Bombardier Learjet (Booth No. 4397) said yesterday that it has made substantial progress developing the all-composite Learjet 85. The $17.2 million (2009 $) midsize jet is scheduled to enter into service in 2013, but Learjet general manager David Coleal said the program had already achieved important milestones.
Coleal said that wind-tunnel testing on the Model 85 had been completed and validated via computational fluid dynamics, all key vendors had been selected and 40 percent of them had exited the joint-definition phase. Two composite proof-of-concept production test articles of the forward fuselage already have been manufactured as has a prototype horizontal stabilizer.
Currently 550 Bombardier employees are working on the program in Montreal, Wichita, and Queretaro and El Marques, Mexico. The Queretaro facility is to fabricate the electrical harnesses and the 85’s composite parts, including the fuselage, horizontal stabilizer and wing assemblies. Those are then to be shipped to Wichita for assembly.
The Model 85 will be mostly, but not totally, composite. Stephen McCullough, vice president of Learjet 85 engineering, said the 85’s wings will use composite skins and spars and metal ribs, similar to the design of the Bombardier C Series regional jet that is currently under development. He added that the metal ribs are better able to absorb loads on the inboard section of the wing and manage tolerances more efficiently.
McCullough said Bombardier’s transition to a mostly composite aircraft has been made easier by its experience with the all-composite horizontal stabilizer on the Global Express and the collective input of a “composite council” it formed of leading composites experts and the National Institute for Aviation Research in Wichita.
“We are being very careful to go through as many lessons learned as we can before we build a static article,” McCullough said. Using composites on the wings “has a lot of benefits, but it also requires special attention,” he said.
A Bombardier spokesman said the company currently has orders for 65 Learjet 85s, with about 40 percent of those coming from existing customers.