Learjet 85 program moves to Mexico

 - October 2, 2009, 10:53 AM

Bombardier’s Learjet 85 program continues to move forward or, perhaps more accurately, south, with plans to produce all primary structural components of the all-composite aircraft in Mexico and progress on the new facilities in Querétaro, about 130 miles north of Mexico City.

The new Bombardier site will cover some four million sq ft at the new Querétaro International Airport, which has a runway more than 7,000 feet long and is capable of accommodating aircraft as large as the Airbus A380. The Learjet 85 plant alone totals 200,000 sq ft.

According to the Canadian OEM, the Learjet 85, due to enter service in 2013, will be Bombardier’s first all-composite business jet and the first all-composite business jet ever to be certified to Part 25. Meanwhile, development is being done at Bombardier’s main Montreal site as well as in Wichita, where final assembly of the 85 will take place.

The new Querétaro site, although not yet completed, is already at work with a core of trained Mexican technicians producing models and coupons as part of the training process. The composite process includes hand lay-up of pre-preg materials and heat curing rather than the autoclave method.

Also part of the ramp-up is an agreement with the nearby Universidad Nacional Aeronáutica, where new employees receive 900 hours of training, from health and safety to contact molding, to composite repairs to on-the-job training.

While the twinjet’s structure will be, in essence, made entirely of composite materials, including the wings and tail section, there will be a basic metal skeleton to provide conductivity that will prevent damage from lightning strikes.

Two proof-of-concept fuselages have already been completed in Montreal, all wind-tunnel testing has been completed, and the aircraft’s outside mold has been frozen. Detailed design will begin before year-end.

The wiring harnesses will be assembled and installed in Mexico before shipment to Wichita, where the entire aircraft will be assembled and the interior completion work done. At this point, the workforce at Querétaro consists of 53 Mexican technicians. A total of 1,078 people are currently involved in the program in Montreal, Wichita and Querétaro. The original projection had been for some 2,000 employees, an estimate adjusted “as a result of the economic situation.”

“We are currently nearing completion of the joint definition phase, and we have firm agreements with all major suppliers on the program, including propulsion, air systems, avionics, electrical, hydro-mechanics, structures and interiors,” said Learjet 85 v-p Ralph Acs.

As the program accelerates, the payroll at Querétaro will reach approximately 600 Mexican employees and another 200 Canadians within the next two years, said Réal Gervais, v-p of operations for the Bombardier Mexico manufacturing facility.

The airplane will be powered by twin Pratt & Whitney Canada PW307B turbofans, each producing 6,100 pounds of takeoff thrust and “greener” noise levels and equipped with an advanced combustor for low nitrous-oxide emissions. The airplane is expected to have a high-speed cruise of Mach 0.82 and transcontinental range of up to 3,000 nm. Plans are for the cockpit to contain Rockwell Collins’s latest Pro Line Fusion avionics.

The $17 million price, said Gervais, fits neatly between the smaller Learjet 60XR and the larger Challenger 300.

Learjet 85 Responsibilities
• structural detail design
• systems installation
• aircraft integration, certification and standards
• final line and customer support
• composite structure manufacturing
• electrical harness manufacturing
• sub-assembly systems installation