Kate Sarsfield/LONDON


Bombardier has cut the first metal for its super-midsize Continental twin-engined jet, passing the first production milestone in the development of its all-new business jet "ahead of schedule". The event, marked by the machining of an "uplock fitting for the nose landing gear", also finalised the completion of the joint definition phase (JDP).

Conducted in Montreal, the JDP involved the Canadian manufacturer working with its joint venture partners (including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Allied- Signal, Bombardier Shorts Aircraft subsidiary, and Taiwan's Aerospace Industries Development Corporation) to define the interfaces between their parts of the aircraft. The companies are now beginning to refine the detailed design.

Filling a niche between the manufacturer's $11.4 million mid-size Learjet 60 and the $21.8 million Challenger 604 large business jet, the Continental is being developed for US coast-to-coast travel, with the ability to operate from 1,520m (5,000ft)-long, or smaller runways. The aircraft, with its new AlliedSignal AS 907 engines, has a range of 5,750km (3,100nm), with eight passengers and two crew, a long-range cruise speed of Mach 0.8 and a maximum cruise of Mach 0.82. The aircraft's current price is $14.25 million.

The first of five test aircraft is due to fly in June 2001, leading to certification in September 2002 and the first "green" delivery three months later.

Bombardier has clocked up firm orders for 39 Continentals. John Lawson, Bombardier Business Aircraft president sales, says it is "busy negotiating to finalise the letters of intent that we have. The Continental is on time, on course and exactly where Bombardier wants to be with the orderbook".

Source: Flight International