Canadair Challenger 600 series

It is actually not so difficult to recognise a Challenger 600 if you know a Canadair Regional Jet. It is just a short version of it, but the development of course went the other way: the Challenger 600 is actually the ancestor of all CRJs. The CRJs are essentially stretched versions of the Challenger 600 series.

This family started its life as the LearStar 600, designed by the designer of the Learjet. Eventually, Canadair acquired the rights to further develop and build it. All Challenger 600 series aircraft have the same, very streamlined nose with narrow, rounded cockpit windows that keep the same constant height. These bizjets moreover have small rectangular cabin windows. The vertical fin has a straight leading edge, with a small dorsal in fin front, with a small air intake.

Nose of Challenger 600 series, with slim cockpit windows with a constant height. Note that the nose gear is shorter than on the Global family.

All Challenger 600 series have a simple vertical fin with straight edges and a short dorsal fin with an air intake at the front.

Different versions

To differentiate between the subtypes you have to look at

  • the shape of the engine nacelles
  • the shape of the tail cone
  • the rims of the main landing gear wheels
  • the presence of winglets

CL-600-1A11 Challenger 600

The Challenger 600 has two Lycoming engines, that have a single exhaust at the end of the nacelle. The aircraft has no winglets and the tail cone is blunt.

The Canadian Forces have (had) several Challenger 600s with designations CC-144A, CE-144A, CP-144A and CX-144A. These were variant of the Challenger 600, later converted with the winglets of the 600S.

The Challenger 600 is the only version of the family without winglets.

The Lycoming ALF602 engines of Challenger 600 have a single exhaust at the end.

CL-600-1A11 Challenger 600S

The Challenger 600S is an upgrade version of the 600 with as most important external feature the winglets. Therefore easily distinguishable from the Challenger 600.

The Challenger 600S is distinguished from the 600 by its winglets, and from later models by the nacelles.

CL-600-1A12 Challenger 601

The Challenger 601 was the successor of the CL-600(S) with new General Electric CF34-1A engines. It is easily recognisable on the outside due to the new engines, as they have separate exhausts for the fan and the core instead of a common exhaust as with the Lycoming. The tail cone is for sure blunt.

In Canadian military service the CL-601 variant was called CC-144B.

The blunt tail cone makes calling this a Challenger 601 a good guess, and it is one.

The General Electric engines of Challenger 601 and later models have a separate fan and core exhaust.

Confusion possible with

Canadair Regional Jet 100/200

crj100 200

This is the regional jet aircraft that is based on the Challenger 600 series, more precisely the 601 with its blunt tail cone. Externally the biggest difference is the length: the CRJ is much longer than the Challenger 601.

Bombardier Challenger 300/350

cl 300

The Challenger 300/350 looks like its larger sibling, the Challenger 600 series. Look at the cockpit windows to keep them apart. They keep the same height at the 600 series, and become narrower towards the end at the 300/350. Also on all large cabin Challengers - except the 600 and 600S - the engines have a separate fan exhaust, while the Challenger 300/350 has a single exhaust.

CL-600-2B16 Challenger 601-3A & 601-3R

The Challenger 601-3A and Challenger 601-3R also have CF34 engines. In addition most 601‑3As and all 601-3Rs have a pointed, square tail cone, while most 601s have a "blunt" tail cone. The pro­blem lies in the word "most", because the first 601-3As have an old tail cone. The pointed tail cone is available as retrofit for these aircraft, but not all have received this. The rims of the main gear have many small holes, like the Challneger 600, 600S and 601.

The main gear wheel rims of the Challenger 601-3R and earlier models have many holes.

The Challenger 601-3R has a more pointed, square tail cone than the Challenger 601.

A detail photo of the square, more pointed tail cone of the Challenger 601-3R and 604.

CL-600-2B16 Challenger 604

This version resembles its predecessor, the Challenger 601-3R, in many ways. However, you can recognise the subtype by the wheels of the main landing gear. These have rims with seven large holes, while the older Challengers have no holes or a lot of small ones. Just look at the pictures, and you will see the difference!

The US Coast Guard has flown a Challenger 604 under the designation C-143A. The Canadian air force designation is CC-144C.

From a distance it is quite difficult to distinguish this Challenger 604 from a 601-3R.

The main wheel rims of Challenger 604 and later have seven large holes. This is the key feature.

CL-600-2B16 Challenger 605 & 650

Starting with the Challenger 605 the aircraft has a more rounded conical tail cone than the 601-3R and 604, but is still more pointed than that of the 600/601. Also the windows are bit larger, but that is difficult to observe.

The Challenger 650 is externally the same as the 605, but has a redesigned interior cabin, more advanced flight deck and an increased take-off thrust. The latter is in service with the Canadian military as CC-144D.

When you compare closely, you might see that this Challenger 605 has slightly larger cabin windows than the 604 above.

The still pointed, but more rounded tail cone of Challenger 605 & 650 is their main recognition point.