Dassault commits to major expansion at LIT

Expanding Dassault Falcon Jet's already substantial presence at LIT, an additional 250,000 sq ft will be dedicated to a new state-of-the-art production and completion facility.

Dassault Falcon Jet is to increase the size of its LIT (Little Rock AR) completion facility—already the largest Dassault facility in the world—by 25% over the next 3 years.

At a press conference at LIT on May 29, Dassault Falcon Jet Pres & CEO John Rosanvallon announced that the company was investing $60 million in long-term development of the site—a 2-year project that includes the refurbishment and modernization of existing workshops and hangars as well as a 250,000 sq ft expansion of production and completion activities.

When the project is finished in early 2016, the company's total facility footprint will have reached 1.25 million sq ft.

An indication of the significance of this announcement both for the industry and for the region was the presence of French Ambassador to the US François Delattre, Dassault Falcon Jet LIT General Mgr Antoine Ajarrista, GAMA Pres & CEO Pete Bunce, Ark­an­sas Governor Mike Beebe, Little Rock Airport Commission Vice Chairman Jesse Mason, Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola, US Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR) and John Boozman (R-AR), and US Representative Tim Griffin (R-AR).

Work on the site is scheduled to begin later this year and extend through 1Q2016, according to Dassault Falcon Jet Dir of Facilities David Mitchell. The plant currently employs a skilled workforce of more than 1900. Dassault has not indicated how many jobs will be created as a result of the expansion.

Amid signs that the market for business jets is reviving after several years of relative stagnation, Dassault's investment reflects an expectation of growing demand for its products. Included in this calculus is the projected 2016 market entry of Dassault's much anticipated SMS supermidsize twinjet. An announcement concerning the SMS is expected at this year's NBAA convention. —Phil Rose

A little history of Dassault Little Rock

In 1975 Falcon Jet Corp—then a joint venture of Dassault Aviation and Pan American Airways—purchased Little Rock Airmotive.

FedEx Founder & CEO Fred Smith had used Little Rock Airmotive as a freighter conversion/completion center for his company's fleet of Falcon 20s in the early 1970s, when FedEx was in its infancy.

Falcon Jet, now looking for a suitable US completion facility itself, found a workforce at LIT already familiar with its aircraft products and skilled in interior finishing.

Five years later, in 1980, Dassault acquired PanAm's interest in Falcon Jet, becoming sole owner.

Subsequent development at LIT led to it becoming the primary completion center for all Falcon aircraft. By 2008—following a major expansion that included a new production and design area, additional warehouse space and a new flightline—Dassault Falcon occupied almost a million sq ft at LIT.

Today, Falcon 7Xs, 900LXs and 2000LXs are flown "green" from the manufacturer's plant at BOD (Mérignac, Bordeaux, France) to LIT for completion prior to customer delivery. Work carried out includes modifications to instrumentation and wiring, interior finishing, painting and flight testing.

The LIT facility also performs MRO work and inspections on all Falcon series aircraft.


EU-ETS developments

An EU-ETS solution deadline is approaching as ICAO prepares for its 38th assembly in September. In Nov 2012, the European Union Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, announced the suspension of EU-ETS for flights in and out of the EU.

Just one day later, the US Congress passed the EU-ETS Prohibition Act.
Hedegaard warned, however, that EU-ETS would be reinstated if a global "market based mechanism" (MBM) was not presented by ICAO's next general assembly meeting in Sep 2013. Since then, ICAO has continued working with its 191 member states to obtain proposals for a global MBM to curtail CO2 emissions and meet the EU's looming deadline.

According to a recent document submitted by ICAO to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), international aviation is responsible for 2% of global human-made CO2 emissions—that for which ICAO is responsible. The UNFCCC is responsible for addressing the remaining 98% of human-caused CO2 and the document was submitted prior to the UNFCCC's June session.

While experts agree a global MBM is technically feasible, they believe the challenge lies with getting all the different governments to agree on one system. According to Intl Business Aviation Council (IBAC) Dir General Kurt Edwards, the UNFCCC and ICAO are on 2 different timelines to come up with a global CO2 emissions resolution, with pressure on ICAO to come up with a solution first.

Edwards calls ICAO's mandate to develop a resolution first a classic case of "the tail wagging the dog," and says the UNFCCC should lead the effort. Some speculate the fiscally-challenged EU sees the ETS as a way to raise money in the name of emissions control.

Nonetheless, Edwards is hopeful that the EU will find ICAO has made sufficient progress toward a solution by the group's assembly in September, and will allow the organization to continue its work finding a global framework for addressing aviation emissions. —Kandi Spangler


Industry

Certification of the HondaJet has been pushed back to 2014 resulting from delays during development of the HF120 engine. GE Honda Aero Engines says it is nearing completion of its testing phase and expects FAA certification in late 2013. Thirteen HF120 engines have accumulated over 7300 hrs and 9700 cycles during testing. The last test is the medium bird ingestion test. According to a HondaJet spokesman, the engine development program experienced some delays, pushing back certification of the jet until the end of next year.

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