Learjet–arguably business aviation’s most enduring brand name–turned 40 last month. At the NBAA Convention, Learjet team members and customers, both past and present, gathered to hail the anniversary of the Lear 23’s 4 p.m. first flight on Oct. 7, 1963. And, with the looming service entry of the new Learjet 40 and 45XR models, Bombardier is determined to ensure the 40-year-old avoids any sort of midlife crisis.
“The first flight of a Learjet was a watershed event for business travelers,” Peter Edwards, Bombardier Business Aircraft president, told the birthday party guests. “Until Bill Lear designed and built a jet airplane specifically for business use, corporate travelers either had to fly on modified military aircraft, airliners, or small, slow, noisy, piston- and turboprop-powered airplanes. The Learjet changed all that, in spectacular fashion. It is not an overstatement to say that the first flight launched more than a product line–it effectively launched the business jet segment of the aviation industry.”
The Lear 23’s original test pilots, Hank Beaird and Bob Hagan, were on hand at
the celebration to lend some historical gravitas to the anniversary. So too were former Learjet luminaries, such as the company’s former president, Brian Barents. –