Canadian completions house Flying Colours is preparing to outfit the first Bombardier Challenger 890 - a corporate version of a green CRJ900 regional jet. The airframer has adopted the marketing name - together with the Challenger 870, for future variants of the smaller CRJ700 - to sit alongside the Challenger 850, its VIP version of the CRJ200.
The aircraft - to be outfitted for an unnamed US customer - has arrived at Flying Colours' facility in Peterborough, Ontario, from the assembly line in Montreal. The work is expected to take 24 months to complete, says Flying Colours executive vice president Eric Gillespie.
While the out-of-production CRJ200 has proved a popular airframe as a business aircraft, so far neither of its larger siblings - the CRJ700 and CRJ900 - have been transformed into executive jets.
Flying Colours has established a niche in converting used CRJ200s into what it calls its Execliner VIP configuration, and completing new Challenger 850s on behalf of Bombardier.
On the Execliner, it installs supplementary fuel tanks between the rear lavatory and the cargo hold to increase the range of the regional jet. On the Challenger 850 these are factory-fitted, but - other than in age of airframe - the Execliner and Challenger 850 have the same specifications.
The family-run company, which also has a facility in St Louis in the USA, has delivered 12 Execliners, with seven more completions underway. Since 2008 it has outfitted 10 Challenger 850s for Bombardier, and work on five others is ongoing.
Bombardier remains by far its main focus, but the firm also carries out refurbishment and maintenance on other business jet types.
Flying Colours still has to get the fuel system for the Challenger 890 certificated, and is in discussions with the owner about the configuration, says Gillespie. However, he hopes the contract will open the door to further VIP completions of new and used CRJ900s and CRJ700s.
International expansion is also on the cards. With 15 Challenger 850s and Execliners delivered into the country, China has become a major market for Flying Colours in the past few years. The company plans to open a completions facility in the country by the end of the year.
"We value this market as it is where our principal growth has come from over the last three years," says Gillespie.
The business is also expanding its footprint and capabilities at Peterborough airport, with a fifth hangar due to open later this year big enough to handle two Boeing Business Jets.
The municipality-owned airport has just extended its runway to handle Boeing 737-sized aircraft, and Flying Colours is keen to move into this market.