Bombardier teases details of Learjet NXT

 - November 27, 2007, 6:04 AM

For the past four years, Bombardier designers have worked on a variety of design concepts for new airplanes. One result of those efforts–the Learjet NXT–was announced on October 30. The airplane will be the largest in the Learjet line and fills a niche between the midsize Learjet 60XR and the super-midsize Challenger 300. With a 675-cu-ft stand-up cabin, the Learjet NXT will carry eight passengers, fly up to 3,000 nm and have a high-speed cruise of Mach 0.82.

The logic behind developing a new large Learjet, according to Brad Nolen, Bombardier Learjet product manager, is that the company offers no ideal trade-up airplane for a Learjet 45 owner who wants Learjet performance but more space for passengers. About 25 Learjet 60XRs sell every year, making it a strong player in Bombardier’s portfolio, but with a shorter cabin and seats for seven passengers, the 60 isn’t a logical trade-up for owners of the eight-seat Learjet 45. The company needed an airplane larger than the 60XR that a Learjet 45 owner would find attractive, if he wasn’t ready to move into a Challenger 300. “We’re tapping into a huge installed base on the Learjet 45 and 60,” Nolen said. Bombardier has delivered more than 325 Learjet 60s and 344 Learjet 45s.

“We could have stretched or re-winged the 60,” he added, but potential buyers were more interested in a clean-sheet design. “It’s not a derivative of earlier Learjets,” he said. The Learjet NXT, however, does continue the basic shape of the modern Learjets, including the delta fins on the aft fuselage.

Because the Learjet shape was an important element, Bombardier began the process of designing the NXT with what Nolen said was “an industrial design drawing of what a Learjet should look like.” When it came time to refine the design into something that could be built and would perform as desired, Nolen said, the final result ended up looking much like the early industrial design drawings.

Bombardier convened two customer focus groups to provide input during the design process, and they insisted that the NXT look like a proper Learjet. They also asked for performance that surpasses that of existing Learjets, and that goal will be met.
“The new twist is the cabin,” Nolen said. “It’s bigger than any other Learjet’s, seven inches wider than the Cessna Sovereign’s and three inches taller. It’s well balanced between cabin size and performance [and] competitive against the Gulfstream G150 and Hawker 900XP.”

Bombardier isn’t revealing details about the engine or avionics suppliers but plans to parcel out more information as next year’s NBAA Convention approaches. “It’s a staged launch,” Nolen said. Bombardier also hasn’t disclosed the NXT’s price, but it should be in the Sovereign’s $16.129 million ballpark.

The NXT will use familiar, proven technology, Nolen said. “We’ve paid particular attention to choose systems, avionics, flight controls and engines that will be reliable out of the box.” He wouldn’t say if the airframe will be constructed primarily of metal or composites, but it seems unlikely that Bombardier would change manufacturing methods for the Learjet line and the company will probably go with traditional aluminum construction.

So far, buyers have signed letters of intent to buy more than 65 Learjet NXTs, which include substantial deposits, according to Nolen. “We’re confident we’ll have
a high conversion rate.” Bombardier also expects that its Flexjet fractional-share subsidiary will find the Learjet NXT attractive.

Bombardier has already decided to manufacture the Learjet NXT at the Learjet factory at Wichita. This includes final assembly, interior completion and flight testing.