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Bombardier CRJ200-based Challenger 850 business jet begins test flights at Lufthansa Technik facilities ahead of first delivery this month

Sales of Bombardier's CRJ200 executive variant better than expected ahead of initial delivery in September

Maintenance and completions specialist Lufthansa Technik (LHT) has completed and begun test flying the first Bombardier Challenger 850 executive jet ahead of first delivery later this month.

LHT says the new variant of the CRJ200 regional jet had its first flight on 30 August following a six-month completion process. LHT was contracted last year to install cabins on 17 executive 850s, the 15- to 16-seat member of Bombardier's new Challenger 850 family. The first aircraft will be rolled out on 20 September at Jet Expo 2006 in Moscow, and subsequently delivered to an undisclosed Russian customer.

The Challenger 850 series also includes a corporate shuttle variant, which Bombardier is completing in-house. The first Challenger 850 corporate shuttle was delivered earlier this year to Canada's Suncor Energy.

LHT is completing a further five executive 850s at its Hamburg business jet completion centre, and has dedicated one of its two-bay hangars as a six-aircraft production line for the 850. LHT expects the programme to continue beyond the initial 17 aircraft, especially in the fast-growing Russian market. It says 10 of the 17 aircraft it is completing have been ordered by Russian customers.

Better than expected sales of the 850 executive jet prompted Bombardier to appoint St Louis-based Midcoast Aviation as a second completion centre in June. Midcoast, which so far has been contracted to complete eight 850s, will handle overflow work for which LHT lacks capacity.

The Challenger 850 is the smallest business jet LHT has ever completed at Hamburg, which has been performing VIP cabin installations for 45 years, but worked only on widebodies until 2000, when it added Airbus Corporate Jets and Boeing Business Jets. LHT chairman August Henningsen says it is now considering other new business jet completion products for Hamburg and other sites.

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