Bombardier is upgrading its hot-selling Challenger 300, giving the follow-on model a more luxurious interior, more thrust and a considerably more tanks-full payload. NetJets, the launch customer for the Challenger 350, has signed for up to 200 aircraft in a contract with a potential value of $5.4 billion.

The new model first flew on March 2; it is due to enter service in May 2014.

The original so-called super-midsize business jet when it began service in 2004, the Challenger 300 has proven to be one of the manufacturer's strongest products with 400 delivered to date, according to Guy Hachey, president/COO of Bombardier Aerospace.

The Challenger 350, he says, is “the natural evolution of a very successful program” and clearly meant to help secure Bombardier's lead in what has become a more crowded field that now includes the Gulfstream G280, Falcon 2000S and Embraer Legacy 500/450.

The new Challenger is priced at $25.9 million and was unveiled at the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition held here May 21-23. The aircraft will have 20% taller cabin windows, more standard cabin equipment, a modular galley and a Lufthansa Technik high-definition cabin management system that offers touch-screen controls. iPads or iPods. Iridium and Inmarsat satcom systems will be optional.

The 350 boasts a strengthened wing, more span, canted winglets and Honeywell HTF7350 turbofans with 7.3% more takeoff thrust. Internally, the 7,323-lb.-thrust engines are the same as the Challenger 300's 6,826-lb.-thrust HTF7000s. Slight hot-section modifications, along with a throttle push in the Fadec (full-authority digital engine control) software, enable the engine to be uprated with no loss of flat rating, durability or reliability.

Bombardier predicts the aircraft will have exceptional climb performance and be certified for steep approaches.

Of key importance, the new model will have 900 lb. more tanks-full payload than the Challenger 300, an aircraft that can carry only four passengers with full fuel when typically outfitted. The 350 also costs about $1 million more.

The flight deck will feature Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 advanced avionics, XM satellite radio weather, paperless charts and Collins MultiScan weather radar. Honeywell will supply dual Laseref inertial reference systems, replacing the Rockwell Collins system used onboard the Challenger 300, and a Pro Line Fusion flight-management system. With options, the upgraded avionics suite will support FANS1/A, ADS-B OUT, controller-pilot data link communications and required naviagtion procedures 0.3.

The NetJets contract includes a firm order for 75 aircraft and options for 125 more. The fractional aircraft operator plans to take delivery of eight aircraft in 2014 and as many as 12 each year thereafter if all options are exercised.