Latest Execliner Conversion Is Toughest Test Yet For Flying Colours

 - May 13, 2012, 4:45 AM
A low-time CRJ200 provides the basic building blocks for what is expected to become Flying Colours' most impressive conversion to date.

Private aircraft makeover specialist Flying Colours is embarking on what may well be the company’s most ambitious project. Known for its Execliner renovations, which turn Bombardier’s CRJ family of regional airliners into well-appointed business jets (also known as Challenger 850s), the Canadian cabin completions specialist has begun work on what it describes as its first “fully loaded” CRJ200 conversion.

Headlining the changes is the addition of a shower in the aft lavatory, believed to be the first for the type. “This is a CRJ200, it’s not a BBJ,” said Flying Colours executive vice president Eric Gillespie. “We’re still in the engineering phase, going back and forth with the client, but it is feasible, and with the mission profile of the customer, it’s not going to be a detriment.”

The shower stall will take the place of the standard wardrobe cabinet opposite the vanity and toilet. The weight added by the system will be partially offset by the reduction in the number of seats from 30 in its shuttle configuration to just six in the main cabin. Those few seats (from California’s Aero Seating Technologies), however, will come with virtually every option including heat, massage, lumbar support, recline and vertical lift adjustment, with a memory function to store preferred settings. Minus upholstery, each will cost more than $50,000.

The forward seats will have floor tracking that will take them to a pair of pull-out desks mounted on the bulkhead at the front of the cabin. Each will have a built-in laptop computer–one a Macbook, the other a PC-based unit. One of the computers will be configured for video teleconferencing to support the client’s business operations while in transit. For broadband conductivity, the twinjet will have a Viasat Ku-band installation for faster upload speeds.

iPad Controls Systems

Among the client’s specifications are that the aircraft’s cabin systems, such as lighting, the in-flight entertainment system (IFE) and even galley functions, be controlled through an iPad application. System installation will include a 20-terabyte server, capable of storing thousands of movies and music volumes, which will be updatable by USB connection and/or wirelessly.

Both communications and IFE features have been custom-designed in partnership with a company called Esoteric, which has developed the SkyPad touch-screen control system. The system allows users to browse all on-board media, control the IFE and adjust lights, blinds and temperature in the cabin using an iPad. The IFE experience is rounded off with specially designed headphones produced by Germany’s Ultrasone.

The IFE will also include the Rockwell Collins Tailwind 500 satellite television system, which, combined with the installation of its special tail-mounted radome antenna, will add approximately $500,000 to the price of the project. Another unique feature will be the installation of a belly-mounted video camera with zoom capability, for passengers who want to know what is directly below the aircraft. For forward views, Flying Colours (Stand 1367) is also considering how to install a tail-mounted camera so it won’t conflict with the satellite TV receiver.

First-class Galley

The aircraft’s bathrooms feature customized wood-veneer cabinetry, complemented by platinum-plated hardware and Dornbracht plumbing fixtures. Touchscreen controls allow passengers to control the IFE system from the bathrooms.

The two toilets as well as the galley will feature dark granite countertops from European provider List Components and Furniture (Stand 1663). The galleys will feature variable refrigerator/freezer units and a convection oven with the uncommon broiler option, as well as a microwave, a blender and a Nespresso coffee machine. The galleys are being designed with input from the customer’s chief flight attendant.

The galley also features customized wood inlays and platinum hardware. Sterling silver flatware, table accessories and serving pieces have been specifically made for the Execliner by France’s Puiforcat and table and bed linens have been sourced from Stella of New York City. To remove cigar smoke and galley smells, and to ensure clean cabin air at all times, an integrated smoke extraction system has been custom-designed by Flying Colours to remove smoke from the cabin while in flight.

Moving to the aft cabin, a separate bedroom will include a full-size bed, which will be positioned diagonally across the cabin when in use. At the customer’s request the bed will be mounted on a pivot to allow it to swing against the right side of the aircraft, easing passage into the aft lavatory.

Complex Engineering

In the cockpit, additions include a Safe Flight auto throttle, as well as an iPad integrated fixed arm for XM Weather and other services. Elbit is providing a heads-up display along with its infrared synthetic-vision system. According to the Peterborough, Ontario-based Flying Colours, it’s the first time such technology has found its way into a CRJ850.

“The main thing to stress is the complexity of some of the engineering, and also the amount of new things going into the aircraft that maybe haven’t been done on an RJ/[Challenger] 850 before,” said Gillespie. The original aircraft, which was used in a private shuttle operation, had approximately 6,400 hours on it–low time for a CRJ–before it was purchased by its new owner who has definite ideas of what he wants in terms of amenities. The owner has assigned his personal designer, Harry Schnaper, to work with Flying Colours’ lead in-house designer, Kate Ahrens.

While the aircraft will serve primarily for domestic travel in the U.S., the client anticipates using it for occasional travel to Europe as well, so the conversion will include firm’s two-tank auxiliary fuel system, which is expected to give it a 3,000-nm range.

Flying Colours expects to deliver the aircraft, which will be available for limited charter through Maine Aviation, in the first quarter of 2013. Certification will be based on existing STCs held by Flying Colours but final approval will be completed through a new STC from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.