On this day, in 1963, the Mystère-Falcon 20 made its first flight in Bordeaux-Mérignac with René Bigand and Jean Dillaire at the controls.
In 1954, Dassault began looking into a liaison aircraft that would break away from every twin-engine model its had built until then. Involved shifting the pod-mounted engines from under the wing to the rear of the fuselage. In 1961, a aircraft called Mystère 20, was under review.
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 chose to mount the engines on lateral struts. 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.
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. Pan Am (Pan American World Airlines) 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.