The Mystère 20 was a ten-passenger twin-engine aircraft, able to fly at cruising speed of Mach 0.8. It completed its maiden flight on May 4, 1963 piloted by René Bigand.
In 1954, Dassault began looking into a liaison aircraft that would break away from every twin-engine model its had built until then. The Méditerranée was a twin-jet swept-wing aircraft packed with the experience Dassault had acquired working on the Ouragan and Mystère fighter planes, and had previously been shelved before leaving the drawing board.
In 1959, studies on an aircraft called the Mystère 100 involved shifting the pod-mounted engines from under the wing to the rear of the fuselage. Two years later a similar aircraft, called Mystère 20, was under review.
In 1961, the advent of new engines like the Pratt & Whitney JT 12 prompted Marcel Dassault to commission the Dassault team at Bordeaux-Mérignac – which included technical director Paul Déplante, Paul Chassagne and René Lemaire – to take the Méditerranée project back out of the boxes. That team chose to mount the engines on lateral struts, as on the Caravelle. The Mystère 20 is a ten-passenger twin-engine with cruising speeds of up to Mach 0.8. The new aircraft was initially designed for Europe-wide liaison flights, involving a 1 000 to 1 500 km range. Then, the prospect of entering the substantial American market led designers to stretch the wings, extending the plane’s range to over 2 000 km.
Dassault packed this aircraft with the technical solutions it had tried and tested in military applications. In particular, these included the three-axis servo controls, fine-tuned aerodynamics using the day’s state-of-the-art systems, and “conical wing cambers” akin to the ones used on the Mirage and Concorde, designed by ONERA. Production methods – like integral panel machining and “piano” wing mating – came straight from the Mystère IV A, Super-Mystère B2 and Etendard weapon aircraft. Dassault developed this plan using its own funds, and produced it in a partnership with Sud-Aviation.
René Bigand took the Mystère 20 prototype on its first flight on May 4, 1963. Serge Dassault in person headed the delegation to the 1962 NBAA in Pittsburg to canvas the market for the company’s business aircraft and discover the American market’s interest. At the time, Pan Am (Pan American World Airlines) was looking to diversify into business aircraft distribution.
Several executives, including vice-president Frank Gledhill, and renowned pilot Charles Lindbergh visited the Mystère 20-01 prototype.
It sparked their interest and they immediately began discussions that led to a firm order for 40 aircraft powered by General Electric CF 700 turbofans, placed on August 2, 1963, and an option on another 120.
The first Fan Jet Falcons – as Pan Am renamed them – were delivered in the summer of 1965. They rapidly built a solid reputation for outstanding comfort and safety, and came to be known as the Falcon 20. At this program’s peak, Dassault lines were building seven such planes a month.
Plans got underway to extrapolate the Falcon 20 into 30-passenger and 40-passenger versions (the Falcon 30 and Falcon 40 respectively), to serve secondary commercial destinations. A mid-range sea patrol aircraft was derived from the Falcon 20 G, renamed HU-25 A Guardian, and used by American coastguards.
Two Guardians were based in Bahrain during the 1991 Gulf War, and efficiently monitored oil-spill drifts off the Kuwait and Saudi Arabia coast.
Their availability rate was the highest among all the Allied aircraft serving in that conflict.
Specifically-equipped coastguard HU-25 Bs and Cs, featuring F-16 combat aircraft multimode radars and FLIR turrets, patrol the American coasts playing an active role in drug enforcement efforts there. In 1977, the French Navy ordered five such aircrafts, renaming them Gardian.
A total 477 Falcon 20s and 38 Falcon 200s have been built. Of those, 512 were sold outside France.