Pilot Report: Learjet 75

 - November 1, 2013, 2:30 AM
Learjet 75 flying (Photo: Bombardier)

It still seems unusual to climb into the cockpit of a sophisticated modern jet like Bombardier’s rejuvenated Learjet 75 and find a Garmin suite instead of a panel full of Honeywell or Rockwell Collins avionics. It isn’t hard to figure out; there are no flight management system control display units in the Learjet 75’s pedestal. Indeed, it seems that the concept of the standalone FMS has been banished from the jet’s Bombardier Vision (Garmin G5000) flight deck. Instead, the avionics are all about allowing pilots to do whatever is needed using the system’s two touch-screen controllers (or buttons, if pilots insist).

Physically, the Learjet 75 airframe is much the same as that of the model 45–and the same is true for the shorter Learjet 70/40)–but Learjet’s engineers have rebooted the two jets not only with the Vision cockpit but also with an entirely new interior inspired by the upcoming Learjet 85, including Lufthansa’s niceView in-flight entertainment/cabin management system from the 85 and the Challenger 300. The new Learjets’ winglets are canted outward further compared to those on the 40/45 and add 18 extra inches to wingspan on each side. The jet’s new 3,850-pound-thrust Honeywell TFE731-40BR engines are 10 percent more powerful than the -20BRs on the 40/45 models and flat-rated to ISA +23 degrees C, “the highest flat-rating of any business jet,” according to Mathieu St-Cyr, manager of sales engineering for Bombardier Business Aircraft.

Bombardier delivered 133 Learjet 40/40XRs and 453 Learjet 45/45XRs before production ended in late 2011. Certification of the 70/75 would have occurred earlier, but the U.S. government shutdown caused a delay, although the company expected FAA certification by the time this issue went to press.

The Learjet 70 and 75 share nearly identical systems, but the 70 seats up to seven and the 75 up to nine (when including the belted lavatory). Prices in 2013 dollars are $11.216- and $13.793 million, respectively.

“This [the model 75] is the only double-club [seating] in its class,” said St-Cyr, and it costs about $4 million less than Cessna’s Sovereign, the next airplane that offers double-club seating. Bombardier compares the light 70/75 to the Embraer Phenom 300 and Cessna CJ4, but those are both certified under Part 23, while the 70/75 are Part 25 designs. The Cessna XLS+ is also in similar territory, and it is a Part 25 jet, too.

The 70/75 have a flat floor, which combined with the fuselage’s oval cross-section “means you don’t have to worry about stepping [down] into the aisle,” he said. The 75’s galley is new, replacing a forward cabinet on the 45, and has 27 percent more storage area and a 33-percent larger trash container. Hidden latches add to the modern-looking finish. A dedicated iPod/iPhone drawer is included.

Performance-wise, the 75 delivers 4 percent greater range, now 2,040 nm (four passengers, NBAA IFR range, 100-nm alternate), while being able to take off using 600 fewer feet of runway, making strips shorter than 5,000 feet quite usable. Takeoff distance at mtow is 4,440 feet, and landing distance at max landing weight is 2,660 feet. The winglet design (internally labeled a “beavertail”) is adapted from the Bombardier CSeries and helps drive a 2-percent efficiency improvement. The 75 is equipped with a Honeywell RE100 APU as standard, usable only on the ground. Pressurization keeps the cabin altitude at 8,000 feet at the maximum altitude of 51,000 feet and about 6,300 feet at FL430.

The switch to the G5000-based Vision cockpit, from the heavier Honeywell four-display Primus 1000 system, reduced the basic operating weight by 150 to 230 pounds (depending on equipment selection). The first production 75 that demonstration pilot Greg Eastburn and I flew had a BOW of less than 14,100 pounds. The center of gravity was farther forward in the 40/45, he said. “Now you’ve got a much more centered cg, and the more aft, the more economical.”

The nose avionics bay now has much more space available, even though the oxygen bottle size was increased to 40 cu ft, up from 22. The emergency battery in the nose is larger, too, and now is a 28-amp-hour unit. Garmin’s new GWX 70 digital radar is lighter and adds vertical scanning and turbulence-detection capability to the new Learjets. Standard avionics capabilities include Garmin’s Synthetic Vision Technology, RNP 0.3 and ADS-B out. Fans/CPDLC is available and will be certified shortly after entry into service.

New Interior

Interior lighting is by Emteq and features long-lasting LEDs throughout. The Lufthansa Technik niceView system features pop-up seven-inch touch-screen controls/monitors at each seat and a 12.1-inch monitor on the bulkhead for viewing niceView content. The top third of the seat touch screen remains operable even when the monitor is in the stowed position. The sound system, populated with 24 exciters built into the side panels, pumps audio smoothly and powerfully throughout the cabin. Empower 110-VAC power outlets are mounted between each double-club seat arrangement and there is an outlet in the lavatory, too. The lavatory has been redesigned with fresh styling. New for the 70/75 are integral window shades by UTC Aerospace.

To help prevent battery drainage, the interior lights, which switch on when the cabin door is opened, now are limited by a timer.

The Aircraft Modular Products seats are fitted with five-pound under-seat storage areas.

Flight Deck Details

In the Vision cockpit, the Learjet 75’s center pedestal is much cleaner-looking, and instead of housing two FMS units now is the home of many systems switches that used to live on the instrument panel. To make it easier for pilots to climb in, a metal pedestal cover folds up and over to protect the switches, and it’s OK to step on the cover. Chrome and leather trim on flight controls and levers brings cabin styling into the cockpit.

The four Honeywell Primus 1000 screens in portrait mode are replaced by three 14-inch Garmin displays in landscape mode. The Garmin GTC 570 touch-screen controllers are positioned below the center multifunction display (MFD), putting them within easy reach. For pilots not used to doing everything on the touch-screen controller, or in the unlikely event both controllers failed, each pilot has an eyebrow-mounted controller that duplicates many of the functions of the GTC 570. These include range setting on the PFD, barometric setting, com/nav frequency setting, flight planning, direct-to and approach procedure selection. A clearance delivery button provides quick power-on for one GTC with the battery switch off.

The Vision cockpit in the Learjet 75 is much better organized and easier to operate than the old flight deck. Evidence of this is the elimination of the audio panels and radio tuning units and, thankfully, the annoying rotary test switch.

Pilots will take advantage of the large amount of display real estate with the G5000 system by customizing the available panes. The center MFD always shows the engine indicating and crew alert system in a 20-percent pane, leaving one large 80-percent pane for moving-maps, charts and so on, or two 40-percent panes, each one controllable by each pilot. The PFDs can be split into 40-/60- or 100-percent panes. “I think you get a lot of capability to having maps and summary pages and charts up in front of you with the 60/40 capability,” Eastburn said. “There are times when a full screen is nice,” he added. For example, full-screen mode makes it easier to see the entire arrival on an arrival chart.

When a pilot wants to choose what to show on the display, simply touching the home button on the GTC 570 reveals a set of six icons at the top. These show what can be done with the “focus” area on the screen controlled by that pilot, such as radar, checklists, maps and so on (Checklists weren’t loaded into the system at the time that I flew this airplane.) These icons can be customized in the user profiles. And up to 25 profiles can be stored, which is useful for fleet operators.

A central tenet of the G5000 system (and other modern graphical-based avionics systems) is that clicking on or selecting a waypoint allows you to do whatever can be done with that waypoint. The GTC 570 makes this easy. While there is no cursor control device such as a trackball in the Learjet 75, pilots can use the controller to pan over a map and select waypoints, then do a direct-to, add it to a flight plan, set up a holding pattern, look up information such as weather or airport details and so on. “It’s so intuitive, Eastburn said. “Put your cursor on it and ask about it. You can create user waypoints, also.” He showed me another neat feature, the ability to display latitude/longitude lines on the moving-map page, so it’s easy to verify on a North Atlantic crossing where you are in relation to key waypoints. “I’ve got a plotting chart on my screen,” he said. “I see my plotting points right where they need to be on the appropriate lat/long lines. It is so nice to know that, instead of always trying to trust a piece of paper.”

Time To Fly

I had the opportunity to fly the first production Learjet 75 in late September. Eastburn and I flew 2.1 hours, from Learjet headquarters at Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport west toward Dodge City for some airwork, then to back to Hutchinson for an Rnav approach and then Wichita for two landings.

The wind was gusting to more than 30 knots, which was a good test of the Learjet 75’s high wing loading compared with that of the Phenom 300 and CJ4, according to St-Cyr. “The ride on the Learjet 70 and 75 will tend to sit the aircraft more nicely in turbulence,” he said, and indeed it did.

Starting the Learjet 75’s TFE731-40BR engines is completely automatic. While the 70/75 don’t have autothrottes, they are equipped with Honeywell’s digital electronic engine control system, which provides easy-to-find detents for typical power settings.

Learjet pilots won’t find the electric nosewheel steering unfamiliar. The benefit of this system is that the nosewheel has no tow limits when power is off. It does take a little getting used to, but anyone who has taxied an airplane with hydraulic nosewheel steering (such as a Twin Commander or Beechcraft T-6) will find the Learjet’s system easy. The Learjet’s nosewheel steering is variable, too, and becomes more stable as the jet accelerates during takeoff. I had no trouble staying on centerline while taxiing and during takeoff. The jet’s brake-by-wire carbon brakes are highly effective, and it takes a light touch to keep from jerking the airplane to a halt. But they also enable stopping in a reasonably short distance after landing without engaging the thrust reversers.

There were a few minor items on the fix-it list that were due to be taken care of by entry into service. These included weather radar displaying only on one page at a time; this will run on multiple pages and as an overlay on moving maps. The flight level change feature on the autopilot was limited to above 10,500 feet. And a landing gear audio callout could be heard while the gear was retracting.

With four on board, we were carrying 4,180 pounds of fuel, about two-thirds of a full load, for a takeoff weight of less than 19,000 pounds. Mtow is 21,500 pounds.

We took off from Mid-Continent’s Runway 19R, and while the push in the back once the power is set to the takeoff detent isn’t the furious rush of an older and lighter Learjet 20 series, the larger Learjet accelerated quickly to rotation speed and climbed swiftly. I did have to trim the nose down after liftoff, something that Eastburn warned me about and that seems typical in Learjets. After takeoff, it was simple to pull the power levers back to the maximum continuous thrust position, and with a few brief level-offs, we continued almost unimpeded to FL430, which took about 21 minutes.

Once level at FL430, at ISA -4 degree C, we set power to the maximum cruise detent and the speed settled at Mach 0.80 and fuel flow for both engines 1,150 pounds per hour. Eastburn uses 1,600 pph for the first hour, then 1,200, 1,150 and 1,100 for the second, third and fourth hours respectively, which, he said, “is very conservative.” Official high-speed cruise speed is Mach 0.81 and long-range cruise Mach 0.75.

I flew steep turns to the left and right. While the flight controls are crisp and responsive, they are somewhat heavy at higher speeds. We spent some time trying various settings on the avionics, then turned around and popped the variable spoilers at Mach 0.80 and descended toward Hutchinson, Kan., at 4,500 fpm. Steep turns at 15,000 feet later on felt pretty much the same, a little more solid or maybe I was just getting more used to the feel of the controls.

Eastburn is an excellent demo pilot because he patiently let me do as much button pushing as possible on the Vision/G5000 avionics, which is the only way to get used to a new system. I dialed in the Rnav (GPS) 22 at Hutchinson and we flew the full procedure, including the holding pattern so I could see how solidly the Garmin autopilot tracked the hold and put us on the final approach course.

We returned to Mid-Continent in Wichita for the ILS approach back to runway 19R, and this time I landed in the gusty winds and then we added power for a touch-and-go and circled back for a visual to 19R. The Learjet 75 handled perfectly in the 25+-knot gusty winds, sliding solidly down final to the threshold and once over the runway, pointing exactly where I wanted without a burble. My second touchdown was not quite as satisfying as the first, but certainly acceptable. After dropping the nose, I pulled the throttles into reverse and barely had to step on the brakes to make our turnoff. During the 2.1-hour flight, we burned about 2,740 pounds of fuel.

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