The early sales success of its Mystere-Falcon 20 series led Dassault to investigate the market prospects for a new short-range airliner.
Known as the Dassault Mercure, and generally similar in size and external configuration to the Boeing 737, Dassault aircraft was of low-wing monoplane configuration with a circular-section pressurised fuselage providing accommodation for 120-150 passengers, or a maximum of 162 in a high-density arrangement. The tail unit was conventional, and the tricycle landing gear had twin wheels on each unit. Like the Model 737 the Mercure had two Pratt & Whitney JT8D turbofans, these being of the Dash-15 series which was one of the options available for the Model 737.
The cost of launching the project was beyond the resources of Dassault, but the company was to obtain from the French government loan support to 56% of the estimated initial cost of 1,000 million francs. Dassault put in 14% of the total, the balance coming from risk-sharing partners.
The initial prototype Mercure (F-WTCC) flew for the first time on 28 May 1971 powered by two Pratt & Whitney JT8D-11 engines, each of 6804kg thrust, the last three letters of this specially chosen registration representing Transport Court-Courrier (short-range transport).
The second prototype (F-WTMD), flown on 7 September 1972, had more powerful JT8D-15s.
Production began after the receipt of an order for 10 aircraft from Air Inter, a French domestic airline, on 29 January 1972. Delivered in May 1974, the first aircraft went into service on 4 June 1974 and the 10th in December 1975.
Ten years later, in April 1985, the second prototype was refurbished and added to the Air Inter fleet. Designated the Mercure 100, the 156-passenger airliners, operated with an annual subsidy from the French government to offset the extremely high cost of spares. The Mercure 200 higher capacity version seating 186 passengers and powered by SNECMA CFM56 turbofan engines was projected but did not proceed.
Engine: 2 x Pratt & Whitney JT8D-15 turbofans, 68974 N / 7031kg
Wingspan: 30.56 m / 100 ft 3 in
Length: 34.84 m / 114 ft 4 in
Height: 11.37 m / 37 ft 4 in
Wing area: 116.0 sq.m / 1248.61 sq ft
Max take off weight: 124582.5 lb / 56500.0 kg
Empty weight: 31800 kg / 70107 lb
Max. speed: 513 kts / 950 km/h
Cruise speed: 858 km/h / 533 mph
Range: 594 nm / 1100 km
Range w/max.payload: 756 km / 470 miles