A fitting Jet for F1 Star…………
As their occupation involves driving racing cars at incredible speeds on track and circuit with enormous skill and ability to perform safely and competitively, Formula One racing drivers often surprise us by driving themselves around in mundane cars when home, away from racing and testing. Of course other motor sport personalities don’t follow this vein and enjoy high-end performance road cars. There are those though that take the “Need for Speed” to the next level………….Business Jet performance.
Image by Gilles Perrin
Most famous to fall into this particular category was the late great Niki Lauda. Not only enjoying spirited motoring off the track but piloting his own Bombardier Global 7500, the Canadian manufacturers answer to the big-guns of Gulfstream G-650 and Dassault Falcon 7X. Not forgetting the airlines Lauda, Lauda Air and Fly Niki were formed and owned by the man himself.
Image by Warferry
One driver lining up on the F1 grid these days is Max Verstappen who has a number of podium finishes under his belt and also enjoys business jet travel. The youngest driver at 17 to ever compete in a Formula One Grand Prix (Australian F1 GP in 2015), has recently acquired a Dassault Falcon 900, re-registered PH-DTF a former registration of a KLM DC-10 which operated with the airline from 1973 till 1977. Big boots to fill so. The Belgian – Dutch driver has been using the Falcon since the end of 2020 to get around internationally, though not piloting the aircraft himself.
Image by Jacques Joubert
The livery of PH-DTF is the aircraft's most striking aspect followed by the sight of three turbofan engines, the main visual trait of the Dassault Falcon 900 EX. The fuselage has been painted anthracite grey and finished in menacing matt complete with slashes of vibrant ‘Dutch orange’ applied to the forward fuselage, engines and winglets. The winglets are a later addition fitted to PH-DTF.
While the Dassault Falcon 900 EX is not the ‘Daddy’ in Dassaults line-up, that honour going to the 7X, it is however capable of accommodating up to 19 passengers and traveling up to 4,600 nmiles, enabling Europe – US east coast flights without refueling quite the norm. Another celebrity putting their trust in the Dassault brand is Taylor Swift, having owned two, a Falcon 900 & Falcon 50. Its likely the singer chose the tri-jet type for its additional layer of safety a third engine brings especially over long-haul flights.
Image by Dave Potter
As mentioned, PH-DTF has only recently received this registration but the 2009-built aircraft started out as F-WWFB while test flying with the French manufacturer before receiving the registration VT-CAP with first owner Poonawalla Aviation Private Ltd. In Mumbai, India. The jet visited Cork Airport in April 2012 and Dublin in June 2013.
Image by Bob Everett
In January 2015 the Falcon was transferred to the Isle of Man register as M-VGAL when acquired by Charter Air Ltd. and operated for Virgin Galactic. It was during this ownership that the winglets were fitted in 2018. The spectacular graphics applied to the tail-fin lifted the otherwise plane white livery of Galactic Girl. Shannon Airport played host to the Falcon in March 2018. The Virgin logo was applied to the under-belly for all to see when arriving and departing visiting airports.
When for sale in September 2020, the airframe had accumulated 4,563 hrs. New ownership moved to Mavic Aviation of Luxemburg and in October 2020 placed on the Dutch register as PH-DTF and operated by ExxAero of Eindhoven.
Image by Bruno Lazaro
Now a young Formula One racing driver commands the Falcon with frequent obligatory visits to Monaco. The Dassault 900 EX completes the ‘life-style’ portfolio of, fast cars, lavish homes and private jets. Did we mention Max is currently dating a Brazilian model – daughter of three times F1 World Champion, Nelson Piquet……..Now the portfolio is complete.
Images by Gilles Perrin, Dave Potter, Bruno Lazaro, Warferry, Bob Everett & Jacques Joubert