Bombardier Challenger 605
Bombardier Challenger 605

Bombardier Challenger 605

Its roomy cabin, long range, and low operating costs make it an attractive option.

A big cabin plus great operating economics, good range, and excellent reliability. That’s been a winning formula for 600-series Bombardier Challengers for decades. In 2007, the airframer made the model over with the 605 variant, and it sold nearly 300 before production ended in 2015. The 605 can dash transcontinental at Mach 0.82 or mission stretch to nearly 4,000 nautical miles throttled back to airliner speeds of Mach 0.74. All this with a cabin nearly as wide as a Gulfstream G650’s.

Aircraft delivered after April 1, 2013 came with a five-year/5,000-flight-hour warranty, underscoring Bombardier’s confidence in the 605’s airliner-quality durability. (Before April 2013, the warranty lasted three years or 3,000 flight hours.) While famous for its efficient thin wing, the 605 is still a good short-runway performer with light loads and stout braking ability. And while the aircraft may not have all the technological whizbang and handling refinements of its contemporaries, its core value proposition remains unmatched—the big cabin, the long legs, all for about $3,000 an hour in direct operating costs.

Compared with its immediate predecessor, the Model 604, the 605 features 200 pounds’ more useful load (fuel, passengers, luggage, or equipment), a revamped cabin and cockpit, improved lighting, available airborne internet access, and other refinements. The design incorporates a bundle of lessons learned during Bombardier’s development of the large-cabin Global 5000 earlier in the decade. The result is an airplane that feels roomier and substantially more comfortable.

You can trace the Challenger’s origins to Learjet inventor Bill Lear. In the 1970s, when the series began life, small-tube Learjets and Citations were falling out of favor with some customers who wanted more cabin space but didn’t want to make the leap into something as large as a Gulfstream.

After he sold his company, Bill Lear tinkered with a design for a large-cabin business jet that, thanks to advances in airfoils and engines, could be built and operated for midsize-cabin prices. He sold his design of the Learstar 600 to Canadair (now Bombardier), which manufactured the airplane under the Challenger moniker. The aircraft remains in production today as the Model 650 and was the basis for Bombardier’s wildly successful line of CRJ regional jets and Global series long-range bizjets.

The capacious, 1,150-cubic-foot cabin is the 650’s most distinctive feature. It offers six feet of headroom and a flat floor that’s just over seven feet wide. (Side-to-side beam width is 8.2 feet.) Typically configured for nine passengers, the space provides lots of flexibility. You can equip the cabin with extra-wide, fully reclining single-seat executive chairs or side-facing three-place couches without sacrificing aisle clearance or making the space appear cramped. The double-divan configuration is especially popular with operators who regularly make transatlantic crossings.

The big cabin also eases placement and installation of large bulkhead video monitors and other entertainment equipment as well as furniture monuments such as side rails, credenzas, and conference tables.

The Challenger 600, 601, and 604 were revolutionary for their time, but when the 605 came along in 2007, the series hadn’t seen a major cabin update since 1995. In subsequent years, cabin technology had made quantum leaps. The goal with the 605 was to employ the latest advances without adversely affecting the aircraft’s certification basis or adding weight. This last point is critical, as owners have been using Challengers on progressively longer flights. Concurrently, Bombardier wanted to streamline the completion process while preserving the most popular ­customer choices and adding new ones. That said, the company hit its $27 million new price point on this aircraft in part by delivering exterior and interior finish quality that is decidedly utilitarian and requires more frequent refreshing.

One change incorporated in the 605 is apparent before you even enter, because the cabin windows are larger, taller, and positioned higher along the fuselage. This addresses a long-standing complaint about prior model Challenger 600s: you had to bend down in your seat to see out the windows. The larger windows and new window reveals increase viewing area by 30 percent and admit more light.

The Challenger 605 cabin features a redesigned headliner and softer contours and borrows elements from the Global 5000, including extensive use of LED lighting. The headliner provides an additional 2.5 inches of headroom for seated passengers. The sidewall tables deploy flush with the sidewall ledge, yielding cleaner lines and more continuous work surface. The sidewall, side ledge, and dado panel were moved outboard to increase the already-generous cabin width by 1.1 inches. The overhead passenger controls were redesigned to provide more headroom and cabin volume while integrating all ­systems in one location.

The galley underwent major redesigns as well. The new galley allows more space for food storage, garbage stowage, place settings, and glassware. Bombardier relocated the cabin management system (CMS) touchscreen to the upper-right-hand side of the galley, eliminating the need for the flight attendant to peer around a corner when resetting lighting, environmental, and entertainment controls.

The digital, Ethernet-based CMS is modeled on architecture developed for the Global 5000 and features 17-inch bulkhead monitors, a master seat LCD power control unit, a dual DVD player, digital media distribution, a cabin local area network, integrated in-flight mapping, and integrated control panels at each seat. Options include Airborne Office with voice, fax, and data; 32-inch TV and surround sound in the aft cabin; and audio/video library on demand. You can plug in gameports, iPods, and laptops as well. While capable, this technology is now antiquated, and replacing it with a faster, more capable Wi-Fi system will cost upwards of about $400,000.

Bombardier designed the lavatory to be more ergonomic. The toilet was shortened, the sink is larger, and the faucets are surface-mounted. Buyers had the choice of three basic floor plans: six individual executive seats and a three-place divan; four single executive seats, two double seats in a conference grouping with table, and a three-seat divan; or six individual executive seats, a three-place divan, and an extended lavatory. The longer lav provides more storage room for wardrobe changing but does reduce main-cabin legroom by 18 inches.

The 605’s cockpit features four large glass-panel displays with a 55 percent larger viewing area and sharper clarity than the 604’s Pro Line 4 avionics offer. The basic avionics package includes the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 system and Integrated Flight Information System, which provides pilots with access to electronic maps and charts. Numerous avionics upgrades are available, such as infrared enhanced vision and the latest FAA mandates, including ADS-B.

The 605 sold steadily during its production run, and demand for used ones remains strong even in the current marshmallow used jet market. Nearly four decades after it first came on the scene, the Challenger 600 series remains understandably popular.

Aviation industry veteran Mark Huber has reviewed aircraft for BJT since 2005.