The Challenger 300 is a tough act to follow. When it made its debut in late 2003, it instantly became a modern day and more affordable successor to the Gulfstream II, with plenty of thrust, a generously sized wing and sporty performance. Similar to the GII, it had transcontinental U.S. range, a flat floor, room for eight in a double club cabin, inflight baggage access and rock-solid reliability. If it had wide oval cabin windows and a heavy-iron price tag, people might have thought it was built in Savannah, Ga., rather than Montreal.

It sold in record numbers, because at the time, it faced scant competition. The Gulfstream G200, for instance, was its closest competitor based upon cabin dimensions but not performance numbers. The Hawker 4000 was another potential competitor, but 10 years of teething problems put it out of the race. The Canadian champ also bested the Dassault Falcon 50EX, which was sidelined because of high operating costs.

The Challenger 300’s blend of cabin comfort, performance, operating economics and dispatch reliability indeed proved to be unmatched by any other midsize or super-midsize jet for the better part of a decade. Buyers voted with their wallets. Bombardier sold and delivered more than 450 Challenger 300s through mid-2014.

But now the super-midsize market has changed and competition is tougher. Considerably more-capable aircraft have emerged, such as Gulfstream’s spirited G280, Embraer’s high-tech Legacy 500 and Textron Aviation’s thoroughly updated Citation Sovereign+ and Citation X.

Facing new threats, the Challenger 300 was no longer guaranteed an unassailable lead. Bombardier sized up the competition and decided there was no need to launch a clean-sheet replacement for the Challenger 300.

Instead, the Canadian firm focused on specific improvements that customers said they wanted. Engineers evolved the Challenger 300 into a new model with improved avionics, more-powerful engines, new winglets and nicer cabin amenities. They also boosted maximum weights by up to 1,750 lb. and increased spec basic operating weight to a realistic level based upon typical customer options.

The result is the Challenger 350, an aircraft that does virtually everything better than its predecessor. It’s also an aircraft that’s priced only $1.68 million higher while providing a significant step up in value. Here’s what has changed and what’s retained from the Challenger 300.

Structure and Systems

The Challenger 350’s pair of canted winglets is one of the most obvious modifications to the aircraft. They not only have a less acute angle that reduces transonic drag, but they also increase span by 5.2 ft., thereby increasing aspect ratio and overall wing area. This enables the new aircraft to climb higher and cruise more efficiently in spite of its greater weight.

As with the Challenger 300’s winglets, these are all-composite structures. Meanwhile, the main wing is retained with few changes.

The new cabin windows present a more subtle change. Two inches longer, the transparencies let in 12% more ambient light and make it easier for passengers to view what’s below the aircraft. The rest of the fuselage remains unchanged. Both the wing and fuselage are semi-monocoque aluminum structures.

The flight control system remains unchanged as well. Small, manually actuated, outboard ailerons provide natural aerodynamic control feel. Each wing has four fly-by-wire (FBW), hydraulically actuated multifunction spoiler panels. The outer two panels function as roll spoilers that augment roll control authority and multi-position speed brakes. All four panels on each wing act as ground lift-dump spoilers with weight on wheels.

The elevators and rudder are hydraulically actuated with redundant power control units, a mechanical reversion mode and artificial control feel systems. The elevators have quasi-speed proportionate artificial feel, using change in stabilizer position to alter the spring preload of the elevator artificial feel system.

The aircraft has three-axis electric trim with a trim tab on the left aileron, a rudder repositioning system and a trimmable horizontal stabilizer. There’s a manual pitch trim switch on the yoke and it also has an automatic configuration trim function linked to flaps and spoiler position, plus a Mach trim function to assure positive speed stability approaching redline.

Each wing has a four-position (0 deg./10 deg./20 deg./30 deg.), single-slotted Fowler flap that is actuated by a central hydraulic motor driving flex shaft and jack screws.

A stall-warning stick shaker and stick pusher provide stall protection as a function of angle of attack, AOA rate, flap position, lateral acceleration and Mach number.

Dual 3,000-psi hydraulic systems power the landing gear, wing flaps, spoilers, rudder and elevator control actuators, inboard and outboard wheel brakes, nosewheel steering and thrust reversers. Left and right engine-driven pumps with DC backup pumps power both systems. A right-to-left power transfer system provides a third power source for the left hydraulic system. Hydraulic fluid-to-fuel heat exchangers in the wing tanks provide fluid cooling.

A third, or auxiliary, DC-powered hydraulic system provides redundancy for the lower rudder power control actuator.

Each landing gear has dual wheels. A brake-by-wire system actuates the inboard and outboard, multi-disk carbon brakes respectively powered by the left and right hydraulic systems. A parking/emergency brake system is powered by a precharged accumulator in the right hydraulic system. Overhead sensors in the wheel wells warn the crew of hot brakes.

A steer-by-wire system provides +/-7 deg. of steering authority through the rudder pedals and +/-65 deg. through the left side tiller. For towing, the nosewheel casters up to +/-120 deg.

The split-bus DC electrical system is powered by left and right engine-driven, brushless 400-amp generators. A third 400-amp generator is driven by the APU. Dual 24-volt, 44 amp-hour nicad batteries provide power for APU starting, single-point pressure refueling control and backup power for the three generators. A separate battery supplies the integrated standby instrument system if the mail electrical system fails.

All fuel is contained in left and right wet wing tanks that have a 14,045-lb. capacity using single-point pressure refueling. Refuel quantity may be preselected at the refuel panel. Surplus high-pressure fuel from the engine-driven pumps powers wing transfer and engine feed jet pumps. DC boost pumps in dry canisters provide fuel pressure for engine starting, the APU and inter-tank fuel transfer. Fuel load also may be balanced using gravity cross flow.

Bleed air from the engines, APU or a ground source can supply the single air-cycle machine pack, cabin heating system and air turbine starters. The APU can provide cabin pressurization up to 20,000 ft. Engine bleed air is used for wing leading edge and engine nacelle inlet anti-icing, along with cabin pressurization at all altitudes. The AOA and air data probes, along with the windshields and cockpit side windows, have DC electrical heaters for ice protection.

Pressurization control is automatic with inputs from the air data computers, bleed air computers and landing field elevation from the FMSes. Dual zone temperature control is provided for the cabin and cockpit.

Fire and smoke protection is robust with dual-redundant fire extinguishers for the engines, automatic or manual fire extinguishing for the APU, overheat detectors in the wheel wells and a smoke detector in the aft baggage compartment.

Cabin Comforts

Passengers enter the aircraft by means of an airstair door that features lighted treads and a single arm rail. An electric motor assists in closing the door. The entry area houses compact left and right radio racks along with a right-side galley, left-side wardrobe closet and acoustical curtain for the entry door.

Standard equipment for the galley includes a coffeemaker or espresso machine, microwave oven, ice drawer and trash bin, plus flatware, and food and beverage storage. The galley has a full-length, solid countertop. A wet sink, occasional-use cabin attendant seat, gasper-cooled food compartment and adjustable shelves for both the galley and wardrobe closet are optional.

The main cabin seating area is 16.5 ft. long and it’s noticeably brighter because of the larger cabin windows. Standard cabin equipment includes four AC outlets and charging PDA ports for all seats, a Lufthansa Technik cabin entertainment system with front and rear bulkhead-mounted 22-in. monitors, automated passenger briefing system, eight active noise attenuation passenger headsets, sidewall-mounted audio speakers and accent-lighted sidewall storage pockets for each chair. Touchscreen controls at each seat manage cabin, table and PSU lights, cabin temperature and inflight entertainment (IFE) choices. In addition there are dedicated stand-alone buttons for table and chair lights, audio volume and calling the cabin attendant.

The standard IFE includes 3-D moving maps, a Blu-ray player, and HDMI, USB and iPhone/iPad ports plus an Iridium satcom phone. Options include a 150 GB capacity audio/video on-demand system with wireless streaming and Gogo Biz air-to-ground and Inmarsat SwiftBroadband connectivity systems.

The standard interior configuration accommodates nine passengers — eight in forward and aft four-chair club seating groups, plus another on the belted lavatory seat. A three-place divan is optional in place of the left rear-facing club chairs, increasing seating capacity to 10 passengers. Pairs of facing chairs have 24-in.-wide by 25-in.-long bi-folding worktables that stow in the sidewalls. The right rear pair of facing chairs has a plug-in table to make room for the 20-in. by 36-in., Type II over-wing emergency exit door.

The aft lavatory has a conventional, externally serviced, 4-gal.-capacity chemical toilet, a wet sink with soap dispenser and AC outlet, vanity cabinet with lighted mirror, trash container, air gasper, smoke detector and drop-down emergency oxygen mask.

An optional 200-lb. super-soundproofing package reduces interior sound levels by 2 to 3 dB.

A door in the aft lavatory provides access to the 106 cu.-ft., 750-lb. capacity aft baggage compartment. A cargo door below the left engine pylon provides external access to the compartment.

Let’s Go Flying

We belted into the left seat of s.n. 20501, the first production Challenger 350, with demo pilot Bruce Duggan in the right seat as IP and demo pilot Chris Salvato riding along as safety pilot.

From a cockpit procedures standpoint, flying the Challenger 350 is virtually the same as piloting the Challenger 300. One notable exception is to check the functioning of the laser IRS system. The system uses GPS position to speed initial alignment, so the aircraft is usually ready to go in less than 10 min. We did notice that the Universal synthetic vision imagery seems not as crisp as those on some competitive aircraft and apparently could use further integration with the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 PFDs.

Basic operating weight was 24,680 lb. It’s worth noting that s.n. 20501 and the next six production aircraft all have BOWs under Bombardier’s 24,800-lb. spec weight for the Challenger 350. In contrast, production Challenger 300 aircraft typically tip the scales well above spec weight.

Duggan filled out the takeoff and landing data card. Departing from 1,333-ft.-AGL Wichita Mid-Continent Airport (ICT) on the 27C day and based upon using flaps 10 deg., V1 and Vr were 119 KIAS, V2 was 127 KIAS and flap retraction speed was 144 KIAS. Takeoff field length was 4,020 ft.

Start checks were short because of the aircraft’s automated systems. We taxied to Runway 19R. The brakes were smooth and powerful. Nosewheel steering was precise, but tiller effort was hefty. Engine noise is noticeable. If tanks-full payload is not top priority, the 200-lb. super-soundproofing package may be an attractive upgrade.

When cleared on the runway, we commenced a rolling takeoff. Acceleration was brisk at our comparatively light weight. We broke ground in less than 3,000 ft. Initial rotation force was moderate, but it increased substantially as the aircraft accelerated. It’s essential to stay ahead of control pressures with trim as this aircraft has heavier control forces than most other super-midsize jets.

Our direct climb to FL 450 was interrupted with a temporary level off at FL 310 for air traffic control. OATs during the climb averaged ISA+5C and fuel burn was 1,200 lb. We leveled off at FL 450 in 25 min. after takeoff.

At a weight of 30,200 lb. and at ISA-6C, the aircraft cruised at Mach 0.80 (455 KTAS) on 1,580 lb. per hour. Fuel burn was about 45 lb. per hour more than what Bombardier predicted, but we were over land where upper atmosphere air currents could bias the results.

We headed back toward Wichita and descended for air work. During the descent, we noted that partially extending the speed brakes causes very little pitch change and no buffeting. When the speed brakes are fully extended, there is moderate airframe buffeting and a noticeable but controllable pitch-down moment.

At 10,000 ft., we started our air work with 45-deg. bank turns at 250 KIAS. We needed hefty back pressure on the yoke to maintain altitude. We then set up for a turning approach to a stall with 20 deg. of bank and gear and flaps extended. At a weight of 29,100 lb., the stall warning stick shaker fired at just over 100 KIAS. We advanced the thrust levers, crisply lowered the nose and reset the flaps to 20 deg. We established a positive rate of climb, retracted the landing gear and recovered from the maneuver.

Returning to ICT, we asked for vectors and a short turn onto the RNAV (GPS) Y approach to Runway 19R. At a weight of 28,900 lb., computed Vref was 115 KIAS. We elected to fly the approach at Vref+10 until approaching the threshold. It wasn’t difficult to maintain speed on approach, but in the turbulent air, the availability of autothrottles would have been a bonus. They are not available on the aircraft.

An optional head-up display (HUD) also would have made it easier to fly the approach with precision. But an HUD isn’t available as an option, either.

We crossed the threshold almost 50 ft. high and 5 kt. fast. The aircraft floated down the runway in the flare before it touched down. But on the 10,000-ft. strip, we had plenty of margin to reset the trim and flaps, advance thrust and take off with 5,000 ft. remaining.

The second touch and go was more precise. We crossed the threshold 20 ft. high and at Vref+5. That set us up to land in the required touchdown zone. We retrimmed, reconfigured and took off with 6,000 ft. remaining.

On the final approach to a full-stop landing, we again crossed the threshold a little high and a little fast. We touched down in the required zone, but we could have been more precise. With moderate reverse thrust and braking, we turned off at Taxiway D5, about 8,000 ft. down the runway. We pulled back onto the Learjet ramp and shut down 1 hr., 35 min. after departure.

The Value Proposition

The accompanying Comparison Profile illustrates how the Challenger 350 stacks up against high-end midsize and other super-midsize business aircraft. The graph shows that while the Challenger 350’s cabin is shorter than average, its larger height and width more than compensate. Thus, cabin volume is above average.

Aircraft operators want range versus payload flexibility. The Canadian jet delivers with the highest tanks-full payload of any of the aircraft included in the Comparison Profile. But reducing interior sound levels to near Gulfstream G280 levels requires the 200-lb. super-soundproofing package.

Impressively, but not shown on the chart, the aircraft has a comparatively long list of standard equipment that’s optional on many competitive makes. Included are dual IRS, synthetic vision, Rockwell Collins MultiScan weather radar and paperless charts. Equipping competitive aircraft with such options can boost their price by $600,000 or more.

Also not shown on the graph is comparative operating expense. The Challenger 350’s inspection intervals have been increased to 600 hr. Bombardier’s Smart Maintenance Plus program runs $277 per hour and Honeywell MSP is $447 for two engines for North American customers. Fuel consumption for typical 600-nm trips is on par with other purpose-built super-midsize aircraft.

Dispatch reliability is another strong suit. Bombardier claims that the 448 Challenger 300 aircraft in service have earned a 99.79% rate during nearly one million hours of operations. The Challenger 350 should have virtually the same reliability.

And finally, resale value should be close to the top in class, according to Penton’s Aircraft Bluebook Price Digest. Five-year-old Challenger 300 aircraft retain 64% of their original value, which is far more than any competitor.

On balance, the Challenger 350 is a considerably more capable aircraft than the Challenger 300. Competition in the super-midsize class is increasing steadily, so the new model is entering service at an opportune time as Bombardier attempts to protect its lead. B&CA

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