OPERATOR I 44 Maintenance in operational condition Because of its flexibility, the Falcon 10 is one of the cornerstones of the naval aviation component. However, nothing would be possible without the personnel, who also led the 57S to become a separate unit in the French Navy’s organizational chart. According to its commander, «the unit is a mixture of cultures between the pilots from the on-board fighter and those from the multi-engine world, in this case the PatMar (maritime patrol).» This is a logical step, as the 57S reports directly to the PatMar command. Bringing the two worlds together «allows for emulation and an increase in IFR skills. This is an area that we have mastered perfectly, and in which we have become experts, relying in particular on a constant review of our knowledge in order to maintain a high level of competence,» adds the officer. The 57S relies on maintenance delegated to Sabena Technics to keep its six machines flying. In addition to rinsing the aircraft with fresh water after each mission over the sea to prevent corrosion, the company is also responsible for the airworthiness of the aircraft and their mechanical maintenance. A team of about ten people at the Landivisiau base are ready to intervene at any time to ensure that the aircraft remains in sufficient operational condition. «The contract with Sabena Technics specifies that four aircraft will be put on line at the site. Two other aircraft are currently stored at the industrial site in Dinard, in order to preserve their potential,» commented Capitaine de Frégate. Nevertheless, an airworthiness check is conducted by three Navy technicians. Despite a satisfactory availability rate, the aircraft is showing its age and spare parts are becoming scarce. However, in spite of its age, the Falcon 10 is still remotely monitored by Dassault, which answers certain technical questions when necessary. The number of aircraft still in use today enables the French Navy to «develop» a center of expertise for the aircraft and a significant asset in terms of feedback for civilian operators, with whom the unit remains in contact. These long-standing ties between the military operator and the civilian community enable the 57S to provide an important springboard for the professional careers of certain pilots who wish to move into the civilian sector on the Falcon 10, and more broadly in the Falcon family.
Renewal: a pragmatic choice However, the longevity of the device has been made possible through modifications and improvements over these past four decades. One of the most important improvements, in terms of avionics was completed in 2008. The Navy has redesigned its avionics with the integration of EFIS screens to comply with GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) standards. The upcoming disappearance of the ILS in many areas, in addition to the requirement for a GPS approach system (LNAV) by integrating an antenna and new housing, should force the Navy to carry out new work on its fleet of aircraft. In any case, these will be the last possible modifications to the aircraft, which despite its performance, «is indeed showing its age,» as CF Daylaud points out adding that the aircraft «will not be able to withstand a more important transformation project, in particular the installation of ADS-B or CPDLC.» The complexity of such an operation would require an expense greater than the acquisition of four new aircraft. With this in mind, the Navy has begun looking at the successor to the twin-engine cloverleaf jet, via a replacement aircraft that it will find in the light jet segment. And, because of performance, only two aircraft available on the market stand out as replacements to the Falcon 10: the Embraer Phenom 300 and the Pilatus PC-24. These two twin-engine jets paradoxically do not offer the same speed performance as the Falcon 10, but their avionics are very similar to that of the Rafale. Although studies have been under way by the staff for several months, a decision will not be taken before next year, and a project deadline of 2025, meaning the date at which time the state waivers must be granted for the Falcon 10 Mer to remain in flight. Ultimate Jet I 45