Evolution Perfects the Breed
Bombardier hit the sweet spot with their clean sheet design that became the Challenger 300. When the Challenger 300 needed an update after 12 years on the market, Bombardier was wise not to mess with a winning design – but knew exactly what to do to make it a whole lot better.
A comparison with the 300 provides an interesting review of how an engine and cabin upgrade improves what was already an excellent business aircraft, and one which was achieving steady sales in Africa.
Bombardier delivered the first Challenger 350 in 2014. The big technological improvements that the 350 brings are upgraded engines and all new avionics – plus key cabin comforts such as the latest in-flight entertainment (IFE) and connectivity.
Bombardier launched the Challenger 350 to compete with new models like Gulfstream’s G280, Dassault’s Falcon 2000, Embraer’s Legacy 500 and the much awaited Cessna Citation Longtitude (first possible delivery in 2018). The competition is now finally catching up. In 2013, Dassault began delivering the US$25 million Falcon 2000S, which can use shorter runways, yet has a 3,350-nautical-mile range. Cessna revised the Sovereign and the X and launched the Longitude; Embraer is still trying to break into the market with its fly-by-wire Legacy 500; and Gulfstream completely remade the original Israeli Industries Galaxy into the G280. To date in Africa the 350’s only real competitor has been the G280, which is significantly more expensive, albeit slightly larger.
Bombardier delivered the first Challenger 300 in 2004 and it has dominated the ‘super-midsize’ category – beating off the Gulfstream 200 and the Hawker 4000. The Canadian company has delivered more than 500 Challenger 300s and it has been particularly popular with US corporates and individuals – partly because it can fly coast-to-coast across continental North America.
The 350’s cabin offers an abundance of space – much appreciated on six hour flights. From cockpit door to the rear pressure bulkhead, it is almost 29 feet long. That gives a 16.5-foot main seating area, lavatory and cabin accessible walk-in baggage bay. Cabin height is 6.1 feet and width is 7.2 feet.
The 300 could climb directly to 41,000 feet, where you had to burn off fuel before ascending higher. The 350 gets to 41,000 feet in as little as 18 minutes and keeps going directly to 43,000 feet, thanks to its new Honeywell HTF7350 engines – 7,323 pounds of thrust each, which is 500 pounds more than on the 300. The revised engines do this without burning any more fuel and even cut emissions.
Combined with its capacity for 750 pounds more fuel, the Challenger 350 can now transport eight full-sized passengers (100 kg each) 3,200 nautical miles – 135 nm further than the 300 – at a respectable Mach 0.80. Top speed is Mach 0.82 – the same as the 300.
The new winglets increase the wingspan to 69 feet, and overall the aircraft is 1,750 pounds heavier than the 300, tipping the scales fully loaded at 40,600 pounds.
In Africa, a common maximum range requirement for the 300 is the 2,700 nm from Johannesburg’s hot and high Lanseria to Cote d’Ivoire’s Abidjan. With six 100 kg passengers and 250 kg of baggage, this can be done in the 350 with a comfortable 500 nm to spare before hitting IFR reserves. The 2,200 nm from Lanseria to Addis Ababa’s Bole Airport – and then back – with very challenging hot and high altitude takeoffs at both ends, particularly at Bole, is also easily accomplished with a full cabin.
This category of aircraft requires one stop between South Africa and Europe. But whereas, even with a stop, the 300 could be marginal from Johannesburg for an expected Cat II approach into London, the 350 has a far better chance of beating the weather odds in terms of alternates.
South African based Challenger 300 pilot Larry Beamish reports that, while operating the 300, on a number of occasions he achieved that most demanding of African routes for a mid-sized bizjet, that of London to Cape Town with a single stop. This requires flight planning for two sectors of six hours. He achieved this by flying London to Lome in six hours one minute, and Lome to Cape Town in exactly six hours. It was tight and needed favourable winds, so with its extra 145 nm range, the 350 makes this achievement possible under almost all likely conditions.
As an aside, Beamish notes that to do London-Cape Town non-stop will require an expenditure of more than three times as much as a Challenger 350 on a Global Express or Gulfstream G550
The fractional ownership companies’ acceptance of a new model are key to its success. The Challenger 300 with its large cabin cross-section and long range has been particularly successful in this regard. As well as Flexjet, Bombardier’s own fractional company, XOJET bought 20 Challenger 300s in 2007, and NetJets ordered 75 Challenger 300s with an option to buy 125 more. NetJets is the launch partner for the Challenger 350, converting some of its 300s to the newer model.
It’s of some interest to note that the relatively short cabin has made the Challenger 300/350 far more popular with business executives than with government officials who prefer a longer compartmentalised cabin.
Typical all-in charter costs at current input costs range from US$1,200 to US$1,900 per hour, depending on the age of the aircraft. The 350 can thus be expected to command US$2,000 per hour.
Super mid-size bizjets are paid for by the man in the cabin, and the 350's stand-up cabin is its star attraction. It is a sublimely comfortable and quiet environment, and has been made even better with improved seats and better IFE. An improved galley, cabin windows that are 20 percent larger, the latest cabin-management system and high-definition wireless entertainment electronics from Lufthansa Technik complete the upgrade.
The 350 features Lufthansa Technik’s ‘Nice’ digital cabin-management and entertainment system. This uses 24 transducers, mounted behind interior cabin panels, in place of conventional speakers, to create near-uniform cabin sound, much like surround sound.
The 350’s eight passengers are usually accommodated in double club seating, with two crew upfront. And the larger windows help the 350 to compete with the Gulfstream G280 in the all-important but subjective area of cabin spaciousness. The 350 continues with the popular layout of having the galley in the front and toilet in the back.
IN THE COCKPIT
The 350 now has the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 Advanced avionics suite with four large LCDs and all the latest gadgets: synthetic vision, dual inertial reference system, paperless cockpit, MultiScan weather radar (that can detect turbulence), XM satellite weather and an alphabet soup of other acronyms: Fans 1/A, ADS-B out, CPDLC, RNP basic and authorisation required and LPV guidance. This all means the aircraft has the capability to go just about anywhere in any weather. The only omission from full functionality is auto-throttles, the complexities and certification requirements of which were not deemed financially justifiable in a legacy design.
Despite the increase in power, the higher maximum takeoff weight has marginally increased runway requirements.
Takeoff distance at maximum weight is now 4,835 ft, just 25 ft more than the 300.
The Challenger 350 is the perfect follow-on from the 300's market dominating success. The other contenders in the super mid-size weight division failed to live up to their hype and disappointed buyers for a variety of reasons: the Falcon 2000 is great but expensive; the Hawker 4000 had an interminable gestation period followed by bankruptcy and discontinuation; Cessna’s Citation X is fast but at the cost of a tight cabin; Cessna’s Citation Sovereign was a whole lot cheaper but had the same tight cabin and was much slower; and the Galaxy’s conversion into the Gulfstream 200 and then 280 was mangled by management decisions and focus on the flagship ultra-long-range G650.
Globally bizjet sales have been slow, and so big discounts are to be had. Normal list price for the 350 is US$26 million. The Challenger 350 is great value with bigger and better engines, new winglets, a smart new interior and new avionics.
If you would like to know more about the C350, or any other type of Bombardier family of aircraft, please contact
Hani Haddadin on Hani.Haddadin@aero.bombardier.com or +971 56 696 0303