Not long after Raytheon’s announcement of the Hawker Horizon development program, Bombardier embarked upon a two-year clandestine super-midsize engineering program. Bombardier’s $14.25 million Continental was unveiled at the 1998 NBAA Convention and officially launched at the 1999 Paris Air Show. First metal was cut in October 1999 as Bombardier rushed toward a planned June 2001 first flight, September 2002 type certification and December 2002 customer deliveries.

Market focus groups told Bombardier they wanted much the same performance characteristics as the Hawker Horizon offered. In response, Bombardier projected that the Continental would be able to fly eight passengers 3,100 nm at Mach 0.80 and land with NBAA IFR reserves. That range performance would assure transcontinental U.S. range against 80-plus kt. headwinds. It would need less than 5,000 ft. of runway for takeoff, assuming standard day conditions and it would have rock bottom direct operating costs because of a maintenance friendly, MSG-3 design.

Of prime importance to its legacy customers, the Continental would have a significantly wider cross section than its archrival Hawker Horizon. Its cabin would measure 7.1 ft. wide and 6.0 ft. high. It also would feature a flat floor, full-service galley, full-width aft lav and inflight accessible baggage compartment. The main cabin would feature double club seating in two areas.

John Holding, Bombardier’s head of engineering, endowed the new aircraft with a generously sized wing and ample thrust engines. The Continental would be the launch customer for AlliedSignal’s new 7,000-lb-thrust class AS907 turbofan, an engine that balanced low maintenance costs and high reliability with good fuel efficiency.

The Continental would feature a four-screen Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics suite with full EICAS. While the system is quite capable, Bombardier and Collins froze the configuration without making provisions for an optional synthetic vision system, HUD or enhanced vision system.

To minimize development risk, the Continental would embrace proven technologies, similar to the Astra IV. Holding specified conventional aluminum monocoque construction for the airframe. The Continental also would feature an all-DC, split bus electrical system powered by two brushless generators, two independent hydraulic systems and a brake-by-wire system using carbon heat packs and a single air cycle machine refrigeration pack.

Along the way to certification, Bombardier encountered a few snags that delayed the program by a few months. But there were no major showstoppers on the way to certification. While sorting out the snags, Montreal renamed the aircraft Challenger 300 in an attempt to give it a more up-market image.

Simultaneously, AlliedSignal, then merged with Honeywell, encountered some engine reliability problems that could have irked early operators and perhaps delayed certification. Honeywell announced that the certification date was being rolled back so the engineers could improve durability. In the process, Honeywell scrubbed the AlliedSignal AS907 engine name and dubbed it the HTF7000. The engineering delay proved valuable. When the Challenger 300 entered service in late 2003, the HTF7000 proved to produce more cruise thrust than forecast and also achieve better fuel efficiency.

Soon, operators became Bombardier’s best sales force. They boasted that the aircraft would climb directly to FL 430 and cruise at Mach 0.82 or faster. They could fly eight passengers from coast to coast at Mach 0.80, just as Bombardier promised. And the aircraft proved to be exceptionally reliable.

Operators also said they loaded up the aircraft with optional equipment. That resulted in a payload of only four passengers with full fuel. Each additional passenger costs about 50 to 60 mi. of range, so the Challenger 300 has an eight-passenger range that’s close to 3,000 nm, which is still impressive for this class of aircraft.

Bombardier has delivered more than 300 Challenger 300 aircraft and its sales success has encouraged it to bump up the asking price. Typically equipped, the Challenger 300 now is priced at above $25 million.