Business Jet Interiors International: familyties

2015-07-31 15:25

The latest incarnation of the Challenger 600 series, the Challenger 650, features automotive-inspired details, new seats and IFE/CMS – and a strong resemblance to the Challenger 350

The Challenger 600 series is now in its fourth decade and nearing its 1,000th delivery. The Challenger 600 was certified by the FAA in 1980. Out of the Challenger 600 rose the Challenger 601 (certified in 1983), out of that the Challenger 604 (certified in 1995) and from that the Challenger 605 (certified in 2006). In October 2014, Bombardier announced it was reinventing the platform again – replacing the Challenger 605 with the Challenger 650. The Challenger 650 is expected to gain certification and enter service in the second half of 2015.

The Challenger 650’s main upgrades over the Challenger 605 include new avionics (Rockwell Collins’ Pro Line 21 Advanced), a completely new interior, and new engines that enable longer range missions out of short take-off fields. The aircraft’s range will be 4,000 nautical miles with six passengers.

Shared DNA Everything in the cabin is new – including seats (a Bombardier design on a B/E Aerospace frame) that are about 1in wider, sideledges, IFEC/CMS equipment and the overall aesthetic. The designers worked to create a shared feel for the Challenger family, which also includes the Challenger 350, itself an updated version of the Challenger 300. The Challenger 350 was certified and entered into service in June 2014; 52 are already in service.

“I’m proud that the look in general is aligned with the look on the Challenger 350,” says Brad Nolen, director of product strategy and market development at Bombardier. “The discerning eye would also notice commonalities with the Learjet 75. Bombardier is successfully creating a unique DNA. That is not something our competitors have been able to achieve yet. When you walk on board this aircraft, it’s recognizable as a Bombardier product.”

In common with the Challenger 350, automotive design is a key influence. “You can see that in the contours of the seats, for example, and in the sweeping metal that runs down the sideledges,” says Nolen. “That last detail is carried over from the Challenger 350. It was inspired by the brightwork on Bentley and Rolls-Royce cars.”

Entertainment Also in common with the current Learjets and the Challenger 350, the Challenger 650 will feature Lufthansa Technik’s nice HD CMS/IFE system. “The cabin control touchscreen is at your fingertips, the system is always on, and it’s really easy to use,” says Nolen. “The GUI is similar to an iPhone in terms of navigation and ease of use.” Passengers can also control the cabin from Apple and Android devices.

The system includes AVOD as standard. Passengers can play their own media for free, or take out a subscription with IDAIR for DRM-protected early window content, such as Hollywood movies, refreshed every quarter and delivered via a USB key.

Content can be displayed on the bulkhead HD monitors (which are 2in larger than on the Challenger 605). Private content can be streamed from the aircraft’s media server to passengers’ tablets. The cabin is wireless and can also be fitted with an optional Aircell wi-fi system for use over the USA, and a SwiftBroadband system for elsewhere.

There are USB, HDMI, Bluetooth and other ports for iPods, iPads, PCs and smartphones. Nolen thinks offering Bluetooth audio pairing as a standard feature is a first for the industry. “It’s just like at home where you can link your iPhone to a Bluetooth speaker,” says Nolen. “You can do that inside the aircraft – although you won’t see a speaker anywhere on board. Transducers are fastened to the back of the sidewalls, allowing the entire cabin to act as a surround sound speaker.”

Ergonomics Standard equipment in the galley includes a coffee maker or an espresso maker (depending on customer preference), a microwave and a warming oven that is 70% larger than the warming oven on the Challenger 605. Feedback from flight attendants has resulted in the appliances being positioned higher, at arm’s height.

Ergonomic attention to detail is also evident at the club seating positions, where the tables deploy out of the dado rather than from the top of the sideledge. “That’s important because when you have a table deploying out of the top of the sideledge, it means your cup holders and cabin controls must be positioned behind you, in an un-ergonomic location,” says Nolen. “Having the table deploy out of the dado panel allows cabin controls and cup holders to be properly located at your fingertips.”

In addition to the cabin control touchscreen, there is a quick-access scroll wheel for navigating lists of media, and quick-access switches to control tables and reading lights and to call a flight attendant. The same switch design is used on the Challenger 350 and Learjet 75.

Nolen concedes that the cabin’s complex shapes, such as that of the sideledges, are challenging to create. “Our designs now are much more automotive inspired, so the parts are more complicated – there are more complex, 3D shapes – and making sure both suppliers and our own team can achieve that level of complexity is always a challenge,” he says.

To iron out these potential wrinkles, Bombardier always builds a first article aircraft ahead of an entry into service. It was this prototype Challenger 650 that Bombardier showed on the static display at EBACE in May 2015. “It’s to really make sure that we get all the finer details of the interior just right, so that when we deliver our first aircraft to a customer, it’s just perfect,” says Nolen. The aircraft is also used as part of the certification process.

NetJets The aircraft displayed at EBACE features a forward galley, a club four, a four-place dining table faced by a four-place divan, and a large lavatory. This is the 12-passenger configuration launch customer NetJets has chosen for its Signature Series Challenger 650s. The fractional ownership company has placed 25 firm orders and has 50 more options for this aircraft (it was also the allen launch customer for the Challenger 350 – with 75 firm orders and 125 options). The Signature Series Challenger 650s will be identical to each other, with a customized selection of materials unique to NetJets.

Other floorplan options include a smaller lavatory that gives a bit more seating space, and the replacement of the conference/dining grouping with two larger facing seats, like those at the front of the aircraft.

Materials including the sidewall and seating leathers, wood veneer, divan fabric and carpet can be customized by the client. “We have a library of choices and if there’s something specific that we don’t have, we would go and find it for our customers,” says Nolen. “There are certification requirements from a flammability perspective, but usually we find a material that meets those requirements and is close to what our customers are looking for.”

Selling points Nolen says a key selling point with this aircraft is value for money. “The Challenger 650 has the same cabin width as our Globals, and costs US$32.5m – much less,” he points out. “Twice as many Challenger 600 series aircraft are sold compared to its nearest competitor every year. In addition to the cabin size, the aircraft’s popularity is driven by the fact that it’s an incredibly reliable aircraft and it has low operating costs.”

Nolen says these last two points are particularly appealing to corporate flight departments and charter and fractional ownership companies. This makes durability a strong focus. “The most demanding customer in terms of durability and quality is NetJets,” says Nolen. “We have specific tests that we conduct with them – for example, to make sure that the metal trim can withstand abuse from keys and pens. We have to meet their requirements – and they’re very strict.” 50, in a



Winning over pilots

The Challenger 605’s Pro Line 21 avionics have been updated to Pro Line 21 Advanced on the Challenger 650, the main additions being synthetic vision on the main displays and a new weather radar. Bombardier has also made visual improvements to the cockpit – changing the paneling and seats to align with its Global Vision Flight decks. 

The company takes a holistic approach to design, and pilots’ views are taken into account alongside those of passengers, crew and other groups. “From a pilot’s perspective, this is a really welcoming environment, where they want to work,” says Nolen. “This is really important because when it comes to buying an aircraft, a lot of decision making, particularly in the USA, can be driven or influenced by pilots.” 

Steering board

Bombardier always has a steering board for new products. Typically three groups are asked for feedback – pilots regarding aircraft performance and avionics; maintenance personnel to ensure easy maintenance is built in from the start; and principals and flight attendants with respect to interior aesthetics and functionality.  

“We usually build three aesthetic designs and take those to the clients’ homes or places of business – it’s unusual for them to come to us,” says Nolen. “Customers tend to like to be more involved in the process than having one particular design put in front of them. For this aircraft we took three unique designs forward, and each proposal included select elements that our clients felt had strong merit. The final design is always a blend of aspects of the original proposals.” 

Source: Business Jet Interiors International

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