“When you get into the larger aircraft it becomes like a hotel, with dozens of staff supporting the plane based in a galley area down below. You have very comprehensive cooking facilities, and on larger aircraft we have looked at theatres, with spiral staircases and a Steinway grand piano. The limitations for what you can put inside a plane are pretty much the limits of physics, and even money cannot always overcome that. Even so, people are still always trying to push [the limits]. ”
Bombardier Challenger 605
A venerable member of Bombardier's business jet stable has been made over. The manufacturer has replaced the wide-cabin Challenger 604 with the $27.38 million (typically equipped) Challenger 605.
The new model features 200 pounds more useful load (fuel, passengers, luggage or equipment), a revamped cabin and cockpit, improved lighting, available airborne Internet access and other refinements. The design incorporates a bundle of lessons learned during Bombardier's development of the large-cabin Global 5000. The result is an airplane that feels roomier and substantially more comfortable.
The Challenger's origins can be traced to Learjet inventor Bill Lear. In the 1970s, when the Challenger began life, small-tube Learjets and Citations were falling out of favor with some customers who wanted more cabin space, but didn't want to make the leap into something as large as a Gulfstream.
After he sold his company, Bill Lear tinkered with a design for a large-cabin business jet that, thanks to advances in airfoils and engines, could be built and operated for midsize-cabin prices. He sold his design of the Learstar 600 to Canadair (now Bombardier). The company would go on to build the airplane under the moniker "Challenger." More than 25 years later, 737 Challenger 600 series aircraft have been delivered (through July 2007). Demand remains steady and strong at an average of 30 units per year.
The capacious, 1,150-cubic-foot cabin is this airplane's most distinctive feature. The flat floor is just over seven feet wide (side-to-side beam width is 8.2 feet) and there is six feet of headroom.
The cabin, which is typically configured for nine passengers, provides lots of flexibility. You can equip it with extra-wide, fully reclining single-seat executive chairs or side-facing three-place couches without sacrificing aisle clearance or making the space appear cramped. The double divan configuration is especially popular with operators who regularly make transatlantic crossings. The big cabin also eases placement and installation of large bulkhead video monitors and other entertainment equipment as well as furniture monuments such as side rails, credenzas and conference tables.
The Challenger 600 series (600, 601, 604) was revolutionary for its time, but it hadn't seen a major cabin update since 1995. In subsequent years, cabin technology has made quantum leaps. The goal with the 605 was to employ the latest technology without adversely affecting the aircraft's certification basis or adding weight. This last point is critical, as owners have been using Challengers on progressively longer flights. Concurrently, Bombardier wanted to streamline the completion process while preserving the most popular customer choices and adding new ones.
Challenger 605 deliveries began earlier this year. The changes incorporated in this airplane are apparent before you even enter: The cabin windows are larger, taller and positioned higher along the fuselage. This addresses a long-standing complaint about Challenger 600s: You had to bend down in your seat to see out the passenger windows. The larger windows and new window reveals increase viewing area by 30 percent and let in more light.
In developing the 605 cabin, Bombardier made extensive use of customer, flight attendant, pilot and maintenance technician focus groups, said Scott Wight, the company's manager of product planning for Challenger aircraft. The research appears to have paid off.
The Challenger 605 cabin features a redesigned headliner and softer contours and borrows elements from the Global 5000, including extensive use of LED lighting. The headliner provides an additional 2.5 inches of headroom for seated passengers. The sidewall tables deploy flush with the sidewall ledge, yielding cleaner lines and more continuous work surface. The sidewall, side ledge and dado panel were moved outboard to increase cabin width, already generous, by 1.1 inches. The overhead passenger controls were redesigned to provide more headroom and cabin volume while integrating all systems into one location.
The galley and lavatory underwent major redesigns as well. The new galley allows more space for food storage, garbage stowage, place settings and glassware. Bombardier relocated the cabin management system (CMS) touchscreen to the upper right-hand side of the galley, eliminating the need for the flight attendant to peer around a corner when resetting cabin lighting, environmental and entertainment controls.
The digital, Ethernet-based CMS is modeled on architecture developed for the Global 5000 and features 17-inch bulkhead monitors, master seat LCD power control unit, a dual DVD/CD player, digital media distribution, a cabin local area network, integrated in-flight mapping and integrated control panels at each seat location. Options include Airborne Office with voice, fax and data (speed of 834 kbps); 32-inch TV and surround sound in the aft cabin; and audio/video library on demand. Passengers will be able to plug gameports, iPods and laptops into the system as well.
Bombardier designed the lavatory to be more ergonomic. The toilet was shortened, the sink is larger and the faucets are surface-mounted.
Buyers have the choice of three basic floor plans: six individual executive seats and a three-place divan; four single executive seats, two double seats in a conference grouping with table and a three-seat divan; and six individual executive seats, a three-place divan and an extended lavatory.
The 605's refreshed cockpit features four large glass-panel displays with 55 percent larger viewing area and sharper clarity than the 604's. The basic avionics package includes the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 system and Integrated Flight Information System, which provides pilots with full access to electronic maps and charts. This past summer, Bombardier announced that it would be making an infrared enhanced-vision system (EVS) available for the 605 beginning in 2009. EVS allows pilots to see airports, runways and terrain features in times of darkness or limited visibility. EVS is expected to be available for retrofit on existing aircraft.
With the Challenger 605, Bombardier has shown how upgrading aircraft systems and cabins can keep older airframe designs competitive for years to come.