You probably know about them, the PR stunts that aviation promoters have put together over the years, some of them very Hollywood and others homegrown affairs. Dassault’s recent run through Star Wars Canyon in Death Valley, California’s Panamint Valley, will go down as one of the greatest ever. The only gripe that anyone in aviation should have is that that they didn’t think of it first.
Our short list of favorite flying stunts surely includes some of yours, too: Roger Moore’s dash through the open hangar doors in a tiny Bede Jet never gets old, and speaking of those same letters, B.D. Maule’s famous takeoff from inside the Maule factory hangar, already airborne as he exits the doors, is a part of aviation legend.
And so now is the flight of Dassault’s Falcon Jet though the rocky maze. The flight made no sense at all. Star Wars Canyon was nicknamed for one of two reasons, which remains unclear. It might have been after the Death Star maze that Luke Skywalker negotiated by using the Force in his X-Wing Starfighter to destroy the Empire’s huge mother ship, or it might have been after the rocky desert canyons of the fictional planet Tatooine.
The real-life Star Wars canyon, literally called that by the military and sometimes referred to as the Jedi Transition, is used by military fighter pilots training for down-and-dirty low-level aerial warfare.
The canyon is just over five miles long, but it is tight, and the 1,000-foot-tall walls are sheer. Photographers love the place because they can shoot down at exotic military hardware as the aircraft speed past just below them.
A big business jet has no business being there. Or does it?
Nope, it doesn’t, which is why the Star Wars run was such a great idea. The Falcon 8X is huge compared to fighter jets. With its 86-foot wingspan, the 33,000-pound max takeoff weight, long-range cruiser is fast, top speed, Mach 0.9. It is not, however, the biggest plane to snake though the canyon. That was most likely a Lockheed C-17, with a wingspan of 170 feet (more than twice the span of the 8X) and a max takeoff weight north of 500,000 pounds.
But the flight of the Falcon was still so cool, in part because it is so out of place. And Dassault took the opportunity to brag on the 8X’s great handling; like an F-16 or F-22, it’s a fly-by-wire plane.
The quality of the video Dassault produced for this wild joy ride is Hollywood-level great. Watch it on the biggest monitor you can find. And then, if you’re like us, you’ll watch it a few more times, too.