Over the last two decades, the Challenger 300 family has undergone both subtle and substantial changes, all made possible by a remarkable platform that has become the gold standard in the super-midsize business jet category. The original Challenger 300 was refashioned as the Challenger 350 in 2014—and the model’s success has just kept growing. By 2020, the 350th Challenger 350 had been delivered and it remains the most delivered super-midsize business jet for the past seven years.
This year, the Challenger 350 will pass the proverbial super-midsize torch to the Challenger 3500, with entry into service of the new model planned for the second half of 2022. Over the years, Bombardier chairman Pierre Beaudoin has witnessed what he describes as the “natural evolution” of this class-leading aircraft. Change has come both through technological advances and from paying careful attention to feedback from pilots, passengers and owners. In the Challenger 3500, the evolution is seen in the introduction of autothrottle, which reduces workload for pilots. An increase in creature comforts—including unmatched 4K entertainment—match anything a client might enjoy at home or in the office. The Challenger 3500 aircraft’s enhanced cabin technology—which includes the industry’s first voice-controlled cabin to control features such as lighting, temperature and entertainment—makes it the smartest aircraft in its class. Indeed, the early 2000s aren’t so far off in time, but in Beaudoin’s words, “if you compare just the last aircraft we produced [the Challenger 350] to the Challenger 3500, you see an evolution. But between the Challenger 300 and the Challenger 3500—within 20 years—you see a revolution.”
Spirit of the Times
One of the initiatives spurring the development of the Challenger 3500 is very much in keeping with the current zeitgeist: the quest for sustainability. Hajar Halim, Product Sustainability and Environmental Affairs Professional with Bombardier, says that the idea was to bring sustainability right to the customers’ fingertips, by offering them a new line of materials for the cabin with a reduced environmental footprint. “In terms of woods, we have eucalyptus veneer,” she says, “a beautiful hardwood made from the fast-growing eucalyptus tree. It is a rapidly renewable resource, as new growth can take only a few years. We also have natural carpets that are produced using resilient plants that don’t require irrigation and are biodegradable. We also offer upcycled wool, a warm and natural fiber that is a rapidly renewable resource and uses less energy to produce.”
Halim points out that these environmentally conscious initiatives have in no way hindered the new Challenger’s aesthetics or overall safety—far from it. The new materials, she says, are compliant with “the same standards as our traditional finishes, and oftentimes they are even more durable and more lightweight. Our customers are going to see firsthand that style was not compromised and the luxurious feel was preserved. In terms of the aerospace industry in general, sustainability initiatives are gaining a lot of traction, a lot of attention.” Karima Ouldchikh, Sales Engineer with the company, adds: “We’re looking also at upcycled polyester, at different vegan veneers, different types of flooring—we’re always expanding the material selection, including more sustainable offers.”
The commitment to sustainability isn’t limited to the cabin, however. The Challenger 3500 is the first aircraft in its class to offer an Environmental Product Declaration, which quantifies the jet’s environmental impact during its entire life cycle. And that impact is being mitigated in real terms through innovations such as an eco app that lets crews optimize flight profiles to improve efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions. Even the manufacturing process, carried out at Bombardier’s Canadian facilities, which primarily use sustainably produced hydroelectricity, helps to reduce the aircraft’s environmental footprint. And the Challenger 3500’s flight test program will set an industry first by being completely carbon-neutral. Add to that Bombardier’s leading role in the advent of Sustainable Aviation Fuel, and the Challenger 3500 points the way to an eco-conscious future for business aviation.
The Challenger family is renowned for its “ramp appeal”—few aircraft cut such a striking figure on a runway. But the sensory pleasures continue in flight, and the Challenger 3500 will set a new standard as it calmly flies both above the clouds and above commercial airline routes. To increase passenger comfort, the Challenger 3500 now features a cabin altitude of just 4,850 feet when flying at 41,000 feet. On longer flights, that reduced cabin altitude (an improvement from the Challenger 350 of over 2,000 feet) will leave both passengers and crew feeling refreshed. Onboard air circulation is also unmatched in this category, with the cabin being continuously replenished with fresh air in under two minutes. And enhanced sound insulation ensures a tranquil environment for both productivity and relaxation. The Challenger 3500 takes several of its design cues from its larger stablemate, the Global 7500. Chief among these is the superb Nuage seat, a multitasking wonder that is as convenient for a business meeting as it is for fine dining or a peaceful nap. As one of many innovations within the Challenger 3500, the Nuage seat is the first new seat architecture in business aviation in three decades. Adrian Goring, Senior Industrial Designer at Bombardier, explains that “it all starts and ends with the customer experience. The seat is where they spend most of their time. The design team did a deep-dive into how customers use the seats—working, relaxing, dining. Getting the fundamentals right, with correct seat ergonomics adhering to anthropometric standards, was key to comfort.” Their research involved a painstaking process to devise the proper seat architecture: “We’ve essentially taken the best features of the luxury armchair and an executive office chair and combined them into one magnificent seat. Unlike traditional seats that are made up of a collection of boxes—for an armrest, for a seat cushion—we designed something that is much more sculptural. The seat cushion comfort has also been increased. In addition, we’ve introduced a suspended canvas material to increase the overall seating softness. The term ‘cocoon-like feel’ was expressed by our trial candidates.” All this attention to detail has paid off. The Challenger 3500 recently won the 2022 Red Dot “Best of the Best” Award in Product Design.
High-end amenities such as a revamped galley with available see-through wine chiller and a compartment for customers to install the coffee machine of their choice, plus tech innovations including wireless device charging, the category’s only 4K display and easy-to-access voice control of features such as lighting, temperature and audio and visual entertainment, make the Challenger 3500’s cabin both luxurious and, in modern digital parlance, smart. As Éric Martel, Bombardier President and CEO, says, “the Challenger 3500 aircraft prioritizes what our customers value most: a truly exceptional cabin experience.”
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