Flying the Fan Jet Falcon

Cherry Air Falcon 20

This vintage-1969 Falcon Fan Jet 20 is arriving at Boeing Field from Fairbanks for a fuel stop en route to its regular base in Texas. Flown by charter operator Cherry Air, it operates on an ad-hoc basis flying time critical shipments. Although Falcons were at one time used in scheduled services by the likes of FedEx, they are primarily used for charter services now and remain popular as on-demand aircraft, particularly for auto industry cargo and other manufacturing operations where machine parts can be critical.

An outgrowth of the Dassault Mystère 20, the aircraft was certified in June, 1965 and began deliveries later that year. The Falcon 20 (and later 200) proved popular enough to last in production until 1988, with some elements of the design being integrated into the trijet Falcon 50 (1976-2008). Falcon freighters began appearing in the early 1970s, and at one point FedEx operated 33 Falcon 20 freighters from Memphis.

Falcon 20’s were originally powered by GE CF-700 engines – and some are still operated in this configuration. But others have been upgraded to Garret TFE731 engines, which give a useful boost in range and payload capacity.

Today, the Falcon is a staple of smaller charter operators like Kalitta Charters, Ameristar, Cherry Air, Royal Air Freight, USA Jet Airlines, and the IFL group. The Falcon 20 (and the somewhat rarer Falcon 10) are the smallest main-deck jet freighters around and provide a considerable speed advantage over a Cessna Caravan or a Metroliner – which is critical in time-sensitive charters. Falcon 20’s can carry a typical load of 5,000 lbs in a hold large enough to fit objects that won’t fit on smaller props or smaller jets like a Learjet 31 (or fit through the Lear’s smaller doors).

Photo © Alex Kwanten

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