XR-rated Learjet 45s now coming to fields near you

 - April 2, 2007, 6:56 AM

Bombardier received FAA approval last month of the Honeywell TFE731-20BR upgrade for the Learjet 45 and has started delivering upgraded aircraft–known as the Learjet 45XR–about one year later than originally planned.

The Learjet 45XR is designed to provide better hot-and-high performance, and deliver greater payload-range and balanced-field-length capabilities through a 1,000-pound increase in mtow. As an example of the differences in performance between the two models, Bombardier said that out of Aspen, Colo., the Learjet 45XR with eight passengers will fly about 1,000 nm further than the Learjet 45, which will remain in production.

A 45XR retrofit is available for the approximately 240 Learjet 45s in operation worldwide via a series of Service Bulletins, application of which depends on the aircraft serial number, with older aircraft requiring more modification than newer ones. At press time, Bombardier said it had received retrofit orders for between 35 and 50 Learjet 45s.

To date it’s been an ambitious year for Bombardier Aircraft. In addition to starting deliveries of the 45XR last month, the Canadian manufacturer began deliveries of the Learjet 40 and Challenger 300 in January. And in the fourth quarter Bombardier is expected to start deliveries of the Global 5000 (a shortened Global Express) and the Global Express XRS (an upgraded version of the Global Express, which it will replace).

Bombardier’s attention to bringing the Learjet 40 and Challenger 300 to market, as well as some unanticipated additional work on the 45XR project, was the reason behind the 45XR’s entering the market a year later than originally planned, according to a Bombardier spokesman.

“The Learjet 40 and Challenger 300 programs took most of our efforts,” said the spokesman. “We really focused strongly on those two programs, as well as the Global 5000.” During testing of the 45XR, both Bombardier and engine manufacturer Honeywell believed “we needed to do some further work to meet customer needs and expectations,” according to the spokesman. “We took the time to make sure we delivered the promised performance and reliability. Customers were kept in the loop on this schedule. Some were a bit disappointed, but the overwhelming majority understood and agreed. The additional work was nothing major. It was just a bunch of tweaks, mostly on the airframe and a couple on the engine.” Honeywell officials declined to comment further.

45XR Evolved from 45 Weight Boost

 The evolution of the Learjet 45XR was a bit unusual. In June 2001 Bombardier announced it would increase the mtow of the Learjet 45 by a minimum of 800 pounds, bringing the mtow to at least 21,300 pounds. With the improved weight versus payload capabilities, the Learjet 45 would be able to take eight passengers on longer flights, such as Moscow to Madrid or Cairo to Paris, according to Bombardier.

The mtow increase would be certified in the third quarter of 2002, the original press announcement said, at which time it would become a standard feature on all new aircraft. For in-service jets, a Service Bulletin would be made available at that time. Bombardier said that no hardware changes would be required, and the Service Bulletin would be free of charge to customers.

While researching the engineering required for an 800- to 1,000-pound weight increase for the Learjet 45, however, Bombardier decided to go much further and develop a derivative model with greater performance than just a gross weight increase and which could be sold on its own merits alongside the Model 45.

The Wichita-based division of Bombardier concentrated on an upgraded powerplant, improvements in takeoff, time-to-climb and hot-and-high performance and other added features–including an improved Universal UNS-1E FMS and a new interior design–and introduced the derivative model, dubbed the Learjet 45XR.

Bombardier Aerospace followed up that research with an announcement at the Farnborough Air Show in July 2002 that it was developing the Learjet 45XR, to be powered by the TFE731-20BR. There was no mention of the announcement made a year earlier about the mtow increase for the Learjet 45, and Bombardier never did make it available as a stand-alone upgrade.