There are sometimes when consumer products have a certain level of ‘invention’ to them that distinguishes them from all that came before them. A product that completely disrupts the market in such a way that there is no alternative possible. Perhaps the best example of such a product becoming a cultural moment is the release of the iPhone in 2007. As Steve Jobs presented this new concoction of his to a bewildered audience, the people who had the hindsight of knowing immediately realized that this was going to change the way human society functioned in its very bones.
Another example of such a revolutionary product albeit in a concentrated niche is the Bombardier Challenger 300. Announced at the turn of the century at the Paris Air Show in 1999, the Challenger 300 reinvented the very idea of what was to be expected from a private jet. Before we delve into the Bombardier Challenger 300 itself, we need to understand exactly where this aircraft comes from.
History of Bombardier
The history of Bombardier only goes from strength to strength. The founder, Joseph-Armand Bombardier has the distinction of inventing one of the first commercially viable snowmobiles ever. We’ll be starting off the history from the inception of the Aerospace division of Bombardier. In the mid-1980s, the Canadian government was looking to privatize the government-owned Canadair. This caught the eye of the leadership of Bombardier. As one of the biggest titans of industry, it was the expectation that Bombardier would be interested in this deal. It would provide the company with many benefits as well. The foremost advantage was the fact that it would fulfill their goal of looking to diversity. The other was the fact that they would instantly be able to access a lot of infrastructure without spending a penny on setting it up for a sum that was less than $150 million at that point in time. It would open Bombardier up to a whole new field which provided them the opportunity of bidding on military contracts like maintenance of fighter jets.
Once Canadair had been acquired by Bombardier, a road was made through which more expansion was possible. The Thatcher government sought to sell of the Shorts, an Aerospace company. It was bought for $60 million by Bombardier in 1989, continuing this spree of buying. However, perhaps the most significant purchase was yet to come. Learjet was one of the first companies to have a crack at the concept of the private jet. In the 1960s, the Learjet 23 was one of the first commercially successful private jets. This rich vein of pedigree and influence in the private jet industry made Learjet a very valuable resource to have. In 1990, it was bought by Bombardier for $75 million.
The Bombardier Challenger 300 is truly an orgy of astonishing numbers. It has a massive range of 5700 km. Back in 2004, the unit cost of the Challenger stood at $17.4 million, a truly staggering number at that time. In terms of size, the Challenger 300 can be considered to be a super-midsize aircraft. For most people, the super-midsized aircraft is really the first size class that you can consider to be truly big. Also, it must be noted that there is quite a big difference between midsize aircraft and super-midsize aircraft. The Challenger 300 had a range of 3100 nautical miles. When it was first launched, it was actually christened the name ‘Bombardier Continental’ which in my opinion is even more impressive sounding than the one they have right now. It has a certain tone of luxury that is rather hard to pinpoint. Whenever you have a number in the name of an aircraft like the 300, the first thing that comes into the mind is that there is probably an aircraft with a bigger number that is even better. With a name such as the ‘Continental’, there’s a sense that there is some finality to it.
The aircraft has a cruise speed of 0.825 Mach. The aircraft was also assembled in Wichita, Kansas which is interestingly enough also the home of the Learjet Aircraft Corporation. This is one of the best examples of how a conglomerate owning multiple companies in the same space can brings walls down and introduce a level of synergy that is quite impressive. By 2004, the aircraft had entered commercial service through FlexJet as well. What is even more interesting is that the aircraft’s design was completely original. It was not a derivation of the design of the Challenger 600 or anything like that.
By 2013, the claim of the Challenger 300 as the aircraft that was at the true cutting edge of design and technology was starting to seem a bit less than ideal. The aircraft had reached the midpoint of its lifespan and thus there was a need to refresh it. By 2013, the new and improved Challenger 350 took to the skies. It was quite a powerful upgrade as well, with 20% taller cabin windows in order to cope with the design requirements of the 2010s. The cost was quite steep as well, coming in at around $26 million, which was a whole million dollars more than the original. Considering the fact that inflation is a factor as well, the price increase was really a price decrease. One can attribute this to the fact that this was after the financial crises of 2007-08. Private aircraft sales were on the decline and the entire industry seemed to be on the ventilator at that point. In fact, the sales of private aircraft in 2007 is a number that is yet to be eclipsed.
The aircraft also saw some very important improvements in its performance as well, with an increase of over 7% in its takeoff thrust. The maintenance program stands at $277 per hour and routine inspection is supposed to happen after every 600 hours of flying. These guidelines are to be strictly followed as they help prolong the life of the aircraft. The jet is able to carry 8 passengers in absolute luxury. The price stands at nearly $27 million in 2021.
If you thought that the story of the bloodline ends at the name of the 350, you are wrong. The Challenger 3500 is the next iteration of the 350. The aircraft is yet to be released but is said to feature incremental improvements in all departments that will eventually lead to a much more well-rounded aircraft capable of taking on the modern aircraft of today. It has auto-throttles and the cabin has been completely overhauled in order to combat the design choices of today.
Perhaps one of the most impressive things about the Challenger 300 has been its unflinching reliability. Of the 448 Challengers that are in service, 99.79% is the dispatch reliability rate. In fact, the used market has also responded extremely well to their reliability as the aircraft is able to retain nearly 2/3rds of its original value even after 5 long years. For people who know private jets, one of the biggest costs is indeed depreciation of the aircraft and the 350 has been historically a very good aircraft to own in that regard. In fact, second-hand Challengers with low flying hours can go for as high as $20 million. If your budget is on the lower side of the range then you can have one for around $8 million as well. Note that this aircraft will definitely also come with its fair share of challenges as it will be older.
The interior of the Bombardier Challenger 300 is one of its greatest strengths. The length of the cabin stands at nearly 29 feet. What is perhaps even more impressive is the fact that the cabin has a height of over 6 feet which means that the vast majority of people will be able to stand upright in the cabin. The width of the cabin is over 7 feet as well, making it quite a wide cabin.
FlexJet offers the jet in 3 different configurations. The Van Gogh’s butterscotch-colored seats are incredibly refined and give a very human feel to the cabin. The use of wood in the cabin does not feel excessive yet has a genuine feeling of refinement to it. All the materials have been finished to truly the highest quality and standards as well. For connoisseurs of art, this one is a must-have.
If you are someone who works in high-speed finance and want your surroundings to also mimic the bare efficiency at which you operate, the Carbon interior is a wonderful choice. The black colors of the seats accentuated with blue give off a feeling of modern design. The wood is finished in a dark tone which works well with the black seats. The blue countertops add a level of futuristic feel which also has the effect of cooling down the powerful energy of the interior. For the people who like to feel like a Bond Villain every now and then, this is just about as good as it gets.
The third choice is the lightning interior. Thematically, it shares more with the Van Gogh interior than the Carbon interior. However, one could say that it is even more conventional-looking compared to Van Gogh. If you are someone who likes a lot of wood in his/her house and wants earth tones to dominate the interior, this is a great choice. The leather seats are two-tone which adds a bit of personality to the ensemble. This interior is for the weathered businessman who has seen more financial crashes than he/she would like to admit. They know the cyclical nature of the universe and thus want to invest in something that keeps them grounded in nature.
This is the story of the Bombardier Challenger 300. This aircraft is known for popularizing a certain kind of aircraft that is now known as the super-midsize jet. In my opinion, aircraft in this particular class are generally the ones that provide the greatest value. They are much more powerful and roomy compared to midsize aircraft and are able to provide a glimpse of the luxury that larger aircraft provide. Overall, this aircraft is still a pretty good choice to invest in if you are looking for a used aircraft mainly due to its matchless reliability and the fact that it has been generally able to hold its value quite well.