprops. The project was abandoned.
The design was re-launched at the beginning of 1969. On May 5, Benno Claude Vallières informed the General Technical Department that a prototype Mini-Falcon would be designed and produced at Mérignac with the help of the Saint-Cloud Design Department, and factories in the Paris region. The aircraft, directly derived from the Mystère 20 for 4 to 7 passengers, would be equipped with new jet engines that had not yet been selected.
A new generation of small jet engines with one-ton thrust ratings and fairly attractive fuel-efficiency were developed in the late 1960s. Dassault’s bid on this segment was a mini Mystère 20, called the Mystère 10 and then Falcon 10.
In 1969, the Garrett Corporation decided to launch a smaller jet engine than the ATF 3, the TFE 731. This new turbofan corresponded to the power plant needs of the Falcon 10. It reduced consumption by 50% at take-off, and by 33% at cruising speed compared to the ATF 3. Dassault and Pan American quickly perceived the gain in range the new engine could offer, and signed a protocol agreement with its American manufacturer at the Paris Air Show of May 1969, where a model of the Falcon 10 was on display.
On December 31, one year before the maiden flight, Pan American made an order of 40 aircraft with an option on 120 more while Travelair, a subsidiary of the German Lufthansa ordered 15 to sell in the German Federal Republic and in Scandinavia.
Jacques Chirac, then Secretary of State for the Economy and Finance, gave his accord which made it possible to start industrial development of the program.
The Falcon 10 integrated technological innovations:
Provisionally equipped with two General Electric CJ 610 jet engines, the aircraft made its first flight at Bordeaux-Mérignac on December 1, 1970, piloted by Hervé Leprince-Ringuet and Jean Coureau.
After the first flights, those in charge of the program noted that although the performances were as expected, this aircraft formula posed certain problems. In fact, this ‘little’ aircraft’s performances were much like those of a fighter. Exceptional though this was, a fighter aircraft did not have to conform to civil regulations, while a civil aircraft had to conform to air transport norms. Making this adaptation required a modification of the original airfoil, improvement of high speed stability, and perfecting the flight control parameters.
When the aircraft flew again in May 1971, the problems had disappeared, and the Falcon 10 had become the fastest business aircraft.
Falcon 10 02, re-motorized with the Garrett TFE 731-2 jet engine made its maiden flight in October 1971.
Though the flight tests on Falcon 10 01 went without a hitch, on October 31, 1972, at the end of a lateral trim test required for certification, lateral stresses led to a structural break, resulting in the loss of the aircraft and the death of both crew members, Alain Trétout and Jacques Ladeux.
The future of the program was not jeopardized but certification was delayed to September 1973, the time needed to modify the aircraft. It was finally manufactured as an international collaboration under the overall responsibility of Mérignac: the wing by CASA in Spain, the tail units by SACA in Italy, the engine nacelles by Rohr in the US, the fuselage by SOCATA, SOGERMA, Potez, Latécoère and Reims-Aviation. The servo-control unit was retained by Dassault-Breguet. The assembly line, first set up at Mérignac, was transferred to Istres after the production of the Mercure ended in 1975.
The Falcon 100, a Falcon 10 with an exterior-access luggage hold and an improved cabin, was the first certified business aircraft featuring EFIS-technology and color screens in the place of electromechanical cockpit instruments.
A total 226 Falcon 10s and Falcon 100s were delivered to customers including well-known orchestra conductor Herbert von Karajan.