It’s Challengers galore at MEBA

November 15, 2008, 4:27 AM

If you are looking for a large-cabin Bombardier Challenger (or near Challenger) business jet, there are 16 here on display in the MEBA static park for your inspection. This includes one Challenger 601, six 604s, five 650s, two 850s and two Canadair Regional Jets CRJ200s converted to executive/VIP interiors. The latter two illustrate an interesting cross-fertilization that exists between business jets and regional jets. The Canadair CL-600 Challenger spawned the CRJs. Now refurbished, VIP-configured CRJs are appearing on the market as alternatives to newer Challengers, Globals and Gulfstreams at much lower price points.

A quick tally of the CRJ conversion programs reveals six announced to date. Two are showing their aircraft here in Dubai–Tailwind Capital and Global Principal Finance Co. (GPFC), with their Hemisphere 200XR, and Maine Aviation Corp. (MAC) with its CRJ200GLS.

All the programs see value in taking preowned CRJ200s, most of them shed by regional airlines, and converting them into large-cabin executive/VIP aircraft that have acquisition costs much below comparable business jets. Low-time CRJs are preferred, but some programs include substantial maintenance work before doing the interior completions. Most offer additional fuel tanks to extend the range of the converted CRJs. Fueling demand for converted CRJs are the long backlogs of large-cabin Bombardier, Dassault, Gulfstream and Hawker Beechcraft business jets.

The Tailwind/GPFC Hemisphere 200XR program, announced in May at the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition in Geneva, converts CRJ200LRs. The baseline 200XR is configured for 15 passengers with a galley and front and aft lavatories, but customers may choose from a variety of optional interiors that include club seating, divans and a private bedroom. Standard equipment includes a PATS Aircraft auxiliary fuel system that adds almost 600 gallons and provides an operating range of some 3,000 nm. The Hemisphere 200XR will be certified for U.S. and EASA operation and will be SFAR 88 compliant.

According to Joel Hussey, president of Tailwind Capital of Redmond, Washington, which manages and markets the program, “Our Hemisphere 200XR will be available for delivery in the first quarter of 2009 with the amenities of new aircraft, but at a fraction of the price.” GPFC (Chalet No. 18) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Merrill Lynch and Co.

The other CRJ200 conversion here, the CRJ200GLS (Grand Luxury Series), is on display under the banner of MAC (Maine Aviation Corp.) Aircraft Sales of Portland, Maine. MAC Aircraft Sales (Stand No. 1037) began the GLS project several years ago with research and analysis of the market. Flying Colours of Peterborough, Ontario, did the 16- to 18-passenger completion through its CRJ Execliner program. Said Allyn Caruso, MAC Aircraft Sales president, “What’s driving the CRJ200 conversion is the fact that it has about 30 percent more volume than a Gulfstream GIV; the exact same cabin in height, width and length as the Global XRS; and it gives you that size cabin for basically Challenger 604 operating cost. Everyone is talking about the CRJ200 conversions project; however, we are confident in our ability as a global player to lead this industry.”   

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