The Year Of Learjet

On October 7, 2008, Bombardier Learjet celebrated its 45th anniversary. Time to take a look into the history from the famous manufacturer of business aircraft. Author: Wouter Plaetinck

SAAC-23The success story began when the Swiss American Aviation Corporation (SAAC) was formed in the late 1950s by U.S. entrepreneur and inventor, William P. Lear. His corporation first developed the FFA P-16, a prototype ground attack jet fighter, in Switzerland. Originally designed to replace the piston-engined types then in service with the Swiss Air Force, the project was terminated before the jet could be introduced into service. But the gained experience was very useful to manufacture the SAAC-23, a business jet based on the P-16.

In 1962 the SAAC moves from Switzerland to Wichita, Kansas in the United States. There the development and production of the first 4 to 6-seat Lear Jet 23 starts in 1963, with the first flight on October 7 that year. From then the SAAC becomes Lear Jet Corporation. But the Lear Jet 23 is quickly replaced by the Lear Jet 24, which has uprated engines and a higher gross weight. Different improved variants of the Lear Jet 24 are the 24A, B, C, D, E and F that feature more and more max. takeoff-weight and range. The stretched version of the Lear Jet 24, the 8-seat Lear Jet 25, made its first flight on August 12, 1966. The Lear Jet 25B, C and G are improved versions. Later that year, the Lear Jet Corporation changed its name to Lear Jet Industries. 3 years later, in 1969, the name would change again, this time to Gates Learjet Corporation because of a merger with Gates Aviation.

The first flight of an experimental Lear Jet 25 powered by Garrett AiResearch TFE-731-2A engines (variants of these engines are still produced today by Honeywell!) was a great step towards the successful Learjet 35. The Learjet 35 is like his predecessors a 6 to 8-seater, but is 0.3m longer than the Lear Jet 25 and became a new model, instead of a simple variant of the 25. Some kind of extended range version of the Learjet 35, is the Learjet 36. In this aircraft the passengers’ area is shortened by 0.46m so that an extra large fuel tank could be placed. Of both the Learjet 35 and the Learjet 36 an improved version with the Garrett AiResearch TFE-732-2B engines, which increased the range and max. gross weight, was produced.

Learjet 28On August 24, 1977, the 6 to 8-seat Learjet 28 made its first flight. The only difference between its predecessor the Lear Jet 25 and the Learjet 28 is that the latter has a completely new wing and instead of wingtip fuel tanks for the first time winglets, which are now a common sight on business aircraft. This adjustment improved the fuel efficiency and performance. The winglets inspired the name for the aircraft: ‘Longhorn’. The Learjet 29 has a greater range than the 28, thanks to its extra large fuel tank, which installation reduces the capacity to 6 passengers. Both the Learjet 28 and 29 were unsuccessful because of their outdated engines.



The Learjet 54/55/56 series was the next project of the Gates Learjet Corporation. The Learjet 55 made its first flight on April 19, 1979. This aircraft, also nicknamed ‘Longhorn’, exists out of the wing of the Learjet 28 and a new larger fuselage with different cabin arrangements from 4 to 8 seats. Also a number of variants on the Learjet 55 were developed, including the Learjet 55B. This variant introduced a newer flightdeck, modified wings, improved interior, and most Learjet 55Cimportantly, the previous optional higher takeoff weights becoming standard. The Learjet 55C introduced ‘delta fins’, which improved performance and handling. From the 55C an Extended Range version (Learjet 55C/ER) with a max. range of ca. 4156km and a Long Range version (Learjet 55C/LR) with a max. range of ca. 4442km were also produced. The proposed 11-seat Learjet 54 and 8-seat Learjet 56 are never built.

In 1984, Gates Learjet Corporation announced the start of their Aerospace division, which would later be selected to produce parts for the Space Shuttle’s main engines. In an effort to reduce inventories, commercial aircraft production was ceased until February 21, 1986. Then the company headquarters were relocated to Tucson, Arizona and the production at both Wichita and Tucson facilities restarted.

The Gates Learjet Corporation was on September 9, 1987 acquired by Integrated Acquisition Inc., and changed its name in April 1988 to Learjet Corporation. Later that year the 6 to 8-seater Learjet 31 was introduced, the successor of the Learjet 29. The Learjet 31 combines the fuselage, cabin and engines from the Model 35/36 with the wing of the Longhorn 28/29 and 50 family. Newer avionics are installed in the Learjet 31A, and the Learjet 31A/ER is an extended range version.

On January 1, 1989, the production line moved from Tucson and Wichita to sole Wichita. In June 1990 the Learjet Corporation was acquired by Bombardier Aerospace, who is still the owner today.

The 8 to 10-seat Learjet 60 mid-size jet made its first flight in October 1990 and is marketed as an improved and stretched version of the Learjet 55. It is 1.09m longer and has new Pratt & Whitney Canada PW305 turbofans. In 2005 a new variant of the Learjet 60 was launched, the Learjet 60XR. This aircraft has an improved cabin, newer avionics and some other improvements.

2 years after the Learjet 60’s first flight, the Learjet 45 was unveiled. This aircraft is of classic Learjet design and layout, but has a larger fin and rudder, extended engine pylons, smaller delta fins, full span elevators, and single piece flaps. The Learjet 45XR has several improvements, such as increased range with more passengers, shorter takeoff distances in hot conditions and at high altitudes, faster time-to-climb and faster cruise speeds.

A derived version of the Learjet 45, the 6-seat Learjet 40, took to skies on September 5, 2002. It is 0.5m shorter than the Learjet 45 and has Honeywell TFE731-20AR engines. Also from the Learjet 40 is an XR version available, offering higher takeoff weights, faster cruise speeds and faster time-to-climb rates as compared to the Learjet 40. The increases are due to the upgrade of the engines to the TFE731-20BR configuration.

Learjet 40XRLearjet 45XR
Left: Learjet 40XR, Right: Learjet 45XR

In October 2007, Bombardier Learjet announced a brand-new all composite business jet, the Learjet 85. The 8-seat aircraft is unveiled on October 6 2008, at the NBAA event in Florida. The new Learjet 85 will be the first Bombardier Learjet aircraft to feature an all-composite structure and will be the first all-composite structure business jet designed for type certification under U.S. Federal Aviation Administration FAR Part 25. The Learjet 85 aircraft's all-composite structure will allow Learjet aircraft designers to maximize cabin comfort while minimizing drag and improving performance. Designed to provide a larger, more comfortable cabin than any existing midsize aircraft, the Learjet 85 aircraft's
18.8 m3 cabin is the largest Learjet aircraft cabin ever - offering eight passengers a stand-up environment built to ensure productivity. A key element of the aircraft's cabin is its large windows, measuring approximately 30.5 X 40.6 cm, maximizing the amount of natural light into the aircraft as well as passenger viewing capability.
The standard double club configuration floorplan features a generous 76.2-cm pitch between the seats, a full service galley, full lavatory, three large storage closets, providing in-flight access to a total of 0.85 m3 of storage space. All cabin seats are fully-berthable with the capability to deploy four at any time for optimum comfort.
The aircraft is powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW307B engines, each boasting 6,100 pounds of take-off thrust each at sea level 86°F (30ºC) and low noise levels, while the advanced low NOx emission combustor offers reduced environmental impact. The clean-sheet Learjet 85 aircraft targets a high-speed cruise of Mach 0.82 and a transcontinental range of up to 5,556 km.
The new flight deck combines advanced technology with superior design elements for a cockpit environment unlike any other midsize jet. The latest in technological advancements from Rockwell Collins - the new Pro Line Fusion avionics suite - is once again paired with superior design aesthetics to create the ultimate Learjet flight control environment.

Learjet 85 InteriorLearjet 85
Left: Learjet 85 Interior mock-up at the NBAA, Right: Learjet 85 Exterior

Bombardier Aerospace at the NBAA 2008.
Bombardier Aerospace revealed its new all-composite Learjet 85 aircraft interior to customers and special guests on October 6 at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) annual convention and exhibition in Orlando. The full-scale composite mock-up was open for viewing throughout the show at the Bombardier static pavilion at Orlando Executive Airport.
"The Learjet 85 aircraft's cabin features more volume and comfort than any existing midsize offers and now our customer can experience it first hand," said Steve Ridolfi, president, Bombardier Business Aircraft. "Development of the Learjet 85 aircraft is progressing well as we enter the next phase of this exciting new program."
Bombardier Aerospace announced on October 4 that XOJET's first Challenger 300 aircraft entered service. Bombardier and XOJET executives were on hand to mark the delivery and the aircraft's debut at NBAA 2008.

Useful Links:
- Bombardier Aerospace
- The Year Of Learjet
- Learjet 85

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