Operators who flew conventional midsize aircraft before they stepped up into the Challenger 300 tend to view it quite favorably. Those who added it to fleets of large-cabin aircraft are more sparing with their praise. But virtually all operators said the aircraft has been remarkably reliable and it's getting better. Dispatch reliability ranked near the top of their five favorite features about the aircraft with both commercial and private operators.

Comparatively low direct operating cost is another strong characteristic. One firm said that it charges back to users a cost per mile that's close to half that of a G550 it operates.

The aircraft has a rugged, semi-mono–coque aluminum airframe and relatively simple systems, not unlike those of a Learjet. The electrical system, for instance, is a 28-volt DC design. But it's powered by long-life brushless generators rather than starter-generators that require overhauling at 1,000 hr. Jet pumps transfer fuel from tank to tank and supply the engines. DC boost pumps supply pressure for starting. The hydraulic system powers the usual utility functions, such as landing gear, thrust reversers and wheel brakes. Unlike that on Learjets, the system also powers the Challenger 300's nosewheel steering and power control actuators for the rudder and elevators. Both aircraft have hydraulically actuated multifunction spoilers.

The Challenger 300 has a brake-by-wire system with carbon heat packs rated for 2,000 landings. That arrangement results in fewer shop visits for brake overhauls and more time in service. Pilots smile when discussing the aircraft's stopping performance, especially when compared to that of midsize legacy Learjets.

Runway performance, especially when departing hot-and-high airports, is another favorite with operators. The Challenger 300 has a large, 522-sq.-ft. wing and strong performing Honeywell HTF7000 turbofans. It needs only 4,810 ft. of runway when departing sea-level ISA airports and 6,860 ft. of pavement at BCA's 5,000-ft. elevation, ISA+20C airport. The APU may be used to pressurize the cabin to conserve engine thrust for maximum performance takeoffs from hot-and-high locations. Airport performance is second only to that of the sprightly Gulfstream G280.

Cabin size and passenger comfort rank high with operators. Overall cabin length is 23.7 ft. and the main seating area is 16.5 ft. long. The standard double club seating layout comfortably accommodates eight passengers. Some operators have chosen to swap out two facing chairs for the optional three-place divan to accommodate nine, except for landing and takeoff. For a ninth passenger, the aircraft must be equipped with a belted potty seat used for occupation during takeoff and landing.

The aircraft's flat floor, as opposed to the dropped aisle found on many midsize jets, along with its 105-cu.-ft. aft baggage compartment — again, accessible in flight — get high passenger marks as well.

The cabins of early aircraft weren't especially quiet and the furnishings were comparatively spartan, but Bombardier subsequently upgraded cabin amenities, expanded outfitting choices and made available an optional sound suppression kit. Operators also say the optional 80-lb. pocket doors for the bulkhead between the galley and main seating area are quite effective in reducing wind noise from the entry door.

Passengers who alternate between large-cabin, intercontinental-range aircraft and the Challenger 300 seem perfectly at ease in the latter despite its more compact size because cabin cross sections of both are nearly the same.

Several flight department managers said the aircraft provides large-cabin aircraft passenger comfort without the ramp presence “optics” of a heavy-iron jet.

Pilots, overall, gave the Challenger 300's Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 cockpit and avionics suite high marks. The instrument panel has four, portrait configuration, 12- by-10-in. flat-panel displays. The outer two screens are PFDs, while the inner pair function as navigation and EICAS displays. Features include systems synoptic diagrams and electronic checklists. FMS programming is straightforward, embracing user interface conventions favored by many airline pilots. Flight department managers also said avionics reliability is top notch.

But pilots said that the autopilot tends to wander in pitch when climbing while using the flight level change mode. They prefer to use the vertical speed mode because it's more comfortable for passengers.

They also say that when flying the aircraft by hand it has a somewhat numb on-center pitch and roll feel, plus rather heavy roll control forces. It handles more like a large-cabin Challenger 604 than a midsize Learjet, they say.

Flight crews also note that, prior to starting the APU before engine start, it's essential to power up the electrical system and let the avionics system run through the built-in tests, a hands-off period. It takes a few moments for the system to prepare itself for pilot inputs. Start tapping too soon and the BIT check may fail, thereby requiring a shutdown and reboot.

Operators credit Bombardier's customer service with marked improvement since the Challenger 300 made its debut. But they also say parts support still isn't yet to the high standard set by Gulfstream.

They also say that while Bombardier has upped its spec BOW for the aircraft to 23,850 lb., that's still not representative of most typically equipped aircraft, especially ones flown on transatlantic missions or between North and South America. And thanks to the Challenger 300's operating economics versus large-cabin aircraft, that represents an ever-growing number. The BOWs for aircraft equipped for international missions typically range between 24,400 and 24,800 lb., particularly if they're fitted with deluxe forward galleys and the hefty weight, backup hydraulically driven motor generator.

Operators also say Bombardier needs to offer an alternative progressive maintenance inspection program that would allow them to break up large maintenance tasks into small chunks that mostly could be accomplished during overnight layovers.