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Business Aviation Industry Focus: The Canadair CL600

by Jeremy Cox 1. February 2009 00:00
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The overall story of the Challenger program that began with Bill Lears' 'Learstar 600' can be described as an epic, when one understands how many politicians and industrialists have had a hand its destiny. The seeds of this remarkable story were first planted in 1911 when the Canadian Government invited Great Britain's Vickers Company to establish a shipbuilding division (Canadian Vickers, Ltd.) in the Province of Quebec in Montreal, Canada. In 1923 the Canadian government issued a contract to Canadian Vickers for the production of the parent companies Viking Flying Boat. This contract was a precipitous event as it signalled the formal beginning of the Canadian aircraft production industry. Shortly before the end of World War II, the Canadian government effectively nationalized their growing licensed aircraft production industry by establishing Canadair, Ltd. This new entity would later slowly gobble up most of the independent aircraft manufacturers in Canada, but long before this occurred while the Canadair (Canadian Licence)'CL' line was being established, first with the Douglas DC3 series, a deal was struck for a private company to come in and buy the organization out. The buyer was the U.S. submarine manufacturer: the 'Electric Boat Company', which was allowed to purchase the controlling interest in Canadair as a part of other high-level political defence industry manoeuvres.

After much success in both the aircraft and submarine manufacturing business, the Electric Boat Company purchased the U.S. based aircraft manufacturer, Convair. They then reorganized both of their acquisition corporations and promptly renamed the parent company, General Dynamics. Both Canadair and Convair continued as independent subsidiaries of its parent, until surprisingly the Canadian government purchased Canadair back from General Dynamics in 1976. By then Canadair was firmly established as the world's leading manufacturer of flying boats (CL215 and CL415 water fire bombers), an accolade which it still holds today in its most recent corporate iteration, but I digress.

Wanting to expand it's newly recaptured aircraft manufacturer, the Canadian government began a search for a suitable civilian jet aircraft design that it could build to move Canadair laterally within the General Aviation business, as the manufacturer was struggling to succeed in such a small niche market. Fortunately the legendary businessman and aircraft designer, William 'Bill' Lear, Senior was looking for a way to finance his latest design, the Learstar 600. Both the Canadian government and Bill Lear were quick to cement a deal whereby Canadair Corporation would build the Learstar under licence. Unfortunately as the new project quickly evolved into a prototype aircraft, Bill Lear's dominant and somewhat erratic personality eventually soured the deal, and he was bought off and removed from the company by Canadair's outright purchase of his brainchild Learstar 600 design. The aircraft was then promptly renamed the 'Challenger.'

The final production version of the CL600 featured two AVCO Lycoming ALF-502L turbofan engines that each delivered 7,500 lbs of take-off thrust. A 36,000 Lb MGTOW was planned for the aircraft, but this was not actually achieved until certain design flaws had been fixed later on into the program. The rated service ceiling was 40,000, which later increased to 41,000 feet. The single greatest feature of the aircraft was its cabin size.

The launch customer for the Canadair Challenger was, with the help of aircraft marketing guru, James 'Jack' Taylor to be Arkansas based, Fred Smith's Federal Express Corporation. After establishing his new private small package, parcel and letter delivery service with the Mystére Falcon 20, Fred was looking for the next aircraft that would afford his very successful delivery service greater range and capacity. The Challenger looked like it was the ideal successor to the Falcon, so a contract was signed for the initial purchase of 25 aircraft.

The first Challenger flew in late November 1978. Two other flight-test aircraft were quickly brought on line thereafter. Unfortunately Bill Lear's supercritical wing design used on the Challenger proved that it was highly prone to collect significant amounts of ice under the certain weather conditions. This aerodynamic flaw later contributed to the disastrous crash of the first prototype aircraft during testing. It was caught in an unrecoverable deep stall. One of the test pilots failed to parachute to safety and was killed. This tragedy along with other design issues prevented full type certification to be issued, in-line with the supply requirements specified in the contract with Federal Express (FedEx.) Therefore the first Challenger entered service with the Canadian Government instead of with FedEx.

The first production aircraft were delivered with severe restrictions, including the lack of approval to fly in known icing conditions, a maximum speed restriction, and any use of the Thrust Reversers prohibited. Also since the initial production run of 25 aircraft were originally destined for freight operations with FedEx, they were somewhat tailor-made for carrying cargo bins instead of people. The forward main entry door was more like a cargo door, as it opened upwards and the cabin aft of the entryway afforded a uniform parallel tube that incorporated a flat floor from front to back, in which cargo bins could be slid in. This cabin design was not suitable for the carriage of executives in any level of expected comfort, so Canadair worked hard to iron out their initial design flaws and to also create a suitable executive cabin design that would allow the aircraft to be sold to civilian clients instead of just to its own military. The upward opening entrance door was redesigned on serial number 1026 and subsequent, and became a conventional downward opening, integral air-stair door design, which also allowed the separate scissor action stairs to be thrown off all subsequent models.  

Fortunately Canadair managed to continue signing orders even with the problems at hand. And once the technical restrictions were lifted and the aircraft was fully certified, individuals and corporations alike rapidly warmed to the wide-body style of cabin that the Challenger offered above all of its competitors. The problem of providing suitable executive interior options, as well as keeping their deliveries in step with the delivery positions that they had sold, Canadair elected to follow the example of Avions Marcel Dassault with their Mystére Falcon 20, by outsourcing the majority of all of the interior completions required on their CL600, to qualified sub-contracting companies around the World. By 1982 there 25 approved completion centres that were capable of providing completions and final deliveries.

Over the next three years after the Type Certificate was issued to Canadair by the FAA, the 2 remaining prototypes became sister ships to 82 more Challenger 600s. Then the Lycoming engines, which unfortunately proved to be the true Achilles heel of the Challenger, were replaced by the much larger, 9,140 Lb take-off thrust General Electric CF-34-1A engines. This heralded the birth of the vastly improved and successful Challenger CL601 series. 

The last twist in the somewhat bizarre ownership story of Canadair took place in 1986 when Bombardier, a private Canadian company founded by the inventor of the Snowmobile bought Canadair from the Canadian government. There is probably no need to expound on the immense success that the aircraft division of Bombardier has achieved, but it would be remiss of me not to mention that in 1990 after having purchased all of the assets of DeHavilland Canada, and Short Brothers, Eire, Bombardier ironically purchased the Gates Learjet Corporation, thus figuratively completing the circle of business aircraft design first started by the late Bill Lear in the late 1950's.

Next month we shall take a look at the condition of the current marketplace and how it has been effected by the global recession.

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Jeremy Cox

Petition For Reconsideration: Asking the NTSB to Change Its Mind

by Greg Reigel 1. February 2009 00:00
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What happens if an airman believes the National Transportation Safety Board ("NTSB") decided his or her case incorrectly? Does the airman have any recourse, short of appealing the NTSB's decision to the United States Court of Appeals? In this situation, the airman may file a "Petition for Reconsideration" that, in essence, asks the NTSB to change its mind. As you might imagine, the success rate for such petitions is limited and a review of the petition's requirements explains the limitations of this procedure.

When A Petition May Be Filed

Filing of a "Petition for Reconsideration and Request for Oral Argument" is governed by 49 C.F.R. § 821.50. Section 821.50(a) provides that any party, including the FAA or a certificate holder, to a proceeding "may petition the Board for rehearing, reargument, reconsideration or modification of a Board order on appeal from a law judge's initial decision or order." The petitioner must file the petition with the Board within 30 days after the date of service of the Board's order on appeal from the Administrative Law Judge's ("ALJ") initial decision or order.

Not An Opportunity To Simply Repeat Arguments

Section 821.50(c) requires that the petition "state briefly and specifically the matters of record alleged to have been erroneously decided, and the ground or grounds relied upon." Section 821.50(d) further provides that the Board will not consider, and will summarily dismiss, repetitious petitions for reconsideration.

So, the airman needs to not only identify the specific issue(s) that the airman believes the Board decided incorrectly, but the airman must also explain the legal basis for the airman's assertion that the Boards decision is in error. Unfortunately, this is very similar to what the airman argued, or should have argued, when the underlying decision by the ALJ was initially appealed to the full Board. Although the arguments at that stage focused on the ALJ's determination of the issues, in most cases those same issues are before the Board when it first decides the case. As a result, after the Board decides the issues, it is difficult to assert the same arguments in a petition for reconsideration without being repetitious.

Many petitions for reconsideration are denied on the basis that they are repetitious of the arguments made by the airman in his or her initial appeal to the Board. Although the arguments in the petition may be more articulate than the arguments made in the initial appeal or may rephrase those arguments, if the underlying issues to be determined by the Board are the same, the Board will deny the petition as repetitious.

And it isn't too hard to understand why. A petition containing repetitious arguments is simply asking the Board to change its mind. Without more, the Board, like most adjudicative bodies, is not likely to simply reverse its decision and, in effect, admit that it was wrong. However, it is possible to give the Board additional information that is not repetitious of the initial appeal.

"New Matters" May Be Argued

Under Section 821.50, an airman may submit arguments in his or her petition based upon new matters provided the arguments are substantiated through affidavits, prospective witnesses, authenticated documents, or both. If such substantiation is unavailable, the airman must explain why that substantiation is unavailable. However, Section 821.50(c) qualifies this opportunity by requiring that an airman "explain why such new matter could not have been discovered in the exercise of due diligence prior to the date on which the evidentiary record closed."

In evaluating a "new matter," the Board requires that the airman must have exercised due diligence in preparing his or her case, whether for the hearing before the ALJ or in connection with an appeal to the Board. If the Board determines that the airman's due diligence would have or should have produced the new evidence the Board will not consider the evidence as a basis for reconsideration of its initial decision.

For example, when an airman discovers that the FAA will be presenting testimony of an individual at the hearing before the ALJ, proper due diligence requires that the airman not only prepare to address the witness's testimony, but to also investigate the witness and prepare evidence that may impeach the credibility of the witness and the witness's testimony. If the airman does not perform this investigation in preparation for the hearing, but later discovers impeaching evidence and attempts to argue that evidence in a petition for reconsideration, the Board will not consider that evidence because proper due diligence, in the Board's opinion, would have discovered the evidence. Thus, it is not new evidence.

In most instances, the airman's presentation of a "new matter" in his or her petition will not satisfy this due diligence requirement. The Board assumes and, indeed, requires that an airman prepares for and presents all available arguments when his or her case is tried before the ALJ. As a result, only evidence that was truly not available or discoverable through proper due diligence will be considered by the Board.


A petition for reconsideration is a limited opportunity to ask the Board to reverse its decision. It is an alternative an airman may, but is not required to pursue prior to appealing a decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals. However, in order to succeed, the airman will need to either prove that the Board's decision was legally incorrect or to present truly new evidence upon which the Board could base a reversal of its decision. In either situation, this is a difficult burden to meet.

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Greg Reigel

Market Business Aviation

by David Wyndham 1. February 2009 00:00
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The past few months have not been kind to business aviation. The recession has hit everyone and general aviation is no exception. Sales fell off the cliff last fall taking residual values with it. And the non-aviation press is using business aviation as the poster-child for corporate greed and largess. First up for the hit were the Big-Three automakers. Next came any TARP funded folks. Several long time flight departments have closed and many more are shedding some of their aircraft. Just this past week Citi and Starbucks, under public and probably shareholder pressure, turned away their new business jets (no telling how many millions of dollars each will lose).

The NBAA is fighting the good fight, but they need our help. Somehow, the "public" has this impression of business aviation being made up of large business jets being used solely for entertainment. Yes, there is personal and entertainment use of business aircraft (Super Bowl anyone?). Yes, there are times when the aircraft is a corporate perk. But those are the small minority of the uses of these aircraft. Let's bust some myths!

Myth #1. Business aircraft are only for the "fat cats." The vast majority of business use aircraft are used to save time by senior executives, and for teams of workers, too. Productivity is important across the board, especially in lean economic times. But, "King Air Lands at Small Airport and Offloads Road Engineers" is not much of a headline. Those global jets are used to fly all over the globe. They can turn a weeklong trip via the airlines into a two-night trip.

Myth #2. Business aircraft means big jets flown by one or two people. The majority of the NBAA membership is made up of small flight departments. Many of those operate small jets, turboprops and pistons. They operate under tight budgets, face layoffs, and work very hard at getting people where the need to be when they need to be there. We need to show them "Joe the Flying Plumber."

Myth 3#. Getting rid of business aircraft is going to save a lot of money. I seriously doubt that. So the big company dumps the corporate jet. The next thing they do is to charter (good for the charter companies for sure). The need is still there. Even if folks start taking the (air)bus, how productive will they be? Whether it is an auto executive trying to mange plants, vendors and customers all over the world, or a small company with jobs scattered all over the state, aircraft make sense. Companies who lose the flexibility and productivity a business aircraft affords now must spend more time on the road and will have even less time to be productive and earn money.

What can we do? Ed Bolen at NBAA writes a great letter, but things would be better if those letters came from users. Especially the small companies with one aircraft. Invite the press to visit your airport. Show them how many jobs there are at the local airport. Remind them that the local airport is an attractive selling point to attract a new business to the area. Remind them that the Mooney on the ramp is a business aircraft, too.

Aviation means jobs, means productivity, and the vast majority of business aircraft are used for legitimate, necessary business purposes. For many, the aircraft is an essential business tool. Being proactive and framing the issue on our terms will have a lot more success than always being on the defensive.

"We need policymakers to advance proposals that allow companies in business aviation to survive and keep people working.

You can send Congress this reminder with a new e-mail message NBAA has prepared for use through the Association's online Contact Congress resource. Contact Congress - which has helped our industry make its collective voice heard on user fees, onerous TARP proposals, and other issues - is quick and easy to use.

I invite you to send your message to Congress today by accessing Contact Congress at www.nbaa.org/advocacy/contact." -Ed Bolen, President and CEO National Business Aviation Association

*Please see Ed Bolen's letter to the NBAA Membership. Please go to www.nbaa.org/advocacy/contact. click on TELL CONGRESS OF THE VALUE OF BUSINESS AVIATION and complete the short form so that the appropriate congressman receives your letter which is available for viewing before you submit it. Thank you.  

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David Wyndham


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