Challenger 605 operators are pragmatic realists. They say there are other large-cabin aircraft with fine French bloodlines, plus sporty performers from Savannah and rugged heavyweights from Brazil, but no other business jet can top the Bombardier Challenger 605 for its blend of cost effectiveness, low operating costs and cabin comfort, plus dispatch reliability and everyday utility.

“It’s not the best performer, but you can’t beat its value for price and low direct operating cost,” says Gustavo Prato, who flies a Challenger 605 based in South Florida. Operators say they can fly it for $3,100 to $3,200 per hour, including fuel, maintenance and engine reserves. Dispatch reliability exceeds 99.8%.

Some people quip that it’s a super-sized Hawker 800, built for comfort, but not for speed. Indeed, its long-range cruise speed is Mach 0.74. Nevertheless, it can dart between any two cities in the continental U.S. at Mach 0.82. It also can fly from Paris to New York against 85% probability winds at Mach 0.80.

The Challenger 605 is the fifth iteration of the Model 600 and just over 260 units have been delivered. It’s not a new model but rather the marketing designation for Challenger 604 serial number 5700 and subsequent aircraft that incorporate avionics, cabin window and aft fuselage modifications. It retains its predecessor’s General Electric CF34-3B turbofans, along with ruggedized systems and components adapted from high-cycle use CRJ200 regional jets.

Compared to earlier Challenger 604 aircraft, the Challenger 605 has been upgraded with longer and lower cabin windows with considerably larger window reveals, more-space-efficient interior wall panels that increase usable headroom and width for passengers, sturdier worktables, better LED cabin lighting and a new cabin management system. The galley has been redesigned for better ergonomics and more storage space, the lav is more comfortable and new acoustical insulation reduces interior noise.

Three standard cabin configurations are offered, all with a forward galley, forward, four-chair club section and a four-place, side-facing divan in the aft cabin. Plan 1 features two facing chairs across from the divan in the aft cabin. Plan 2 offers a four-seat conference grouping across from the divan. And Plan 3 provides the basic Plan 1 layout with a larger aft lavatory that shortens the main seating area. However, some aircraft have custom completions, including forward crew and aft passenger lavatories and forward galleys. Customizing the interior, though, can add 1,000+ lb. to the empty weight.

Upfront, Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics with four large flat-panel displays replace the Pro Line 4 system, boosting mean time between failures by 25%. Other avionics improvements include dual Honeywell, align-of-the-fly Laseref V IRSes, electronic charts and upgraded three-in-one Thales integrated standby instrument system, enhanced GPWS and radio altimeter, along with a side-mounted EFB for paperless chart certification. Options include a head-up display, XM satellite radio, a third FMS-6000 and Ref V IRS and lightning detector.

Production rates have been relatively stable since the aircraft initially entered service in 2007, in large part due to Montreal’s holding down average annual price increases to less than 2%. With a list price of just over $31 million, it’s the least-expensive large-cabin aircraft that can fly from Geneva to Washington, D.C., New York to São Paulo or Buenos Aires to Miami.

Operator Profiles

Operators say they purchased the aircraft because it offered more cabin and more range plus lower acquisition and operating costs than competitive aircraft, such as the Dassault Falcon 2000LX/LXS and Gulfstream G450. Many traded up from the Challenger 604. The reliability of that aircraft was a main reason why they stayed in the Challenger 600-series family. Cabin comfort, though, trumped all other virtues.

“You can’t know if you like an aircraft by riding in it from Los Angeles to Aspen. You have to live with it for two to three weeks,” says Toby Blanton, who flies one based in Atlanta. His principal did just that in several competitive makes before deciding on the Challenger 605.

U.S. registrations account for the largest number of Challenger 605 aircraft, with 44% of the fleet, according to AMSTAT. U.S. companies including Boeing, Chubb, Disney and FedEx, plus General Electric, Limited Brands, McDonald’s and Nationwide Insurance, along with Nestlé Purina, PNC Financial, Resorts World, Stanley — Black & Decker, State Farm and Yum Restaurants operate the aircraft, according to FAA registration records. The FAA operates two aircraft. Oracle’s Larry Ellison, Sam Zell and Ted Turner, among other high-profile U.S. entrepreneurs and investors, also fly the aircraft.

The second-largest concentrations are in Canada and Europe, each with 24 aircraft. Most aircraft are managed or chartered by major firms such as London Air Services in Vancouver, Execaire in Montreal and Skyservice in Toronto, along with TAG Aviation at Farnborough and several smaller firms in the U.K.

At least a half dozen aircraft operate out of Nigeria, mostly veiled by foreign registrations and third-party holding companies. Eleven aircraft are registered in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain, followed by China with 10 registrations.

Twenty-nine are registered in the Isle of Man, nine in Bermuda and seven more in Malta, but these aircraft are mainly owned and based in the U.K., Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Most of the rest are distributed throughout the Americas and Asia.

In Europe, most aircraft are chartered and/or managed by large firms, such as German charter giant DC Aviation GmbH, Zurich-based ExecuJet Europe and VistaJet out of Malta. Six operate out of Turkey and five are based in the nation states of the Caucasus.

The larger fleet operators typically have a mix of other Bombardier jets, including 40-series Learjets, Challenger 300s, earlier Challenger 600-series aircraft and long-range Global series aircraft. For operators with two to three aircraft, the Challenger 605 typically is the largest and longest-range aircraft they fly.

Annual utilization is about 420 hr. per year. Larger corporations and charter operators fly the aircraft 600 or more hours per year. Smaller firms and individuals may only use it 200 hr. or less every 12 months.

Operators we interviewed said their average passenger load is four people and typical stage lengths range from 1.5 to 2.0 hr. On such missions, they climb the aircraft directly into the mid- to high 30s and cruise at Mach 0.78 to 0.80. They plan on burning 2,500 lb. the first hour and 2,200 lb. the second hour.

Most say they’re comfortable flying the aircraft as long as 8.0 to 8.5 hr., stretching its legs to 3,700 to 3,800 nm. On such missions, they initially climb the aircraft into the mid-30s, but that would be dependent on OATs being close to ISA. On warm days, initial cruise altitude can be in the lower 30s, they say. They cruise the aircraft at Mach 0.76 to 0.78 on such missions and they’re comfortable with 2,500-lb. fuel reserves on domestic missions. But they want 2,500 lb. to 3,000 lb. of reserve fuel remaining on long-range missions, especially on over-water flights and when there are scant alternates close to the destination. Only a few said they’d press range to 4,000 nm. That requires flying the aircraft at an average speed of Mach 0.74 and landing with about 1,850 lb. of reserves.

Most-Liked and Disliked Features

Cabin comfort easily topped the list of most-liked features, spontaneously mentioned during the unguided recall phase of our survey. Due to an interior completion redesign, the Challenger 605 actually has more usable width and height compared to the Challenger 604 even though fuselage diameter remains unchanged. The cabin also feels larger because of the 10-in.-wide-by-16-in. tall cabin windows, plus larger window reveals, that provide 30% more light than previous Challenger 600 series aircraft.

Later model 604 and 605 aircraft also have shortened aft lavatories that provide more usable cabin length. Executive Plan 1 and 2, for instance, feature the shortened aft lav. Some operators, though, opted for Plan 3 with the 18-in.-longer aft lav and 18-in.-shorter main seating area. The larger lavatory provides the additional storage volume they require to carry luggage that won’t fit into the aft baggage compartment.

Low cabin sound levels also were frequently mentioned. The aircraft has improved acoustical insulation. But an aggressive weight reduction program actually shrank empty weight by nearly 200 lb. compared to the Challenger 604. Full tanks payload for typically equipped aircraft is six passengers.

The Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics package received strong praise, although the architecture now is somewhat dated by newer Epic, Fusion and G5000 standards. Using FMS-6000 is intuitive and the system is quite reliable. Very few operators equipped their aircraft with the optional Rockwell Collins head-up guidance system.

Dispatch reliability consistently was mentioned as a favorite feature. “Outside of some growing pains during the first week we had it, it’s flown 2,200 hr. with zero issues,” says Blanton. “Our passengers love them; they’re such great workhorses,” says another aviation director.

Runway performance on typical missions also is a strong suit, assuming the aircraft is departing from moderate density altitude airports. When departing a sea-level airport on a standard day with eight passengers, the aircraft needs less than 3,600 ft. of pavement for takeoff to fly a 1,000-nm mission. Departing B&CA’s 5,000-ft. elevation, ISA+20C airport, TOFL is less than 5,100 ft. for the same mission profile.

“It also has fabulous brakes,” says Tom D’Elia, president of Pinnacle Aviation, who flies s.n. 5718 on occasion. A well-proven, dual-channel digital anti-skid system provides smooth deceleration and long-life carbon heat packs on the wheels furnish strong stopping action.

Most operators were hard-pressed to think of attributes they didn’t like about the aircraft. Some mentioned the aircraft’s comparatively anemic high-altitude climb and cruise performance. That’s the downside of having a relatively small area 520-sq.-ft. wing and high-bypass-ratio/low-pressure-ratio turbofans. Some operators long for new-generation engines, such as the second-generation Rolls-Royce AE2100 or Snecma Silvercrest. But they understand that upgrading the powerplants would boost the price of the aircraft by several million dollars.

The aircraft received mixed reviews for its handling qualities and heavy roll control feel. One pilot said it “flies like a dump truck,” but others said its heavy control feel is like many other large-cabin business jets. Most assuredly, control feel is considerably heavier than in Falcon jets. It also lacks the roll agility of Global series aircraft that have powerful spoilerons that augment the roll control authority of the ailerons.

The guided recall portion of our survey elicited more comments about specific systems. Operators, for instance, praised the upgrade to the more-robust Honeywell 36-150 APU from the previous -100 model because it supplies considerably more bleed air for heating and cooling the cabin.

They gave high marks to the “bulletproof” AC electrical, triple-redundant hydraulic and air-conditioning/pressurization systems. They were cool about the aircraft’s complex aux fuel system, consisting of three belly tanks, a rear saddle tank and aft fuselage tail tank that together hold more fuel than the wing tanks. They said it’s tough to stuff all 19,852 lb. of fuel aboard unless the aircraft is parked nose down on an incline.

The Safe Flight autothrottle system needs improvement, according to some operators. They maintain that while it works satisfactorily with the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics system under most conditions, it’s not as smooth, precise and integrated as autothrottle systems designed by OEM avionics providers.

The interior completion received both positive and negative comments. Operators say it’s well designed by Zodiac OEM Cabin Interiors (nee C & D Aerospace) and most components are durable. But the wood veneers on some monuments are deteriorating, requiring repairs or replacement.

Operators say exterior paint is weathering satisfactorily. But the finish work was more airline industrial than high-end business jet .

Regarding training services, FlightSafety International nudged out Bombardier Aerospace Training and CAE for top marks. Overall, most operators were very satisfied with their simulator training services providers. CAE Dallas received praise for the improvements it’s made to its training programs.

Maintenance Issues

Bombardier, GE and Rockwell Collins generally received good marks for customer support and parts supplies, but as with many new models, the Challenger 605 has had some early serial number growing pains. Based on inputs from customer focus groups and tech reps, Bombardier developed a package of product improvements called the Challenger 605 Max Program to reduce maintenance costs, improve dispatch reliability and cut down on false fault indications.

The Max Program includes nine modifications for the landing gear, main and emergency exit doors, hydraulic and wheel brake accumulators, and windshields and cockpit side windows, among other components. Bombardier pays for the modifications, but operators share in the cos of removing and replacing some related components, such as interior furnishings.

Starting in third quarter 2014, Bombardier began implementing its Evolved Maintenance Program. This extends most scheduled maintenance intervals from 400 hr. to 600 hr., reducing labor hours by as much as 65 hr. per year. Operators say, however, that cabin systems are not being phased into the extended service interval system and that some aircraft systems remain on 400-hr. maintenance intervals while others have been extended to 600 hr. during a lengthy transition period. This results in many scheduled maintenance tasks being out of phase. Some operators say the transition to the Evolved Maintenance Program actually is increasing their shop workload because aircraft must be inducted into maintenance at 200-hr. intervals for pre-EMP and post-EMP tasks. One operator said that his aircraft will require four lengthy shop visits in 2015 because of maintenance tasks being out of phase with each other.

Bombardier is working the task schedule harmonization issue, but a final date for a full transition to the 600-hr. maintenance intervals, including cabin systems, has yet to be announced.

The aircraft seldom requires unscheduled maintenance, but there have been a few high-profile Airworthiness Directives, operators say. AD 2014-03-17, for example, requires repetitive inspections at 100-cycle intervals of the inboard flap hinge-box due to incorrectly installed fasteners, and AD 2014-17-51 requires replacement of the fasteners within 24 months.

Some low-utilization operators also complain about intermittent flight control actuator hydraulic leaks. High-utilization operators report no such problems.

On Balance

The Challenger 605 is to Bombardier what the 737NG is to Boeing. It’s an everyday workhorse that offers unbeatable dispatch reliability, widebody cabin comfort and proven system technologies. Nothing exotic or even exciting about this airplane, it’s purely a business transportation tool with bottom-line justification.

Some operators may dream of FADECs, better performing engines, a new wing with slats, new-generation avionics, and sporty climb and high-altitude cruise performance. But when they get a sobering whiff of the additional cost associated with those improvements, they awaken to the reality of staying within their company business aviation budgets.

As long as Bombardier continues to make incremental product improvements and minimizes price increases, including on the new Challenger 650, the prospects for continued market demand remain upbeat for Challenger 600-series aircraft. In the last decade, few large-cabin business aircraft have earned stronger operator loyalty than the Challenger 605. B&CA