An Inside Look At The Challenger 300

Brooke Shaw
October 01, 2007
Written by
229-challlngerBeing given the opportunity to do a flight review on the new Bombardier Challenger 300 was similar to a homecoming or so I thought. With an extensive background on Challengers from instructing to flight operations and a year of flying the Global Express, I figured this assignment would be nothing more than a review of Bombardier products already flying. Little did I know what was in store. After arriving in Wichita on a bright, cold December day, I was greeted by Bob Agostino and his team at Bombardier Flight Operations. Having known Bob from previous days at Flight Safety where he was the student and I the instructor, I figured this would be even more enjoyable. As some readers may know, Bob is the architect of the now famous “aviation safety stand down” that he runs each year in Wichita. Started as an internal operation it has now grown to include outside participants along with well known aviation personalities and is getting to the point where it should be a “must do” for all professional pilots. Bob is the epitome of safety. He lives, breathes and talks it all day. On this particular day the briefing for the flight started and ended approximately 8 hours later. Most flight demonstrations start with a brief oral introduction and then directly on to the aircraft for the flight. This briefing was the most through, extensive and professional briefing I have ever received. At the end I even felt like I already knew this aircraft well enough to receive a type rating! Safety was incorporated into all aspects of the flight including egress of the aircraft in the unlikely event of an emergency. Well done to Bob and his flight operations people.

The Bombardier Challenger 300 (formally Continental) was developed following two years of intensive market research. The Challenger 604 had reached 25 million in the market place and there was a definite void in Bombardier’s product line between the Lear 45/60 and the 604. Developed as a super mid-size jet, the Challenger 300 competes with the Hawker Horizon, Gulfstream G200, Falcon 50EX and the Citation X in the under 20 million marketplace. With a range of 3100 nautical miles with 8 passengers and up to 3311 miles with 4 passengers this aircraft will see its fair share of open water. Additionally with a takeoff distance of 4720 feet at maximum takeoff weight and typical landing distance of 2200 feet, it should be quite comfortable on shorter runways. Full Transport Type Certification was achieved on May 30, 2003 after a program launch in June, 1999. First flight was achieved a mere two years later on August 14, 2001 which certainly stands as a record. Entry into service followed on January 8, 2004 and approximately 28 Challenger 300’s are flying today. Delivery time from a purchase order being received is approximately two years which attests to the growing popularity of this aircraft. The fleet leader is Bombardier’s FlexJet Program which has 8 aircraft with each one averaging approximately 100 hours per month. Total fleet aircraft flight hours have now exceeded 6000 hours.

Seeing this aircraft for the first time gives one the impression that all we have is another Challenger which, of course, begs the question “why?” But Bombardier has developed a “clean sheet” aircraft while maintaining the look of a Challenger only in appearance. To give a complete analysis of the differences would fill more space than allowed for this article but, in short, the aircraft was designed with simplicity and conventionality in mind – a throwback to the old days which is somewhat of a surprise in this day of rapid advancements in aircraft design, i.e. fly by wire. The biggest change found was a DC electrical system. The only AC on this aircraft is in the 115 volt outlets in the cabin for plugging in computers, etc. Advancements in computers have allowed Bombardier to actually save weight by using DC and take advantage of the simplicity of DC. Install a battery and away we go! For those of us familiar with the 3 independent hydraulic systems of the original Challenger, we now have 2 independent systems backed up by an auxiliary system. Gone too is the Air Driven Generator (ADG) although offered as an option at purchase. Flight controls too have changed back to the manual system of cables although the rudder and elevator controls are mechanically controlled but hydraulically operated by Power Control Units. All in all this means fewer hydraulic components and reduced maintenance costs. Another major departure for Bombardier has been the change from General Electric engines to the Honeywell HTF 7000 engine based on the original TFE731 engine design. This new engine has a 4.2 high bypass ratio and develops 6826 pounds of thrust at ISA +15 degrees Centigrade. Bombardier has also incorporated Full Authority Digital Engine Controls (FADEC) allowing simplicity of engine controls by pilots. Cost of engines operation is being advertised as 40 percent lower than competitors!

Standard on the C300 is a Honeywell 36-150BD Auxiliary Power Unit

(APU) mounted in the tail cone and which is used on the CRJ200 airliner. This well proven APU is certified useable to 30,000 feet. A single access panel allows easy access to replacement of all Line Replacement Units – a major advantage for easy maintenance and serviceability. The cockpit has the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 Avionics package. Four 12-inch tubes are fully integrated with onboard avionics. EICAS, weather radar, terrain, lightning and TCAS information are all presented on a single Multi Function Display (MFD) This cockpit, unlike most other manufacturer’s has been designed by pilots including Bob Agostino and his team along with test pilots and engineers. I am sure all pilots reading this article can appreciate this development as we have all experienced the “why did they put it there?”

The next morning and after being suitably hosted the night before by the folks at Bombardier, I was introduced to Challenger 300, S/N 005, one of the original test machines with about 1500 hours total flying time on the airframe. Bombardier had installed their custom pre-fit interior to the aircraft and although not very lavish in appearance, nontheless showed very well. With a forward galley, rear lavatory and walk-in baggage bay, it once again reminded me of the Challenger 600 series. However, it was noticeable that the cabin width was 2 feet shorter than the Challenger but with the same length and height. Settling into the left seat with a company safety pilot, I was immediately impressed with the cockpit layout. After very briefly scanning the cockpit I felt comfortable enough to ask for the prestart checklist. Having little problem finding checklist items, we were soon starting engines and taxiing for takeoff. Taxi time to the runway was short but enough for me to realize that this aircraft rode very well and required little braking to control speed – unlike the other Challenger series that at times requires riding the brakes or deploying a thrust reverser to control speed.

Takeoff consisted of applying full thrust to the takeoff detents allowing the FADEC system to control the thrust setting. Directional control was easily achieved by rudder inputs and without using the nosewheel steering. Once airborne and hand flying the aircraft I found that the aileron and elevator controls were light and responsive but not as direct as the original 3000 psi controls found on Challengers. Again a throwback to the “old” days of flying!

What followed next was nothing short of amazing. Climbing directly to 35000 feet and slowing to 150 knots indicated, I was soon doing 30 degree bank turns. Try doing that in other corporate jets and see what happens! This aircraft was completely stable with good roll response. Not stopping here, I increased speed to 200 knots while still in the turn and climbed up to FL410. Again, quite effortless and easily done! Bringing the thrust lever up to the cruise detent the aircraft accelerated rapidly to M.82. Fuel burn at this altitude was an astonishing 1200 pounds per hour. Bringing the thrust levers to idle and deploying speed brakes, we initiated a practice emergency descent. Again no adverse reaction from the aircraft and little vibration from the boards. Entering the downwind for runway 01R at Wichita, the approach again reminded me of the Challenger with its flat nose down angle. Flare was merely more than checking the descent rate and with the trailing link gear, touchdown was smooth and effortless. Brakes on this aircraft are extremely good also and with 2000 landings being advertised before replacement should cause no undue harm to maintenance costs. On the next and final landing I was challenged to a full braking stop. What an opportunity! Not owning the aircraft and not having to pay the cost of replacement parts, I placed my feet on the brakes and started pushing down before the wheels hit. At touchdown, I pushed what I thought was as hard as possible but my friend in the right seat kept saying “harder, harder”. Without full shoulder harnesses on there was no way we would have stayed in our seats. Landing distance was calculated at about 16-1700 feet. Not bad for a 27000 pound landing weight aircraft! After shutdown, I took a quick look at the brakes expecting them to be overheated, but although warm, they seemed ready for another go.

All in all, Bombardier has built a very competitive aircraft in the super mid-size category. This aircraft should sell very well in the under 20 million marketplace and cause fits for other manufacturers – much like the original Challenger did more than 20 plus years ago.

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