Artikelnr: HLR701


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Marcel Dassault, founder and owner of Dassault, decided to name the aircraft Mercure (French for Mercury). "Wanting to give the name of a god of mythology, I found of them only one which had wings with its helmet and ailerons with its feet, from where the Mercure name.." Marcel Dassault said. Extremely modern computer tools for the time were used to develop the wing of the Mercure 100. Even though it was larger than the Boeing-737, the Mercure 100 was the faster of the two. In June 1969, a full scale mock-up was presented during the Paris Airshow at Le Bourget airport. On 4 April 1971, the prototype Mercure 01 rolled out of Dassault's Bordeaux-Merignac plant. It was powered by two Pratt & Whitney JT8D-11 (6800 kg of thrust). The first flight took place in Merignac on 28 May 1971. The second prototype, which was powered by two Pratt & Whitney JT8D-15 (the engine which would be used on all subsequent Mercure built), flew for the first time on 7 September 1972. On 19 July 1973, the first production aircraft made its maiden flight. The Mercure received its Type certificate on 12 February 1974, and on 30 September 1974, was certified for Category IIIA approach all-weather automatic landing (minimum visibility = 500 ft, minimum ceiling = 50 ft). The Mercure 100 was also the first commercial airliner to be operated by a 100% female crew on one of its flights.

Dassault tried to attract the interest of major airlines and several regional airlines, by touting the Mercure 100 as a replacement for the douglas DC-9. A few airlines showed some initial interest but only Air Inter, a domestic French airline, placed an order. This lack of interest was due to several factors, including the devaluation of the dollar and the oil crisis of the 1970s, but mainly because of the Mercure's operating range – suitable for domestic European operations but unable to sustain longer routes. At maximum payload, the aircraft's range was only 1,700 km. Consequently, the Mercure 100 achieved no foreign sales. With a total of only 10 sales with one of the prototypes refurbished and sold as the 11th Mercure to Air Inter, the airliner represents the worst failure of a commercial airliner in terms of aircraft sold. The number of sales is less than other poor selling aircraft such as the Concorde (14 produced, 20 including prototypes and preproduction aircraft), the VFW-Fokker 614, Convair 880 and 990, Vickers VC-10, Tupolev Tu-144, Lockeed L1011 Tristar, McDonnell Douglas Dc-11, boeing 737-60, boeing 747SP, Boeing 747-300 and Boeing 757-300.

After the commercial failure of the Mercure 100, Marcel Dassault asked his engineers to develop a new version of the Mercure, the Mercure 200C in cooperation with Air France, it was to carry 140 passengers with a range of 2,200 km. Several major airlines in the United States showed some interest in the project. However, the project design costs were also high. This might have been mitigated if the original Mercure had a larger fuel capacity or sufficient design strength so that additional fuel tanks could have been easily added.

At the beginning of 1973, an agreement was created with the French government to finance this programme. Dassault was to receive a loan of 200-million French Francs from the French government, which would be paid back based on sales after the 201st aircraft was delivered. But Air France  wanted an airliner powered with the Pratt & Whitney JT8D-117, which was quieter and larger than the JT8D-15. Dassault needed an additional loan of 80-million French Francs from the government to accommodate Air France's request. The French government replied to Dassault that it had to carry half of the development costs of the Mercure 200C on their own, which was impossible after the commercial failure of the Mercure 100. The Mercure 200C project was then canceled.

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