After Mounting Delays, Learjet 85 Flies

Aviation International News » May 2014
The Bombardier Learjet 85 prototype–designated as flight-test vehicle one– completed its maiden flight on April 9.
May 1, 2014, 4:30 AM

The Bombardier Learjet 85 prototype–designated as flight-test vehicle one (FTV1)–successfully completed its maiden flight on April 9. The all-composite twinjet lifted off from Wichita Mid Continent International Airport at 8:19 a.m. CST, marking the beginning of the all-composite midsize jet’s flight-test program.

At the controls of the fly-by-wire twinjet during the two-hour 15-minute flight were Bombardier Flight Test Center chief flight-test pilot Ed Grabman and copilot Jim Dwyer, with flight-test engineer Nick Weyers in the cabin monitoring data. They took the new Learjet to 30,000 feet and 250 knots during the flight, reporting that all flight controls were exercised and performance was as anticipated.

“This marks a significant accomplishment for the Learjet 85 team. The aircraft performed very well, and I would like to congratulate all the employees who have played a role in achieving FTV1’s maiden flight,” said Learjet 85 vice president and general manager Ralph Acs.

The first flight took place four months behind a revised schedule announced last year. Bombardier intended to fly the Learjet 85 on March 20, but scrubbed that flight because of weather, Bombardier CEO Pierre Beaudoin said at an investor conference that day. According to weather forecasts that day, wind from the southwest was expected to pick up from nine knots to 22 knots, gusting to 30 knots. A company spokeswoman added that Bombardier follows “strict protocols” for initial flights.

A day later, on March 21, a “systems issue”–widely believed to center on software that controls the brake-by-wire system–cropped up and put the Learjet 85’s first flight on an indefinite hold. Engineers developed and tested a software update to fix the undisclosed issue before the jet was again cleared to fly on April 9.

“The first flight of the Learjet 85 aircraft was a proud and thrilling moment for all Bombardier employees,” said Bombardier Business Aircraft president Eric Martel. “Incredible hard work and dedication from our people went into this aircraft development program. This includes our sites in Wichita, Queretaro [Mexico] and Montreal, as well as our facility in Belfast, Northern Ireland. We are all excited to see this new aircraft take to the skies, and we look forward to a successful flight-test program.”

The target date for Learjet 85 certification, originally pegged for the middle of this year, now awaits announcement of Bombardier’s newly revised schedule. Knowledgeable sources have told AIN that certifying the new jet could take up to two years from first flight.

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