Dassault’s long range Falcon 7X will soon be the first business jet certified to operate at Daocheng Yading, the world’s highest commercial airport. The airport is at an altitude of 14,470 feet (4411 metres). China calls the region ‘the soul of Shangri-La’.
Daocheng Yadin Airport opened last year and is one of several high altitude airports in China’s Sichuan region. It is now a one-hour flight from Chengdu, the Sichuan capital city, replacing the previous two-day bus ride.
Dassault’s certification campaign was initiated at the request of Chinese customers. Flight tests began on 25 August and finished on 7 September, with cooperation from both European (EASA) and Chinese (CAAC) aviation authorities.
Daocheng flight tests started after a series of preliminary flights at Jiuzhai Huang Long Airport near Chengdu (altitude 11,311 ft/3,448 m) with a CAAC pilot at the controls. After an initial landing at Daocheng – the highest ever by a business jet – the 7X performed engines/APU run up followed by a series of takeoffs and landings including some with simulated engine failure.
Once finalised the approval will permit the Falcon 7X to operate at altitudes up to 15,000 ft.
“The aircraft handled flawlessly in all conditions of flight and the engines, APUs and pressurisation systems performed perfectly,” said Philippe Dumas, Dassault Aviation test pilot “This performance highlights the unparalleled ability of the 7X to operate from difficult short airstrips in the most challenging conditions.”
In addition to setting a new world altitude record for a business jet, the test campaign established a number of other benchmarks for aviation in China. It was the first flight test campaign undertaken over Chinese territory by a foreign registered aircraft, and it will be the first approval to be issued jointly by EASA and CAAC.
In recent years, China has emerged as one of the biggest markets for business aviation aircraft and the Falcon line, led by the 7X, has a large share. Nearly 30 Falcon 7X s are currently flying in the country, making China the second largest market for the long range three-engine jet, after the United States.
Daocheng Yading Airport was built in just three years and opened in late 2013. It has a ‘UFO’ shaped terminal building on what has been described as ‘moonscape’ Haizi Mountain. Builders of the airport overcame numerous difficulties such as glacial erosion, high altitude hypoxia and harsh weather.
The airport is expected to open up tourism in the Haizi mountain region, which has been labelled as the real ‘Shangri-La’ (the name comes from a fictional place in a novel by British author James Hilton).
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