The Dassault Falcon 20 is a business jet developed and manufactured by the French aircraft company Dassault Aviation, the first one developed by the firm. A business jet is a jet aircraft designed to transport small groups of people and may also be adapted for other roles. Federal Express, the French Navy and the United States Coast Guard have all used the Falcon 20.
Here are five facts about the jet, including its links to the longest-serving President of Finland.
1. The Mystère 20, as the Falcon 20 was originally known, is a ten-passenger twin-engine jet with cruising speeds of up to Mach 0.8. In the early 1960s, this aircraft was initially designed for Europe-wide liaison flights – used primarily by military forces for artillery observation – involving a 1000 to 1500 km range. Civil operators, however, were also intrigued by the aircraft.
2. The possibility of entering the lucrative American market led its designers to stretch the wings, extending the Mystère 20’s range to over 2000 km. At the time, from 1962-1963, Pan American World Airlines, or Pan Am, was looking to diversify into business aircraft distribution and the Mystère 20 prototype caught the company’s attention. The first Fan Jet Falcons – as Pan Am called them – were delivered in the summer of 1965.
3. During the 1960s and 1970s, there was a growing need for high-performance business jets in Finland. Oy Nordair Ab, one of the leading business aviation companies of that era, acquired the first Falcon 20 in the country. Its first customer flight took place on July 27, 1970.
4. In its first year of operation in 1970, the aircraft operated a total of 170 hours. Ivalo, Finland was its northernmost destination and the southernmost city was Valencia, Spain. To the west, it flew as far as Manchester, UK and to the east, it reached Moscow, Russia.
5. Nordair’s Falcon 20 counted heads of state and government officials as its passengers. For instance, it is said that Urho Kekkonen, the eighth and longest-serving President of Finland, usually chose the same seat on the plane. In the spring of 1973, Foreign Minister Ahti Karjalainen visited Africa on a two-week trip, visiting four East African countries and meeting up with President Martti Ahtisaari, who at the time was appointed Ambassador to Tanzania. In July 1975, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden also flew on the Falcon 20 on an official state visit to the United Kingdom.