The First of a Breed…
Near California City, California
April 3rd, 1980
Brainchild of Genius...
design by Bill Lear in 1976, who had resigned as Chairman of Lear Jet seven
years previously, the CL-600 was originally dubbed the '''LearStar 600'''. But
Lear sold exclusive rights to produce and develop the design to Canadair, who
renamed it the '''CL-600 Challenger'''.
While similar in
general configuration to many of Lear's previous designs, several changes were
made that distinguished the new aircraft from the Learjet’s, including a widened
fuselage that allowed a 'walk-about cabin', a feature not shared by any other
business aircraft of the time.
Ship of the Line...
The first Canadair
Limited CL-600 built, serial number 1001 and registered as C-GCGR-X, began
assembly in September of 1977, and proceeded to make its first flight a year
later, on November 8th, 1978, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Powered by two
Avco Lycoming ALF-502L turbofan engines, each with 7,500
foot-pounds of thrust, the “Challenger”, as it would later be known, had a top
speed of 478 knots and a range of nearly 3,500 miles.
On the morning of
April 3, 1980, C-GCGR-X, took on a test flight from Mojave Airport in
California. The routine test flight was slated to evaluate the craft's reactions
to stalls in various configurations.
statements from the surviving co-pilot and flight test engineer, the flight crew
was troubleshooting a noise associated with stalls conducted during previous
flight test activities. A non-scheduled stall was conducted after the scheduled
testing and the plane's angle of attack, the difference between the plane's
flight path and its wing's chord line, increased past the maximum allowance of
All is Lost...
The flight crew
lost control of the Challenger. Following the recovery procedures set in place,
they were unable to regain control, going so far as to, in a last ditch effort,
deploy the plane's emergency spin recovery parachute. Control was temporarily
regained, but now the deployed chute fouled the flight characteristics. Unable
to release the chute, with with the plane's starboard engine failing, the flight
crew was forced to bail out of the doomed aircraft.
The plane impacted
the desert floor near the village of Cantil at 9:10 in the morning. Unfortunately, the pilot, Eric Norman Ronaasen, was killed when his chute failed to deploy, and the copilot, Dave
Gollings, received minor injuries. The flight test engineer, Bill Scott, was not
Months after the
crash, a Canadair flight engineer examined computer information that had been
available before the crash and discovered the banging was caused by an engine
The NTSB, after its
investigation, concluded the probable cause of the accident was a problem with
the angle-of-attack indicator binding, due to a failure in the seals of the
hydraulic system. It also concluded that four separate systems failures had
caused the crash - three of which had plagued the twin-engined jet in earlier
One of these
failures, that of the plane's right engine, had occurred 11 times in the
previous seven months.
The CL-600 design
was certified for flight by both Transport Canada and the
Federal Aviation Administration in 1980, albeit with both handing over some
restrictions to pilots including a limited maximum take-off weight. A large
program to reduce the aircraft's weight was then implemented to improve the