When Bombardier launched its super-midsize Challenger 300 in 1999 it provided trans-continental range for up to eight passengers. I was fortunate to fly the then-new Challenger in December 2003, just before its entry into service with Flexjet the following January. As I wrote at the time: “With the Challenger 300 Bombardier has staked a claim to providing the most jet for the least money in the crowded super-midsize class.”

Since then, much has changed in the super-midsize market. The Hawker 4000 has come and gone. Gulfstream’s G200 has been upgraded to the G280, and the Dassault Falcon 2000 is now the 2000S. And two other manufacturers have joined the fray: Embraer with its fly-by-wire Legacy 500 and Cessna with the soon-to-be-certificated Longitude. While the 300 is the segment leader based on sales, more demanding customers and increased competition required Bombardier to hone its offering.

The improved Challenger 350 was unveiled at EBACE in 2013. Canadian and US certification for the new version was received in June 2014, with European Aviation Safety Agency approval following that September.

Challenger 350

Over two decades, Challenger 300 and now 350 have been their sector’s dominant force

Linda Epstein

The Challenger 300 was a very successful aircraft, but its performance advantage had been eroded. To address this Bombardier followed a common product upgrade formula: better engines, aerodynamic tweaks, improved avionics and cabin enhancements. The Challenger 350 retains Honeywell HTF7000-series engines, the seeming standard for the super-midsize segment. For the Challenger 350 Bombardier selected the HTF7350 version, which offers 7,323lb (33kN) of thrust, a 7.3% improvement over the 6,826lb-thrust HTF7000s on the Challenger 300. As with the earlier model, the 350’s engines are flat-rated to ISA +15°C to improve hot-and-high performance. The HTF7350 also retains the automatic power reserve feature, which increases safety by providing full thrust to higher temperatures in the event of an engine failure.

Enlarged winglets, canted at a lower angle, increase wingspan by 1.54m (5.0ft) and yield a higher aspect ratio for the fixed leading-edge supercritical wing. Internal changes to the trailing link main landing gear allowed maximum take-off (TO) weight to be increased by 794kg (1,750lb) over its predecessor.

Bombardier has also made improvements to the flightdeck. The Challenger 350 retains Rockwell Collins ProLine avionics, now called ProLine Advanced. This brings the Challenger 350’s suite more in line with the Global’s Fusion suite. While it has the same number (four) of 12 x 10in LCD displays, the Advanced has notable improvements. The attitude director indicator is now wall to wall with synthetic vision, a standard feature. In addition, the primary flight display now displays a flightpath vector (FPV), bringing the 350’s display up to what is now industry standard. As would be expected, the cockpit is also paperless. One feature certain to be appreciated, especially during the summer, is a standard MultiScan weather radar system. With up to 320nm (592km) range it promises hands-free, clutter-free threat detection for convective activity. For operators with oceanic missions the type can also be equipped with Future Air Navigation System (FANS-1/A).

Challenger 350 cockpit

New model’s ProLine Advanced avionics suite features synthetic vision and weather radar

Linda Epstein

The passenger cabin has also been improved. It still features a wide flat floor, with typical seating for eight in a dual club configuration. A divan is optional, and when the belted lavatory is included there is seating for 10. The refreshed cabin is also more open and airy than the Challenger 300’s. Cabin windows are 50mm longer, providing 12% more ambient light. The footprint of the ceiling-mounted passenger service units (oxygen masks and lights) has been reduced. Rather than being in cabin-long canoes, they are now housed in slim pods over each pair of club seats. A Lufthansa-sourced Nice cabin management system puts the Challenger 350’s amenities at the passenger’s fingertips. In tune with today’s expectations, it also has standard wi-fi throughout the cabin with optional broadband connectivity.

Nearly 14 years after Bombardier’s Challenger 300 essentially defined the super-midsize segment, FlightGlobal was invited to Bradley International airport in Hartford, Connecticut to see first hand how the upgraded Challenger 350 fits into this vibrant segment. Our preview aircraft, SN 20701 (registration number N207BZ), was production-representative with some optional items, mostly related to the passenger cabin. On what was a rainy day I accompanied Bombardier demonstration pilot Denny Yount as he did the pre-flight walk-around inspection. The primary visual difference between the Challenger 350 and the earlier 300 is the new model’s larger and less-upturned winglets. Entry into the aircraft was via the seven-step main cabin entry door. After a glance at the luxurious cabin, configured in a club forward and two seats and divan aft, I joined Yount on the flightdeck.

Also on board as safety pilot was his colleague Bruce Duggan. While all controls fell readily to hand, I especially liked the electronically adjustable rudder pedals. Without power on, the flightdeck was essentially identical to the 300’s. One small difference, pointed out by Yount, was the changed shape of the pedestal-mounted rudder trim knob. While I had not noticed its shape, I did notice that the knob was in an unusual position. Located just aft of the throttle quadrant it was at the left-hand edge of the pedestal, not centred on it like almost every other aircraft I have flown.

With the auxiliary power unit up and running Yount placed its generator online, before guiding me through flight management system (FMS) initialisation and pre-start flows. Once complete we used an old-fashioned paper checklist, rather than the Challenger 350’s standard electronic version. The FADEC-controlled starts had both engines at IDLE in under 35s from initiation. After completion of post-start flows with the flaps set to 20°, a slight advance of the thrust levers was all that was needed to get the Challenger rolling. Having our own ship’s position presented on the multifunction display airfield diagram helped me negotiate the route to runway 24. While not installed on our aircraft, Honeywell’s SmartRunway and SmartLanding systems are an option that can enhance operational safety both on the ground and in the air. During the taxi I found the tiller-controlled nose-wheel steering allowed for easy and accurate negotiation of 90° turns. On straight portions of the route, pedal-­controlled steering alone provided enough authority to track the centreline.


Once on the runway and cleared for takeoff, I advanced the thrust levers to the “TO” detent. Thrust stabilised at 87.2%N1 and acceleration was quite brisk, Yount calling out 80kt (148km/h) shortly after brake release. V1 and Vr were 119kt indicated air speed (KIAS) for our light aircraft, there only being three occupants and 2,722kg of fuel (gross weight: 14,110kg). The yoke-mounted pitch trim switch was used to null forces during cleanup and acceleration to 250KIAS for our climb through 10,000ft. Once the aircraft was clean I retarded the thrust levers to the CLB detent, with the FADEC maintaining climb thrust. Passing 10,000ft I lowered the nose and allowed the Challenger to capture 280KIAS for the climb to altitude. Passing 32,000ft a climb Mach of M0.80 was held until we levelled at flight level 430 (43,000ft) after burning 408kg of fuel. Total time from brake release to level off was just under 18min.

Once level I allowed the Challenger 350 to accelerate to and maintain M0.82, its High Speed Cruise condition. At an indicated airspeed of 231kt a total fuel flow of 1,700lb/h had the Challenger truing out at 464kt. While I manually manipulated the thrust levers to hold speed, the FADECs have a “MACH HOLD” feature that allows +/-3% of set N1 to keep a target speed. Next I used the speed brakes to rapidly slow to a Long Range Cruise target of M0.78. Speed brake extension caused a minor pitch up, easily countered with forward yoke pressure. At the more economical condition total fuel flow was 1,540lb/h at 219KIAS. On the colder than standard day, resultant true airspeed was 443kt.

Regular readers might know this is the point in my typical business jet review where I take a few minutes to experience the passenger cabin. For the Challenger 350 I had the opportunity to ride in the cabin on an empty ferry flight, an experience I will detail later.

With the work at altitude complete, I retarded the thrust levers and lowered the nose for a descent to medium altitude. During the descent I allowed the Challenger to accelerate to M0.81 and extended the speed brakes to simulate an emergency descent. In the mid 30s we were descending at over 6,000ft/min, a rate fast enough to expeditiously get us to a safe altitude. In a real emergency the speed brake “EMER” position also extends the inboard multifunction spoilers, for an even quicker descent. Once at medium altitude I did some hand-flown manoeuvres to reacquaint myself with the Challenger 350. The aircraft has hydraulic elevators and rudder, with manual ailerons. Roll control is augmented by spoiler panels, one on each wing. During bank-to-bank rolls at up to 60° angle of bank, at speeds from 160 to 300KIAS, I found roll control was good, allowing for easy capture of desired angles of bank. In general I found control forces in pitch and roll were well harmonised. Some of these manoeuvres were completed with gear and flaps extended; again, the Challenger responded in a prompt and smooth manner.

After the area manoeuvres were complete we turned towards Hartford, air traffic control providing vectors to final for an instrument landing system approach to runway 24. Yount loaded the approach into the FMS, with the frequency and localiser course automatically loading. At a gross weight of 12,973kg, our reference speed with flaps 30 (full) was 114KIAS, with a target speed of 119KIAS. I followed the flight director’s V-bar guidance cue in the primary flight display to track the localiser and groundspeed. As mentioned above, Bombardier has added an FPV to the primary flight display. While the FPV is quite useful by itself, it would be even more powerful had it been tied into the flight director’s guidance cue. On final approach, the 350 had an essentially flat attitude, with about 58%N1 needed to maintain Vtarget.

At about 50ft radio altitude (RA) I started retarding the thrust levers, reaching “IDLE” by 30ft RA where I started the flare. Just before touchdown I pulled the nose up a degree or so to establish the landing attitude. After the Challenger settled on to the ground, I flew to plant the nose wheel onto the runway. In the three-point attitude Yount set the flaps to 20° and reset the stab trim for our touch and go. On his call I advanced the thrust levers to the “TO” detent, with Yount calling “rotate” as we accelerated past our approach target speed. Once airborne the gear was retracted, and I turned the Challenger on to a downwind in the visual pattern for a full-stop landing.

Fully configured and rolled out level on final, I used the synthetic vision system display and FPV to determine when I had intercepted a 3° glidepath to the runway. I was a bit less mechanical on this approach, and was rewarded with a soft touchdown. The powerful wheel brakes slowed the Challenger, with the thrust reversers only partially deployed when we hit their low-speed limit, 70KIAS. Once slowed to a safe taxi speed I used the tiller to turn off for taxi back to the ramp. Shutdown and post flight checks were easily accomplished.


Normally after my preview flights the demonstration crew and I sit down and debrief the sortie, but today was unusual. The Challenger was needed in Minneapolis-St Paul to pick up a Bombardier executive – a fortunate turn of events as I needed to get back to the West Coast. Bombardier graciously allowed me to dead head on the empty Challenger from Bradley International to Minneapolis-St Paul.

While I have sampled the passenger cabin on a large number of business jets, riding in the back of one for an entire flight would be a first for me. Dimensionally all the super-midsize cabins are within centimetres of each other, with only the Falcon 2000S’s width standing out (see table, P??). I found the Challenger 350’s cabin to be quite large, with a divan in the aft seating area. As already mentioned, the larger windows and smaller passenger service units contributed to an open and airy feel.

For the flight I was seated in the forward club seating area, well ahead of the tail-mounted engines. For start, taxi, take-off and initial climb the forward pocket door, separating the galley from cabin, was open. The noise level was quite low as we climbed to altitude. Well into the climb the flight attendant, Griffin Bruehl, deployed the acoustic curtain over the main entry door and closed the forward pocket door. The ambient noise level was reduced further, enhancing what was already a luxurious ride. At cruise altitude I left my seat and walked the cabin. Cabin deck angle was nearly level, which eased movement.

The Challenger 350 features a large aft baggage compartment. The pressurised and air-conditioned compartment is situated aft of the lavatory but forward of the pylon-mounted engines’ rotor burst zones. This location allows the compartment to be accessed in flight. Since the compartment is air-conditioned passengers need not worry about personal items, such as makeup, freezing. As could be expected, ambient noise increased the closer I got to the engines, but at no point would I have considered it loud.

After returning to my seat I pulled out the recessed table and started working on my laptop. Wi-fi connectivity was excellent and the optional broadband allowed me to accomplish a great deal on my 2.5h flight. Had the flight been longer I would have looked forward to napping on one of the berthable seats or really splashing out and dozing on the divan. Two standard 22in bulkhead monitors, one forward and one aft, displayed our route and progress to Minneapolis-St Paul. While passenger content can be displayed on them, in today’s environment everyone most likely would be looking at their own screens. The cabin experience is controlled by a Nice HD cabin management system. Passenger interface is from any one of eight sidewall-mounted touchscreens or from an app on a personal device. The available cabin amenities and service provided by the cabin attendant made the reposition flight literally fly by, our landing in snowy Minneapolis coming all too soon.

Challenger 350 exterior

Trans-continental range for up to eight passengers has been a strong selling point

Linda Epstein

Launched nearly two decades ago, the Challenger 300 and its follow-on, the Challenger 350, have cornered the super-midsize segment, with more than twice as many deliveries as the nearest competitor. Much has changed over the years, but the updated Challenger is once again at the top of its game. Its voluminous cabin is quite luxurious and will pamper even the most demanding passenger. One of its greatest strengths is its trans-continental legs with eight passengers and their baggage. From a pilot’s perspective the Challenger 350 is an honest aircraft with predictable flying qualities. Fly-by-wire and sidestick controllers may be the future, but the Challenger 350’s yoke and cables get the job done. Passengers and accountants alike will love the Challenger 350, an aircraft that will continue to be a major force in the super-midsize segment for years to come.


Source: Flight International