Boeing’s proposed small Maritime Surveillance Aircraft (MSA) demonstrator had its first flight last week, the company said Wednesday.

Boeing is developing the surveillance aircraft using the Bombardier Challenger 604 business jet as a platform to carry the high-tech military sensor systems it developed for the U.S. Navy’s much larger, 737-based P-8 Poseidon jet.

The Challenger business jet’s airframe was modified for its military mission by Field Aviation of Cincinnati, Ohio, adjusting the jet’s structure to accommodate radar, camera, communications and electronic sensor systems.

On its four-hour maiden flight Feb. 28 from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, its “performance was right on the money,” said Field Aviation test pilot Craig Tylski.

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The demonstrator was then flown to a Boeing facility in Yuma, Ariz., where Field Aviation will conduct further airworthiness flights over the next two months.

Once those are complete, the aircraft will fly to Seattle, where Boeing will install and test the MSA sensor and communications missions systems at its Marginal Way facilities.

Unlike its much larger P-8 cousin, the Boeing MSA will carry only surveillance equipment, not weapons. It is expected to sell for around $60M, less than a third of the cost of a P-8A airplane.

Dominic Gates: (206) 464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com