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  • This video was made possible by Skillshare, an online community where you

  • can learn anything, from graphic design, to how to grow a YouTube channel. The

  • first 650 people to sign up will get two months for just 99 Cents. Check out the

  • link below. In the late 1960's, Dassault Aviation made a huge bet. The company

  • designed its first commercial airliner, the Mercure 100, to do one thing

  • fantastically well. Fly short routes more efficiently than any other airliner. With

  • the hope of taking on rival giants like Boeing, Dassault invested large sums into

  • developing its new jet, and built several factories in anticipation of demand. But

  • if you've never heard of the Mercure, it's because airlines weren't interested

  • in buying it. And Dassault's new jet would go down as one of the worst commercial

  • failures in aviation history.

  • designed and built by French aircraft manufacturer Dassault,

  • the Mercure 100 first flew in 1971. It was an impressive aircraft for its day

  • with advanced aerodynamics and a wider cabin than its competitors. And it

  • offered some pretty impressive features, including a heads-up display system for

  • its pilots. The Mercure had great performance characteristics, especially

  • climbing out of congested airports. But most importantly, it was efficient. The

  • Mercure had been highly optimized for short-range air routes. So here's a plane

  • that would save Airlines money. But to understand why virtually no airline

  • ended up buying it, we need to look at the Mercure's development, and why

  • Dassault built the aircraft in the first place. In the 1960s Dassault was a

  • company renowned for its iconic Mirage military fighter aircraft and Falcon

  • business jets, but the company had bigger ambitions and had spotted an opportunity.

  • See many civil air routes around the world were actually very short, under a

  • thousand miles and at the time a lot of these short haul routes were served by

  • Boeing's recently introduced 737 and Douglas DC-9. Dassault figured that if it

  • could design an airliner optimized specifically for these very short routes

  • then it could outperform Boeing's and Douglas's offerings in a key segment of

  • the market. With low operating costs and a break-even load factor, airlines

  • initially showed interest. But building such a plane was an ambitious

  • undertaking. Luckily for Dassault the French

  • government was also convinced of the market demand for a specialized

  • short-range airliner. The government was eager for Dassault to build a 737

  • competitor and to spur France's aviation industry. It provided a loan for just

  • over half the development costs, which were to be repaid through sales of the

  • aircraft. Development started in 1967 and Dassault was so confident in the Mercure

  • concept that had built four factories across France to meet the anticipated

  • demand. Reportedly the company was expecting to

  • built its 300th airliner in less than a decade. Like the rival Boeing 737, the

  • Mercure was powered by a pair of proven but now dated Pratt & Whitney turbo fans

  • But despite having virtually the same engines as the 737, the Mercure could

  • carry more passengers and despite being larger the Mercure could even out climb

  • the 737. These impressive performance advantages were due to the Mercure being

  • so well optimized for short sectors. By significantly reducing fuel tank size,

  • Dassault reduced the structural weight of its airliner by as much as 10%. By

  • using state-of-the-art computer design tools, Dassault created a specialized wing

  • giving the Mercure excellent climb and descent performance - an important

  • metric for efficient short haul flights. But these advantages, of course, come with

  • some trade-offs. See a fully loaded Mercure had a maximum range of only one

  • thousand miles. A Boeing 737-200 had a much greater range, up to three times as

  • much on some later variants. But there was also another important design

  • difference. A 737 was a robust aircraft which could be suited to serve both

  • short and medium sectors, so Boeing was able to adapt the airframe and adopt new

  • engines to cater to different segments of the market

  • a 737-100 introduced in 1968 carried a 103 passengers over 1,700

  • miles. But after four decades of development the 737 had evolved into an

  • entire family of aircraft, with some variants having more than twice the

  • passenger capacity and range of the original. While the Mercure had also been

  • designed with stretch potential, its mission was always going to be decidedly

  • short-haul. Modifying the aircraft to increase its range so it could serve a

  • broader segment of the market like the 737 wasn't going to be easy.

  • And so the Mercure's high degree of design optimization for short-haul

  • routes, rather than being a competitive advantage quickly became an enormous

  • problem. Dassault aggressively marketed the Mercure as an economical choice for

  • airlines. With its unparalleled short range performance, it should have been

  • attractive to airlines that were operating 737's

  • and DC-9's on short-haul routes. But the Mercure refused to sell. See if

  • you operate the Mercure out of France, Dassault's proposition makes some sense.

  • But from outlying European countries like Spain, the Mercure's limited range

  • is... well very limiting. And in the United States that limited range becomes an

  • even bigger problem. Airlines, as it turns out, we're willing to take a hit on

  • operating efficiency even if it meant they'd have an aircraft that was

  • versatile to fill both medium and short range roles. Some argue that Dassault's

  • decision to market the Mercure as a direct 737 competitor also contributed

  • to its commercial failure. Well in many ways the Mercure was a conventional

  • airliner its range made it more of a high-capacity regional jet. But there

  • were other factors going against the aircraft, like the 1970 Oil Crisis which

  • limited Airlines purchasing power, a devalued US dollar and a high rate of

  • European inflation - all of which had made the Mercure

  • more expensive to purchase. Air Inter, an airline in which the French government

  • had a large ownership stake, was the only airline to ever purchase Mercure's and it

  • ordered only 10. An 11th Mercure, a prototype that had been refurbished was

  • later also delivered to the airline. Dassault struggled to recover from its

  • colossal commercial miscalculation, and reportedly the company would need to

  • sell somewhere between 120 and 150

  • Mercure's just to break even. So the company raced to develop improved

  • versions like the Mercure 200C, which was to have improved range. But the

  • Mercure design's had been so carefully optimized for short routes, you could say

  • the company had engineered itself into a corner. Because the extensive design

  • modifications that would have been needed to give the Mercure additional

  • fuel capacity, well, were simply too expensive to ever make it a profitable

  • proposition. The 11 Mercure's that did enter service would go on to fly until

  • 1995. They safely carried over 44 million passengers and made over 400,000 flights -

  • albeit short efficient flights. But the story of French

  • aviation didn't end with the Mercure, it was really just the beginning.

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A Commercial Failure: The Dassault Mercure Story

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    joey joey posted on 2021/05/29
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