Dassault Falcon 20C
Twin-engine Business Jet, France

Archive Photos 1

Dassault Falcon 20C on display (2/16/2004) at the National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly, Virginia (Photos by Jim Hough)

Overview 2

The Dassault Falcon 20 is a French business jet developed and manufactured by Dassault Aviation. The first business jet developed by the firm, it became the first of a family of business jets to be produced under the same name; of these, both the smaller Falcon 10 and the larger trijet Falcon 50 were direct derivatives of the Falcon 20.

Initially known as the Dassault-Breguet Mystère 20, approval to proceed with development of the aircraft was issued during December 1961. On 4 May 1963, the prototype, a low-wing monoplane design, powered by a pair of rear-mounted General Electric CF700 turbojet engines, performed its maiden flight; the first production aircraft was introduced on 3 June 1965. On 10 June 1965, French aviator Jacqueline Auriol achieved the women’s world speed record using the first prototype. As a result of an early distributor arrangement with American airline Pan American, American-delivered aircraft were marketed under the name Fan Jet Falcon; it soon became popularly known as the Falcon 20. American orders proved valuable early on; by 1968, Pan American Business Jets Division had placed orders for a combined total of 160 Falcon 20s. Further major orders were soon placed for the type by several operators, both civil and military; amongst others, these included the French Navy, the United States Coast Guard, and Federal Express.

An improved model of the aircraft, designated the Falcon 200, was developed. This variant, powered by a pair of Garrett ATF3 engines, featured several major improvements to increase its range, capacity and comfort. Additionally, a number of Falcon 20s that had been originally powered by the CF700 engines were later re-engined with the Garrett TFE731 turbofan engine. The aircraft proved to be so popular that production did not end until 1988, by which point it had been superseded by more advanced developments of the Falcon family. Due to the increasing implementation of noise abatement regulations, the Falcon 20 has either been subject to restrictions on its use in some nations, or been retrofitted with Stage 3 noise-compliant engines or hush kits upon its non-compliant engines. The type has also been used as a flying test bed and aerial laboratory by a number of operators, including NASA and Cobham Aviation. In November 2012, a Falcon 20 had the distinction of becoming the first civil jet to fly on 100 per cent biofuel.

Development 2


During the 1950s and 1960s, the French government, which had taken a significant interest in the re-establishment and growth of its national aviation industries in the aftermath of the Second World War, developed a detailed request for a combined liaison/trainer aircraft, to be equipped with twin-turbofan engines. Among those companies that took interest in the government request was French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation. In December 1961, French aircraft designer and head of Dassault Aviation, Marcel Dassault, gave the go-ahead to proceed with work towards the production of an eight-to-ten-seat executive jet/military liaison aircraft, which was initially named as the Dassault-Breguet Mystère 20. The emerging design was of a low-wing monoplane which drew upon the aerodynamics of the transonic Dassault Mystère IV fighter-bomber and was equipped with a pair of rear-mounted Pratt & Whitney JT12A-8 turbojet engines.

On 4 May 1963, the Mystère 20 prototype, registered F-WLKB, conducted its maiden flight from Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport, Gironde, France. By this stage, attention in the program was centered around the commercial opportunities for the type, particularly the large North American market. According to aerospace publication Flying Magazine, while Dassault had achieved satisfactory technical progress on the Mystère 20, it was recognized even by the company’s officials that the firm lacked both the sales presence and the experience in order to effectively market the type across English-speaking nations. Accordingly, the option of directly selling the type was discarded in favor of seeking an established US distributor. Coincidentally, management at American airliner Pan American World Airways happened to be seeking a suitable aircraft to launch its planned corporate jet aircraft sales division and, following a review of a range of available business jets of the era, took an interest in the Mystère 20.

Progress between Dassault and Pan America was rapid, moving from engineering evaluations of the type to the formation of general agreements between the two companies. In response to feedback received from Pan America, the aircraft was re-engined with a pair of General Electric CF700 engines and several dimensions were increased. Accordingly, Pan American formed an agreement with Dassault to distribute the Mystère 20 in the western hemisphere; the firm placed an initial order for 40 aircraft along with options for a further 120. On 10 July 1964, the re-engined aircraft made its first flight. On 1 January 1965, the first production aircraft performed its maiden flight; in June 1965, both French and American type certification was awarded. On 10 June 1965, French aviator Jacqueline Auriol achieved the women’s world speed record using the first Mystère 20 prototype, having flown at an average recorded speed of 859 kilometers per hour over a distance of 1000 km.

Deliveries of the type soon commenced to Pan America’s outfitting facility at Burbank Airport, California. All non-American aircraft were fitted out prior to delivery at Bordeaux-Merignac. During 1966, the company re-designated the American-delivered aircraft as the Fan Jet Falcon, this was subsequently shortened to the Falcon 20. During 1967, Pan American Business Jets Division decided to increase their firm orders for the type to 160 Falcon 20s. Military orders for the type were quickly received from Australia, American and Canada, in addition those placed by France.

Further Development

A number of Falcon 20s that had been originally powered by CF700 engines were later re-engined with the Garrett TFE731 engine under AMD-BA Service Bulletin No. 731. To determine these re-engined aircraft from those still using the original powerplant, they were re-designated with a -5 suffix inserted after the model number. Volpar Inc. was involved in a program to re-engine the Falcon 20 with the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW305 engines; however, work on the program was abandoned before a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) STC was awarded.

An improved model of the aircraft, designated the Falcon 200, was developed, which featured more advanced jet engines and other major improvements to increase range, capacity and comfort. The Falcon 200, along with the Falcon 20G and HU-25 models, were powered by a pair of Garrett ATF3 engines. According to Flying Magazine, the Falcon 200 variant was more comparable to the newer Falcon 50 trijet than the original Falcon 20 model.

Due to its popularity, Dassault studied and worked upon various variants and extensive derivatives of the Falcon 20. Later-built developments of the type include the smaller Falcon 10; the larger 30-seat Falcon 30 with a larger fuselage cross section, which was built and test flown but did not proceed to production; and the Falcon 50, an improved three-engined development. The Falcon 20 proved to be so popular that production was not terminated until 1988, by which point it had been superseded by more advanced developments of the Falcon family. A total of 473 Falcon 20s and 35 Falcon 200s had been constructed by the end of the type’s production.

During 2013, the FAA modified 14 CFR part 91 rules to prohibit the operation of jets weighing 75,000 pounds or less that were not Stage 3 noise compliant after 31 December 2015. The Falcon 20 was listed explicitly in Federal Register 78 FR 39576. Any examples of the type that were not been modified, either by the installation of Stage 3 noise-compliant engines or have had hush kits installed upon non-compliant engines, were no longer permitted to fly anywhere in the contiguous 48 states after 31 December 2015. However, 14 CFR ยง91.883 Special flight authorizations for jet airplanes weighing 75,000 pounds or less - lists special flight authorizations that may be granted for operation after 31 December 2015.


The Dassault Falcon 20 is a French business jet, often considered to be an easy to fly and relatively visually appealing aircraft. The favorable flight qualities of the aircraft meant that there was no need to incorporate a stick pusher or stall-barrier systems in order to achieve its predictable stall behavior. The flight controls of the Falcon 20 are hydraulically-powered, augmenting the mechanical pushrods between the cockpit controls and the flight control surfaces. In the event of complete hydraulic failure, the aircraft can be practically flown without any augmentation. The controls incorporate an artificial feel system, optimizing the sensations perceivable to the operating pilot to be smooth, predictable, and precise. On the Falcon 200, the cockpit is heavily modernized, being more comparable with the newer Falcon 50 and Falcon 200 than the original Falcon 20.

The Falcon 20 is powered by a pair of rear-mounted turbojet engines; most commonly powered by a pair of General Electric CF700 engines, the type has also been powered by alternative powerplants, including the Garrett TFE731 and Garrett ATF3 engines. The adoption of newer engines often had the benefit of improving the Falcon 20’s range in addition to increased speed and climb rate; this, in combination with its low-drag fuselage, required more careful speed planning than the majority of business jets. On some models, protection against engine conditions such as instances of over-speed and over-temp is provided by electronic flight computers, as is the aircraft’s ‘throttle-lock’ power management system to maintain safe levels of engine power throughout climbs without any crew commands. As conventional thrust reversers are not compatible with the location of the engines, an alternative configuration in the form of rotatable doors fixed to the outer cowling of the engine partially cover both the engine fan and core exhaust, deflecting thrust upwards and forwards.

The Falcon 20 is furnished with a highly swept wing; it is equipped with leading-edge slats to improve its slow speed performance and increase the stalling speed. When approaching a high angle of attack, the slats are automatically deployed; when nearing a potential stall, the inner section of the slats then retract to provide for a stable and predictable stall with effective aileron controls throughout. On the Falcon 200 model, the wing was re-profiled for improved low-speed performance and shortened runway requirements, as well as the addition of an unusual wing root fillet section and a shortened wing fence; the development of an entirely new wing was under consideration at one point, but the improved performance was not viewed to justify the expense. While air brakes are present upon the wing, these are less smooth and more noisy than the use of the dual-brake arrangement upon the landing gear. For ease of movement on the ground, a fully steerable nosewheel is incorporated and is controlled from the captain’s position in the cockpit.

Supplemental Type Certificate SA5858S, issued by the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), held by the type allows for the installation of underwing pylons upon the Fan Jet Falcon, Fan Jet Falcon Series D and Fan Jet Falcon Series E. This modification has been commonly used upon those Falcon 20s which have been operated as special mission aircraft, which would often make use of underwing stores. Substantial numbers of Falcon 20s were converted into cargo-carrying configurations; a hydraulically-operated cargo door served to simplify loading-unloading operations. According to Flying Magazine, upon its launch, the Falcon 200 model had the largest cabin of any mid-seize business jet. Additionally, the rear fuselage of the Falcon 200 was re-designed to accommodate a 28-cubic foot baggage compartment within the tailcone, which supplements the standard aft cabin baggage compartment.

Operational History 2

Commercial, Corporate, and Private Use

While sales in the North American market was initially strong, sales were negatively impacted by the Recession of 1969-70, which led to excess unsold Falcon 20 aircraft temporarily building up while Pan American Business Jets Division sought sales of the type. By late 1973, American sales had recovered while responsibility for sales had been transferred to the Falcon Jet Corporation, an organization jointly staffed by Pan American and Dassault personnel in which Dassault became the pre-dominant partner in the venture. Additionally, by this point, Dassault were already preparing for the launch of a smaller and improved derivative of the aircraft onto the market, which was marketed as the Dassault Falcon 10.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, aviation businessman Frederick W. Smith was seeking an ideal aircraft with which to launch his new business, Federal Express; Smith soon identified the Falcon 20 as showing promise for his purposes, noting the availability of unsold aircraft due to an economic downturn and its atypically strong fuselage, the latter factor lending itself well to cargo operations. Despite difficulties securing the necessary finances, the fledgling company was able to acquire several Falcon 20s and convert them for cargo operations. Originally, Federal Express intended for its Falcon 20s to be delivered post-conversion, as a consequence of funding issues, the aircraft were acquired in handfuls and independently converted from their initial passenger-carrying configuration to support their use for cargo operations. In September 1972, Federal Express established an in-house training school, focused on the preparation of ex-military pilots for commercial operations using the Falcon.

In April 1973, Federal Express commenced its air express package delivery service using Falcon 20s out of its distribution center in Memphis, Tennessee. By its third of operation, the airline had established a nationwide network using the Falcon 20 as its principal aircraft and had become profitable; as a consequence of rapidly increasing demands, it was recognized around this point that the introduction of larger cargo aircraft to supplement the type would soon be necessary in order to expand. At the height of its use of the type, Federal Express operated a fleet of 33 Falcon 20; the type was eventually withdrawn following is gradual replacement by substantially larger aircraft, the first of these to be acquired being the Boeing B-727-100. The Falcon 20 which had carried the first Federal Express air express package has since been placed on static display at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport.

U.S. Coast Guard

The United States Coast Guard (USCG) operated a model of the Falcon 20, designated as the HU-25 Guardian. The Guardian was operated as a high-speed spotter aircraft to locate shipwreck survivors and direct slower-moving aircraft and rescue vessels, and to interdict aerial and ship-borne drug trafficking. In 1982, the first HU-25 was delivered to the USCG; by December 1983, a total of 41 aircraft had been acquired. In USCG service, the HU-25 was eventually succeeded in its role by the EADS HC-144 Ocean Sentry, a newer turboprop-powered aircraft. Operationally, the HU-25 played a key role in the service’s actives in search and rescue, counter drug missions; it had also been a critical asset deployed during the 1991 Gulf War. Initial models of the HU-25 were delivered to the HU-25A standard; a number were later modified to become HU-25B, which were equipped with sensors capable of detecting oil spills and other environmental pollutants. Further numbers were re-configured to the HU-25C standard, for improved performance in the drug interdiction mission; when equipped with newer AN/APG-66(V)2 and AN/APS-14B(V)3 radar systems, these became the HU-25C+ and HU-25B respectively. On 26 September 2014, following 32 years of service, the last operational HU-25 Falcon, the only jet ever to be a part of the air fleet of the US Coast Guard, was retired. The high-speed capability it provided will be lost with the type’s retirement due to its replacements being considerably slower aircraft.

Aerial Testbeds

In 1990, the United States Air Force acquired N20NY (c/n 61), a Falcon 20C, for use as a testbed at MIT Lincoln Laboratory. In 2006, the USAF also acquired Coast Guard HU-25A 2125, registered as N448TB (c/n 439), for use at Lincoln Laboratory.

In 2011, NASA acquired a former Coast Guard HU-25C for use in Operation IceBridge. The aircraft, based at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, is equipped with a scanning laser altimeter to collect data on Arctic surface topography.

During November 2012, a Falcon 20 became the first civil jet in the world to fly on 100 per cent biofuel when it performed a test flight for Canada’s National Research Council.

Variants 2

Operators 2

Civilian Operators

Former Civilian Operators

Military Operators

Former Operators

Specifications (Falcon 20F) 2

General Characteristics



  1. Hough, Jim. NASM Photos by Jim Hough (2/16/2004)
  2. Wikipedia the free encyclopedia: Dassault Falcon 20

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