Falcon 20: 59 years since Dassault Aviation’s first business jet entered into service

Martin Romero

Dassault Falcon 20

On June 3,  the 59th anniversary of the entry into service of Dassault Aviation’s first executive jet, the Falcon 20 was celebrated. The development of this aircraft, initially known as the Dassault-Breguet Mystère 20, began in December 1961.

The Falcon 20 was created in response to the French government’s request to manufacture a twin-engine jet capable of liaison and training missions. One of the companies that took an interest in the project and began working on it was Dassault Aviation, led by Marcel Dassault.

Thus, in December 1961, Marcel approved the start of the project to produce an aircraft with a capacity of 8 to 10 passengers, initially called the Dassault-Breguet Mystère 20.

Design and Development

The design consisted of a low-wing monoplane based on the aerodynamics of the Dassault Mystère IV fighter-bomber. The aircraft would be powered by two Pratt & Whitney JT12A-8 jet engines, mounted at the rear of the fuselage and providing 3,300 pounds of thrust.

The aircraft prototype, with French registration F-WLKB, first flew on May 4, 1963, from Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport. The program aimed to capture the aircraft’s commercial opportunities, strongly emphasizing the U.S. market.

Agreement with Pan Am and Introduction to the U.S.

The company had no experience in marketing civil aircraft, so the plane received virtually no orders. Dassault Aviation then sought a distributor to offer its model in the United States.

At that time, Pan Am was looking for an aircraft to launch its executive jet sales division. After evaluating various planes from different manufacturers, Pan Am became interested in the Mystère 20.

Pan Am suggested that Dassault Aviation replace the Mystère 20s engines with General Electric CF700 engines and increase some of the aircraft’s dimensions. Dassault agreed to make these changes, and Pan Am placed the first firm order for 40 units, with options for an additional 120.

The Dassault Mystère 20, equipped with the new engines, had its first flight on July 10, 1964. The first production aircraft flew on January 1, 1965, and in June of that year, it received type certifications from the governments of the United States and France.

Upon starting deliveries, planes registered in the United States were dispatched to customers at Hollywood Burbank Airport, California. The remaining aircraft were delivered at Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport.

In 1966, Dassault Aviation decided to rename the aircraft delivered in the U.S. as Fan Jet Falcon, a name later shortened to Falcon 20.

The aircraft quickly became a success, and Pan Am converted the 120 options from the initial order into firm orders and added 40 more aircraft, reaching a total order of 160 Falcon 20 units. The first military orders were also received from Australia, the United States, Canada, and France.

Later, Falcon 20s equipped with CF700 engines were re-engined with Garrett TFE731 turbofans.


In the 1980s, an improved model of the Falcon 20, named the Falcon 200, was launched. This aircraft featured more advanced and efficient Garret ATF3 engines and increased range and capacity.

The Falcon 20 family also included a smaller variant, the Falcon 10. There was also a larger version with a capacity for 30 passengers, called the Falcon 30, which was built and flight-tested but never entered production.

Another variant is the Falcon 50, which had the same fuselage and capacity as the Falcon 20 but was powered by three jet engines located at the rear of the fuselage. The trijet variant had greater autonomy and was of French production.

The aircraft was so successful that production only ceased in 1991. The main operators of the Falcon 20 or HU-25 Guardian, the designation for military use, included Federal Express (through its feeder companies), the United States Coast Guard, and the French Navy.

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