NetJets is helping to launch Bombardier’s newest aircraft, the Challenger 350, with a firm order for 75 aircraft and options for 125 that have a total value of $5.4 billion.

Steve Ridolfi, president of Bombardier Business Aircraft, and Jordan Hansell, chairman and CEO of NetJets, on May 20 took the wraps off the $25.9 million Challenger 350, an enhanced version of the class-leading Challenger 300 that first flew on March 2. It’s due to enter service with NetJets, fitted with the fractional operator’s custom Signature Series interior, in May 2014.

Starting next year, NetJets plans to take delivery of eight aircraft in 2014 and as many as 12 each year thereafter if all options are exercised.

“We first started working with Bombardier for two years to define the aircraft, and we signed the contract a year ago. We wanted to be Bombardier’s worldwide launch partner. The aircraft leads its category,” Hansell said at the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition here. He was excited to tell his customers about the aircraft, but was bound to keep it secret until EBACE 2013. He said his customers already told him that the Challenger 300 was the best in class super-midsize jet, but he didn’t disclose that to Bombardier when negotiating the Challenger 350 contract in order to negotiate a better deal.

“Challenger 350 has a totally reworked interior, a new galley, new avionics, larger windows, more thrust, more range and an eight-passenger full-tanks payload,” says Ridolfi. Hansell said he’s known about the aircraft for two years and was excited to tell his customers about it, but was bound by a nondisclosure agreement.

Ridolfi said the Challenger 350 is very much the product of several customer focus group meetings, including with NetJets. Of key importance to operators, 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. It is also about $1 million more expensive than the 300. Notably, Bombardier has delivered more than 400 Challenger 300s and has a backlog of another 100.

The new model, previously known internally as the Challenger 300/M184, will have 20% taller cabin windows plus an interior with redesigned chairs, more ergonomic side ledges and upgraded finishing. It will have considerably more standard cabin equipment, a new modular galley with more options and a new HD cabin management system designed by Lufthansa Technik that enables passengers to control systems with either dedicated touch-screen controllers or remotely with iPads or iPods. Most interior kits will be furnished by Fischer Advanced Composite Components, and cabinets will be built by LIST Components and Furniture. Iridium and Inmarsat satcom systems are optional.

The Challenger 350 has 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 virtually the same as the Challenger 300’s 6,826-lb.-thrust HTF7000 powerplants. Slight hot-section modifications, along with a throttle push in the FADEC software, enable the engine to be uprated with no loss of flat rating, durability or reliability.

Bombardier officials predict that its climb performance will be better than that of the Learjet 60XR, already the hottest climb performer in BCA’s May 2013 Purchase Planning Handbook. Also of importance to operators, the aircraft will be certified for steep approach. Flight testing of the feature is already under way.

Up front, the cockpit will feature Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 Advanced avionics with standard synthetic vision, XM satellite radio weather, paperless charts and Collins MultiScan weather radar. Honeywell will supply dual Laseref IRS, replacing the Rockwell Collins AHRS used aboard the Challenger 300. The Pro Line Fusion FMS will be adapted for Pro Line 21 Advanced avionics. With options, the upgraded avionics suite will support FANS1/A, ADS-B OUT, CPDLC and RNP 0.3.