Diasbled passengers get a lift with Challenger mod

 - May 28, 2008, 8:27 AM

The flight department of Greek-based construction company Consolidated Contractors International was faced with a challenge when the group’s 82-year-old chairman asked them to fit his Bombardier Challenger 601-3R with a wheelchair lift. Their boss’ arthritic knees made boarding the aircraft painful, and he was sick of the indignity of having to have the crew lift him up the steps.

The problem for chief pilot Steve Cherry-Downes and chief of maintenance Colin Solley was that no suitable lift system was available on the market. Three years later, after spending at least $500,000, the Challenger was fitted with a purpose-built device designed by Canadian engineer Pierre Leneveu of Montreal-based Siddhis Designs. He has since fitted similar devices to a Challenger 604 and a Challenger 600.

The lift, which weighs 500 lb, deploys quickly from the cabin door and can carry passengers in a wheelchair or while they are standing. The platform detaches from the lift and can be stowed in the baggage hold.

The bespoke design had to meet the exacting standards of Canadian aviation and disability regulations. Its power packs operate independently and cannot deploy the lift while the aircraft is in the air or while the door is closed. The hydraulic system uses a non-hazardous mix of water and glycol used in hospitals.

The lift can carry a payload of up to 570 lb. However, Canadian regulations required that the actual safety margin for the design factored in a load of up to five times this weight. The unit can be installed or removed in a day.

Consolidated Contractors is now selling the Challenger through Corporate Jet Sales of Middleburg, Va. The anticipated asking price is around $17.5 million–including the lift. The aircraft was delivered in March 1996 and has logged around 2,500 flight hours.