Bombardier Inc. confirmed yesterday the passenger door on a Challenger 601-1A 10-passenger business jet fell off the aircraft shortly after takeoff late Monday from Grand Junction Regional Airport in Colorado.
The aircraft, more than 20 years old, landed safely at the airport and no one was hurt. The incident occurred at about 4 p.m. The aircraft´s registered owner is WFP Investments.
"We just can´t speculate on what was the cause," said Leo Knaapen, manager of public affairs at Bombardier Business Aircraft. "But we do know the Challenger is an extremely rugged and reliable aircraft with a top safety record."
U.S. Federal Aviation Administration investigators arrived at the airport yesterday morning.
"We´re in contact with the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board, standing by for further direction. ... We haven´t yet sent our own people."
More than 65 twin-engined Challenger 601-1As were built at the former Canadair plant in Montreal between May 1983, and May 1987, so the aircraft in the Colorado incident is at least 20 years old, Knaapen said. The structural parts, including the passenger door, were all made inhouse.
The 601-1A business jet was developed from the Challenger 600 (first flight 1980), which in turn was based on the original concepts of famed U.S. aircraft designer Bill Lear. Bombardier bought Canadair in 1986 and its highly successful 50-passenger regional jets were developed from the 601-1A.
The business jet was followed by the much improved 601-3A and the 604 and the 605 series that are assembled today at Bombardier´s Dorval plant.
"The Challenger fleet has chalked up 3.6 million flight hours and 2.2 million landings and has a 99.8-per-cent dispatch reliability rate," Knaapen said. "About 750 of them are flying worldwide for private operators, governments and charter lines."
There have been several accidents over the years, with some fatalities, but their safety record is right at the top of the corporate aviation record, he added. On another front, he FAA yesterday ordered inspections of all older Boeing narrowbody 737s because a faulty bolt could cause fuel leaks.
The order covers 650 737s in the U.S, and 3,500 worldwide.