When the Challenger 300 entered service in early 2004, Bombardier faced little competition in the super-midsize class. The Hawker 4000 (nee Horizon) program was mired in problems and the Gulfstream 200 (nee Galaxy, nee Astra IV) was hamstrung by its anemic airport and climb performance. Bombardier owned the niche and Challenger 300 deliveries soared.

But now two strong competitors are emerging. The 3,600-nm range Gulfstream 280 overcomes virtually all the deficiencies of its G200 predecessor. Recently certified, that aircraft has the strongest performance in the super-midsize class, along with the largest cabin and aft baggage compartment, the most range and the best fuel efficiency.

As more Challenger 300 operators fly internationally, the G280 could prove to be an attractive alternative because of its 400+ nm range advantage and higher tanks-full payload when typically equipped.

From Embraer, the 3,000-nm EMB-550 Legacy 500 arrives this year. It has full fly-by-wire flight controls, and about the same cross section as the Challenger 300, but its cabin is about a foot shorter. While the range of the Brazilian jet is 200 mi. less than that of the Challenger 300, it offers even better runway performance on equal-range missions. And although it doesn't provide inflight access to the aft baggage compartment, it does have a 40-cu.-ft. aft internal luggage bay behind the lavatory.

When compared to the Challenger 300's flight deck, both the EMB-550 and G280 have considerably more advanced avionics suites, ones that offer standard auto-throttles, synthetic vision and optional head-up displays with IR cameras, along with WAAS LPV approach capabilities, RNP 0.3, CPDLC and ADS-B functionality. Both of the new competitors have standard or optional auto brake systems and both have better equipped standard galleys, higher pressurization and high-capacity vacuum lavatories.

Challenger 300 operators note, however, that Bombardier has been continuously upgrading the aircraft and periodically introduces block point upgrades. The next block point upgrade begins with serial number 20405 this year. Laser IRS will become the standard AHRS, synthetic vision will become available for the Pro Line 21 PFDs, a HUD will be offered as an option and close to a dozen other functions will be added to the avionics systems, operators say.

The 2013 block point upgrade has been an effective sales tool. Some operators of older Challenger 300s are increasing the size of their fleets by adding these new aircraft. They've grown very loyal to the Bombardier super midsize jet because of its proven value as a reliable business transportation asset, and they're not likely to switch brands.

Bombardier also has shown plenty of pricing flexibility, while Gulfstream has been much tougher on holding to book listings and thus appears to have given the Challenger 300 a significant price advantage.

The Canadian jet also could be price competitive with the Brazilian alternative, depending upon how Embraer prices optional equipment. The Legacy 500 currently carries a base price of just under $20 million, but options could increase typical retail prices by 10% or more.

For now, the Challenger 300 continues to dominate the super-midsize class. “It's done everything as Bombardier advertised,” says one flight department manager.

He and other operators say it would take heady persuasion from competitors to make them abandon their Canadian jets for ones built elsewhere. BCA