French business jet maker Dassault hopes to catch the attention of the Defence Force with a $90m plane which could replace what are ageing and sometimes unreliable Boeing 757s for VIP flights.

Dassault says it has yet to engage with the NZDF but hopes a promotional visit with the sleek Falcon 8X could spark interest from fleet planners who will determine which aircraft carries the prime minister and other dignitaries.

Its Asia Pacific president, Jean-Michel Jacob, said many other governments used Falcon aircraft for VIP transport and the firm wanted to make planners aware of what was available.

''We think it might be in their interest to consider this to replace their Boeing 757 - with an aircraft like a Falcon 8X,'' he said at the Air Center One private aircraft base at Auckland Airport.


With capacity for up to 16 passengers compared to the 757's 160, the Falcon is much smaller but more agile with ability to fly much further, faster and into smaller airfields.

The 757 has 18 business class seats while those on board a private jet such as a Falcon can recline on plush couches, arm chairs and showers can be installed.

The 757s were nearing the end of their commercial airline life when bought by the RNZAF last decade and although substantially overhauled and modified there have been some embarrassing breakdowns, notably on a trade mission to India in 2016.

The RNZAF had earlier used older Boeing 727s for VIP transport, at the time Jim Bolger was prime minister leading to the plane being dubbed ''Spud One.''

Replacements are expected around the middle of next decade.

Of 16 private jets owned by New Zealanders (including Graeme Hart, Craig Heatley and Sir Robert Jones), four were Falcons, up from just one 16 months ago.

Dassault says the number of business jets in New Zealand had increased because there are more New Zealand businesses operating internationally and there is an increasing number of high net worth individuals visiting New Zealand for business and leisure.

Jacob said the demonstration aircraft was being shown to three potential clients here, including one in Hawke's Bay, where the plane was heading overnight.

The interior of the Falcon 8X. Photo / Grant Bradley
The interior of the Falcon 8X. Photo / Grant Bradley

He said closing a deal could take up to two years in some countries.

The three-engine plane was on display last weekend's Avalon Air Show in Victoria and will head to Indonesia at the end of the week.

New Zealand was considered an ideal market for long-range, large-cabin business jets because to get from New Zealand to Europe, North America and Asia, you need a long range aircraft because of the distances involved.

The Falcon 8X can fly non-stop to Pacific Rim cities such as Los Angeles and Beijing.

Jacob said the aircraft could make a round trip from Dunedin to Antarctica without refuelling and still have an hour's flying to spare.

The galley in the Falcon 8X. Photo / Supplied
The galley in the Falcon 8X. Photo / Supplied

The aircraft has also been modified in some countries for medevac work.

Because the 8X and slightly shorter 7X have three-engines, the aircraft are permitted by regulators to fly more direct routes over water because they are not so constrained by extended twin-engine operations, ETOPS.

The more direct path saves time and reduces fuel burn.

Ninety-year-old Dassault also makes combat aircraft that have fought in major conflicts around the world.

Jacob said cutting-edge technology used in military planes has been used in the company's business jets.