Bombardier Aerospace announced today that production of the new Learjet 85 has officially begun and reaffirmed its commitment to a 2013 certification. With the aircraft level critical design review completed, “The next natural step is fabrication, taking parts and putting them together,” said Ralph Acs, v-p and general manager, Learjet, Bombardier Business Aircraft. “We’ve got a lot of momentum, a lot of great work has been completed and we’ve got a solid, experienced team.”
The Learjet 85 is made almost entirely of composite materials. The fuselage will be constructed in Queretaro, Mexico; the wing components in Belfast, Northern Ireland and wing assembly in Queretaro; and additional components made in Montreal, Quebec, with final assembly taking place in Wichita. Forty-one suppliers around the world will make parts for the aircraft. In recent months Bombardier has been setting up the production facilities, putting tooling in place and building parts to perfect manufacturing techniques. Several test fuselages and key elements of the composite structure have been produced to validate manufacturing and assembly processes, and production of the first-flight test vehicle is under way.
“It’s all been about trying to tune the manufacturing recipe to allow repeatability,” Acs said. “We looked for quality, and that gives you confidence to go [forward]. So we’re proud to say we’re going.”
Acs repeatedly referred to his major responsibility as “risk reduction,” and to that end production facilities and suppliers have been tasked with refining the quality and reliability of parts and assembly techniques. “Many [aircraft development] programs wait until entry to service to get reliability right,” Acs said. “We’re trying to pull that together earlier.”
Approximately 40 percent of dedicated supplier test rigs are operational, and as part of Bombardier’s technology readiness program, more than 12,000 test pieces have been produced to date. The first FAA structural certification test project was successfully completed this summer. The company has also been working with the National Institute for Aerospace Research to refine composite production techniques, such as the resin transfer infusion process used in the wing construction.
“The whole idea is to work with them and develop a lot of what we need. This doesn’t end,” Acs said. “The next phase is about entering service, but we always have another phase,” which includes developing repair procedures and product improvement.
The first phase of expansion of the Wichita final assembly facility is complete and ready for assembly to commence. Tooling for the final line is arriving, and assemblers have begun developing final assembly processes and techniques. Phase two of the expansion plan, which includes building a new production flight facility, is scheduled to begin in 2012. The paint facility and a new delivery center are scheduled for completion in 2013.
“It’s a huge footprint expansion,” Acs said of the facility. “We’re the only OEM [in Wichita] that’s expanding.”
The Learjet 85, announced in 2007, is positioned between the midsize Learjet 60XR and the super-midsize Challenger 300 jets. Powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW307B engines, the Learjet 85 is expected to have a high-speed cruise of Mach 0.82 and a transcontinental range of up to 3,000 nm. The cockpit will feature Bombardier’s Global Vision flight deck, based on Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics. A customized cabin management system developed by Lufthansa Technik will feature a high capacity ethernet network with open architecture, enabling easy integration of third-party equipment.