The service entry in Canada at the end of March of Bombardier’s Challenger 850 corporate shuttle, just one year from its launch here at EBACE 2005, highlights what the manufacturer reckons is the ideal solution for companies that need to move groups of employees among operational sites without the time penalty associated with airline travel today.
Bombardier’s answer to the problem is a range of three platforms, the Challenger 850, 870 and 890. Based on the 50-seat CRJ200, 70-seat CRJ700 and 90-seat CRJ900 respectively, they come with a choice of standard, split cabin and deluxe interior layouts and, in the case of the 850, a price tag in the region of $22 to $23 million.
Bombardier says the split configuration, which fits a Challenger 850 with six executive seats in the forward cabin and 26 standard seats aft, is proving the most popular of the three. Both the standard cabin with its 50 seats, and the aft cabin of the split version, feature overhead baggage bins, while the 27-seat deluxe variant has bins along the right side only. The split and deluxe versions also come with a kitchen capable of providing 48 hot meals.
Bob Horner, vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said Monday that the Bombardier factory in Montreal has a production line dedicated to the 850, and while it employs fewer people than the 300 and 605 lines, “It’s a profitable line.” The company expects to deliver the airplanes at a rate of 1.5 per month this year. Bombardier itself installs the cabins on the shuttle-configured airframes, while Lufthansa Technik in Germany and Midcoast Aviation in the U.S. handle completions of executive variants.
In terms of performance, the 850 corporate shuttle has a long-range cruise speed of Mach 0.74. It can also cruise at up to Mach 0.8, and offers an Mmo of Mach 0.85. From Geneva it has the range to reach Reykjavik, Iceland, providing the potential for single-stop Atlantic crossings. Warranty intervals are pitched slightly above standard terms to reflect the higher usage rates of shuttle operations.
Outside Europe and the U.S., the manufacturer has sold several aircraft in both executive and high-density configurations to customers in China, and Horner said India is emerging as another interesting market for shuttles.
The Challenger 850 is sold only in completed form. It comes bundled with training–type rating for two pilots and maintenance training for two mechanics–plus emergency medical support provided by Medaire and the Internet-based computer integrated maintenance management system (Cimms), which enables customers to track maintenance requirements. Support in Europe is provided by Berlin-based Lufthansa Bombardier Aviation Services (LBAS).
The 850 executive version is most commonly sold in a 15-passenger layout. It can be fitted with additional fuel tanks in the aft fuselage for extended range, giving it the ability to fly from Geneva to Las Vegas or the U.S. West Coast with a single stop in Newfoundland.
The first 850 corporate shuttle was delivered March 28 to Suncor Energy, a Canadian company whose business is developing the oil sands of Alberta. The airplane is operating six legs a day, six days a week, connecting three cities. They include the 350-nm plus sector between Suncor’s Calgary headquarters and Fort McMurray in the north of the province, a distance the airplane covers in approximately one hour. Suncor vice president of business services Eric Axford said the company views the aircraft as “an investment in people and productivity.”
In addition to lead operator Suncor, customers include the head of a Russian firm who has ordered an 850 executive model for himself and a shuttle for staff transport, and another European customer who has ordered an 870 in shuttle configuration. At last year’s show Aero Toy Store founder Morris Shirazi ordered two 870s, which he said he planned to complete in VIP configuration and “operate for a couple of years before selling them on.”