If you’re flying 13 hours nonstop from Los Angeles to Sydney on a business jet, the time will come when you’ll want to take a break from work and lie down to watch some TV, nosh some just-out-of-the-oven pastries, grab a cold beer from the fridge or all of the above. In other words, enjoy the comforts of home at 41,000 feet.
Customers can demand that their aircraft be configured whatever way they want. But to enjoy those electricity-hungry amenities, a jet has to be wired for power just right. In the past, adding something as mundane as a fridge meant bringing the plane back to the company that installs the power systems for a redesign and set of new parts, and then sending it back to the manufacturer for disassembly and installation of the new set of wires and circuit breakers that would power that fridge. This would be accompanied by certification paperwork.
In the not too distant future, customers of Dassault’s new Falcon 10X business jet, which is slated to take flight in 2025, will be able to quickly make systems changes to their aircraft and start jetting across the globe. With the implementation of GE Aviation’s next-generation primary and solid state secondary electrical power distribution and control system in the Falcon 10X, there’s greater flexibility in how the aircraft is configured.
Some of those same types of power systems had previously been used on major platforms like Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet and Boeing’s Apache helicopter and the 777 airliner. In fact, if you’ve ever watched a movie on a 777’s seatback screen, it was GE Aviation’s system providing the power.
“Customers have always felt they’re locked into the power vendor to make any changes to their planes,” says GE Aviation growth pursuit program manager Richard Minors. “One of the key things about this partnership with Dassault is removing ‘vendor lock’ and giving control to the customer to make their own changes to the system.”
GE’s electrical power distribution and control system will offer Dassault’s customers four important advantages. The first is the primary power system, which will provide electricity to the jet’s major components, like its motors and pumps. Next is the secondary distribution system, which will leverage highly flexible modular power tiles — small, lightweight power distribution components based on solid state power control that eliminate hundreds of mechanical circuit breakers. The third big advantage is a broad set of digital tools that will make it easier for Dassault to customize their jets however they’d like, from big-screen TVs to dining rooms to private bedrooms with stand-up showers. And finally, GE will provide Dassault with access to its Electric Power Integration Center (EPIC) in Cheltenham, England, where the aircraft manufacturer will be able to run test configurations and certification scenarios.
GE’s power distribution and control system also will help in another crucial area: weight reduction. Because the modular tiles are compact and extremely efficient at delivering power, they can be individually configured and installed throughout the aircraft, freeing up cabin space and cutting back on the number of wires and cables.
And with the weight savings will come more significant fuel efficiency, which will help make the Falcon 10X a more environmentally friendly jet.
But it’s the streamlined configuration process that will get business jet owners’ attention. Using a software-based tool, the customer will be able to determine if there’s enough power for a new item — like that fridge. And they won’t have to worry about recertification, because GE’s tools are already certified. This will allow Dassault to implement new configurations, within limits that are pre-approved, without having to come back to GE and with reduced documentation. “These software tools are very flexible,” says GE Aviation Electrical Power Systems president and general manager Joe Krisciunas. “By using them, you won’t have to reengineer, you won’t have to recertify. You’ll configure based on this tool, and it will allow you to deliver the cabin the customer wants.”
The systems integration capabilities offered at EPIC are what help to make this flexibility possible. In choosing to partner with GE, Dassault recognized the value EPIC offers in full integration and certification support.
At EPIC, engineers develop custom equipment to test an aircraft platform’s electrical system, connecting it with infrastructure that simulates the generator, the engine and various short circuit conditions. Without access to EPIC, Minors explains, Dassault would have had to set up its own integration capability.
And while EPIC features state-of-the-art equipment, it’s the brainpower behind it that brings the value. As part of developing the Falcon 10X’s electrical power distribution and control system, the engineers at EPIC were tasked with deciding when to push the envelope and advance the technology and when that approach didn’t make sense. “The team did a great job of balancing innovation when it was needed,” Krisciunas says, along with “reusing systems that were already known to be cost-effective and proven.”
Developing the power technology for the Falcon 10X took two years. Minors recalls that he and his team made 50 trips from Cheltenham to Dassault’s headquarters, just outside Paris, during the bid process. This helped them build a strong relationship that ensured the program had a cutting-edge technical approach that met the end application as well as the business case.
But that 24-month bid process was also nerve-racking. Given that the GE team was English and Dassault’s was French, they shared a passion for rugby, but also a friendly rivalry. Minors recalls that one visit took place the day before a face-off between the French and English national teams. “As I was leaving, the Dassault project manager shook my hand and said, ‘I hope you lose,’” Minors says. “I thought he meant lose the bid, and my jaw just dropped. But he just meant he hoped England lost the rugby.”
Image credit: Dassault