Today's announcement that Bombardier's board has given the go ahead for the Continental business aircraft is hardly a surprise.

The Canadian firm introduced the eight-passenger transcontinental jet on the eve of NBAA in November.

It already had operators queuing up to take options following an extensive research project which had alerted potential customers to the concept of the aircraft which, in Bombardier's own words, sets the standard for the super mid-size business jet segment.

This is the third all-new business jet that Bombardier has introduced in the last six years and this one seems set to take the market by storm.

Bombardier product director Claude Chidiac says the key for the research was to identify exactly what operators saw as vital in their purchasing decisions and also to identify their concerns about existing aircraft in the mid-size arena.

"We came up with a top five of market requirements," says Chidiac.

"These are true US coast-to-coast capability of at least 3,000nm; a runway length of less than 5,000ft; a price under the $15 million mark, a true eight-passenger cabin plus reasonable baggage space and a cruise speed of mach 0.8."

The operators had experienced problems in the existing mid-size market.

"These things ranged from the cabin not being a true stand-up height, too small or inaccessible baggage departments.


"When it came to the super mid-size market there is only the Falcon 50EX and the Citation X in service and the Citation has limited range and the Falcon limited comfort."

Chidiac is also bullish about the competitors whose aircraft are in development.

"The Galaxy is positioned as an intercontinental aircraft but has a limited range of only 3,600nm so we see it as a competitor for the transcontinental market rather than the intercontinental.

"It has a large cabin but a recessed aisle, which our research told us was unpopular with users. It also has a high price of more than $17.5 million.

"The Hawker Horizon has a good cabin length but a limited width of only 77 inches and the possible effect of composite fuselage on long-term ownership cost or residual values hasn't been determined."

Bombardier is confident that its achievement of designing an aircraft that counters all the criticism of competitors will set the standard.

The Continental will have a range of 3,100nm; a price of $14.25 million; a balanced field length of 4,950ft; a maximum cruise altitude of 45,000ft and an initial cruise altitude of 41,000ft - another capability desired by operators.


Bombardier is optimistic that it will achieve operating costs of around $770 an hour, significantly lower than the expectations of operators, and lower than first announced at NBAA in November.

Although the Continental is only being announced today, the multi-company team of risk sharers is quite a way along the planning and design process.

Engineering director John Holding says lessons were learned from the process on the Learjet 45 and the Global Express.

"We introduced a Joint Conceptual Definition phase where the partners and suppliers worked together. We are now in Joint Definition. This makes significant time savings."

The first flight is planned for June 2001 with certification in September 2002 and first green delivery in December 2002.


The aircraft is a truly global venture, "even more than the Global Express," says Holding. There is an impressive list of partners.

The new wing is designed and built by MHI of Japan, the successful partners in the Global Express project. It is a two-piece wing, which will be shipped as a single piece to the Wichita assembly plant.

The simple design includes straight front and rear spars with no auxiliary spars, one Fowler flap, one aileron and four spoilers on each side and the surge tank in the wing.

The centre fuselage will come from Bombardier's Northern Ireland subsidiary, Shorts. Taiwanese firm AIDC will build the rear fuselage.

The vertical and horizontal stabilizers, the cockpit, forward fuselage and passenger door will be built by Bombardier in Montreal. The belly fairing comes from Fischer of Austria.

Bombardier will also make the primary flight controls with the secondary controls from Raytheon subsidiary Moog.

The flap control system is from Germany's Liebherr, hydraulics from Parker-Abex, the fuel system from Intertechnique and the electrical system from ECE, both of France.

The landing gear will come from Canada's Messier Dowty, the environmental control systems and the anti-ice system is supplied by Liebherr of Toulouse and the interior completion will be carried out by Bombardier at Tucson.


Two of the bigger partners in the project are AlliedSignal which will supply the engines and the APU. Rockwell Collins' Pro Line 21 was selected for the avionics suite.

AlliedSignal's AS 907 engine has 6,500lb thrust and has been designed for reduced maintenance costs and superior high altitude performance.

Source: Flight Daily News