Hello and welcome back to PoTP! This is Part 2, featuring the French-built Dassault Mercure
The Dassault Mercure
Crew: three; pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer
Capacity: 162 passengers (high density layout) 140 passengers in regular layout
Length: 34.84 m (114 ft 3 1⁄2 in)
Wingspan: 30.55 m (100 ft 3 in)
Height: 11.36 m (37 ft 3 1⁄4 in)
Wing area: 116 m² (1,248 ft²)
Aspect ratio: 8:1
Empty weight: 31,800 kg (69,960 lb)
Max. takeoff weight: 56,500 kg (124,300 lb)
Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney JT8D-15 turbofans, 68.9 kN (15,500 lbf) each
Maximum speed: 926 km/h (500 knots, 575 mph)
Cruise speed: 825 km/h (446 knots, 512 mph) (range cruise)
Range: 2,084 km (1,125 nmi, 1,295 mi)
Service ceiling: 12,000 m (39,000 ft)
Rate of climb: 16.7 m/s (3,300 ft/min)
Takeoff roll: 2,100 m (6,900 ft)
Landing roll: 1,755 m (5,670 ft)
(thanks to Wikipedia)
The Mercure was proposed as a competitor to the Boeing 737. This new plane, backed by the French Government, would seat 140 (this was huge compared to the 737-100 which sat 100 and the -200 which sat 115) and first flew on the 28th of May 1971. It would also be a competitor (and touted as a replacement) to Douglas’s DC-9.
Unfortunately, it was built with the plane designed to connect Europe’s hubs, rather than a plane meant to do trans-con US flights. Thus, it had a truly miserable range of 1,125nm, a range more comparable to a well designed lawn dart rather than a competitor to the already established 737/DC-9. In fact, a joke about the plane was that it was never sold outside of France because it didn’t have the range to fly out of France!
In comparison, here are the ranges of its competitors:
732 initial range: 1,900nm
732 final range: 2,300nm
MD-81: 1,570nm (short range MD-80)
MD-83: 2,500nm (longest range MD-80)
MD-87: 2,300nm (optimized MD-80 giving up range for weight reduction)
The demand at the time in the US was for longer range variants. For US hubs, 2,300 to 2,500nm of range is needed to serve outlying markets. Hence the later improved 732/MD-80 range. Even today, lots of flights in Europe are only around 750-1500km so the range wasn’t too much of a problem in Europe but in the US this was a huge problem, thus the lack on interest by US carriers.
The cockpit of the Mercure 100
There was a Mercure 200 planned, with a better range and the then-new CFM56 engines. However, Marcel Dassault was concerned about the fact that the CFM56 had not had a single order yet, and production might end before the Mercure 200 could be built. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and we all know how the CFM56 turned out…
Sadly, only 12 were built and only operated by Air Inter, making them the first operator of a brand new French aircraft, just like the marginally more successful Airbus A320-100 they later operated.
“I want to know more!”
Have a look at this, makes for good reading! http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/view/1970/1970%20-%201421.html
Thanks again for reading, constructive criticism is always welcome :)
See you in Part 3!