Bombardier this week celebrated the 40th anniversary of the first flight of its venerable Challenger 600 series. The Challenger 600 took to the skies on November 8, 1978, from Montreal, Quebec.
Originally designed by Bill Lear in the early 1970s as the LearStar 600, the Canadian-backed Canadair became involved and evolved the program in the mid-1970s. Canadair acquired the design outright and launched the program in 1976 with 28 firm orders in hand.
Later named the Challenger 600, the aircraft was to meet new Part 25 standards with a “wide body” cabin and Lycoming ALF 502 engines. Challenger S/N 1002 was nominally delivered in March 1979 but leased back for test flying in advanced of certification that came in the latter half of 1980. By the time of certification, Canadair already was working on the next iteration, the GE CF34-powered CL-601, which was formally launched in 1981 and certified in February 1983. Bombardier subsequently bought Canadair in 1986.
More than 1,100 of the series have been delivered, and the fleet had accrued more than 6.16 million by the end of September. Fifty-seven Challenger 600s remained in the fleet at the end of the third quarter (81 were built). The Challenger 604 currently makes up the largest portion of the fleet with 357, followed by the 605 with 288. The latest edition, the Challenger 650, numbered 75 at the end of the third quarter.