The business aircraft that changed the world: No. 7

Washington DC
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Launched at perhaps the darkest moment in Canadair's history, the Challenger 600 proved much more than a lifeline for a struggling company in the late 1970s.

It would eventually spawn the first regional jet and the Global series, while making a deep impact in the business aviation market by itself.

How unlikely then is the fact that the Challenger 600 began as a conceptual orphan? Canadair acquired the concept design from electronics and business jet pioneer Bill Lear. When the new Canadian ownership renamed his LearStar 600 as the Challenger, Lear did not object. But when the company widened the fuselage cross-section to improve comfort for passengers on long flights, the famously temperamental Lear threw a fit. He stormed into a board of directors meeting of Canadair waving an aircraft model that he called a "Fat Albert with a nose job".

But the Challenger's customers were more appreciative. In addition to the added comfort, the Challenger was among the first to employ the supercritical wing and high-bypass ratio turbofan engines. Both features served to dramatically boost the range and fuel efficiency of the Challenger compared with its contemporaries, allowing it to remain viable in the market for decades to come.

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