Bombardier drops Grob from Learjet 85 program

 - September 30, 2008, 4:59 AM

Bombardier has terminated its contract with Grob Aerospace AG of Switzerland to develop the composite structure for the Learjet 85. Grob’s German affiliate filed for insolvency on August 18. In a statement released on September 18, Steve Ridolfi, president of Bombardier Business Aircraft, said, “Given the uncertainty surrounding Grob’s insolvency, Learjet has decided to terminate its agreement with Grob Aerospace, effective Sept. 17, 2008. Bombardier Aero- space is taking decisive action and this decision reflects our strong commitment to both the Learjet 85 aircraft program and to a growing number of leading business jet customers worldwide who have selected this exciting, all-new midsize business jet.”

Grob Aerospace GmbH filed for insolvency in Germany after its main source of capital withdrew financial support for Grob’s new SPn light business jet program. Grob CEO Niall Olver said that the undisclosed investor had pulled out due to delays in the SPn certification program and resulting increases in the amount of money required to get the aircraft into service.

Bombardier said it is assuming complete responsibility for the detail design and manufacturing of all primary and secondary structures for the eight-passenger Learjet 85.

Grob issued the following statement reacting to Bombardier’s decision: “While this outcome is regrettable, it is a matter of fact that Bombardier needs to take whatever measures it deems necessary to protect the timeline of the program. The parties have agreed to cooperate and to jointly remove the Bombardier program from the Tussenhausen-Mattsies facility.”

Possible News at NBAA

At press time Bombardier was still formulating specifics for development of the Learjet 85 without Grob. The original plan called for all of the structures for the entire first aircraft to be fabricated by Grob in Germany, with some production gradually transferred thereafter to Bombardier. The Canadian company originally intended to transfer that work to a production facility in Mexico, but those plans are now uncertain.

“We are going to control development,” said a spokeswoman for Bombardier, “but we haven’t determined where exactly things will be done, other than they will be at a Bombardier site.”

Dropping Grob from the project could also mean that the composite technology for the Learjet 85 will be changed from a low-pressure hand-layup system to composites that are pre-impregnated (pre-preg) with resin and then heat-cured.

“We haven’t finalized the details yet,” said the spokeswoman, “but we hope to share them at the NBAA Convention.”

Bombardier currently has firm orders for 45 copies of the $17.2 million (2008 $) Learjet 85, and letters of intent for another 90. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in 2012.