Tom Horne

To the challenger

March 28, 2008 by Thomas A. Horne, Editor At Large

Flew up to Windsor Locks, Connecticut’s Bradley International last week—to fly the Challenger 605. After a particularly bad recent airline experience, I was determined to fly Tom Haines’s A36 Bonanza to BDL. Got up at 4 a.m. for the briefing and guess what—icing Airmets from the surface to FL180.

Checked a few of my favorite other weather websites and figured out I’d have a shot at it if I could leave home base at Frederick, Maryland, and climb to on top conditions by Lancaster, PA. Got to 11,000 feet for an ice-free ride the rest of the enroute segment.

With me was senior photographer Mike Fizer, a great shooter but one who I am determined to cure of his mike fright. (He’s not a pilot, but might as well be, what with all his years in GA airplanes). We were both quite entertained by the wind conditions at BDL. For our arrival, the ATIS offered 310-350 degrees of wind at 29 gusting to 40. A DC-9 ahead of us reported a loss of 15 knots on short final. Would the same fate await us?

You bet. On a one-mile final the bottom fell out, and it took full power to preserve altitude.

Flying the 605

Bombardier did a great job setting up the press flights—four magazines were represented: AIN, Flight International, and Plein Vol, a Quebecois magazine. Our 605 was set to arrive—fresh from a customer demo in South America—but there was a snag. The crew ran out of duty time. Annie Cossette, Bombardier’s media relations rep, handled this with aplomb, and the next morning found me strapped into the 605’s humongous cockpit, steering toward the active at BDL using tiller and brakes to do my best to make the flight start smoothly. Insurance against any future blunders, I hoped.

Though it’s a big (48,200 MTOW), fast (470 knots), long-legged (3,732 nm at high-speed cruise) the 605 responds the way you’d expect. It’s a tad heavy on the controls, but that’s about it for idiosyncrasies. And anyway, wouldn’t you expect this size airplane to have a heavier control feel? In back, it’s leather-swaddled luxury for nine, complete with Airshow, DVDs, internet access, satphone, and a more ergo-friendly toilet than the 604’s. Nuf said.

For me, there were two big attractions in the front office. One was the autothrottles. Select a speed, and a ghostly hand moves the thrust levers so as to capture it. The Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics are another great feature, what with their many views, including approach, departure, and arrival charts, to name a few. Now, if I ever get enough time in a Pro Line 21-equipped airplane I’ll some day master the FMS—a personal goal I doubt will be achieved.

Odd, but though the 605 uses XM datalink weather, you have to use request-reply to obtain it. That means delays in image or text reception in the cockpit.

My autothrottle takeoff produced shove-in-the-seat acceleration. Just line up, hit the ATS button, and up come the levers. Better be ready!

Demonstration pilot Yves Tessier tolerated my transgressions, and the one-hour sessions ended with an acceptably-firm landing back at BDL. The trick: do a “half-flare” at the 30-foot callout, and hold it. (The autothrottles cut out at 50 feet, if you’re doing an autothrottle landing.) It may look like you’re about to spear the runway thanks to the 605’s windshield slope and raked nose, but have no fear.

I’ll have a bit more to say about the 605 in a future article in AOPA Pilot. Links to Fizer’s inflight videos will also be on AOPA’s Web site.

Until then, strap down, listen up, and use The Force ….. that’s what I did in the 605 ….

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