Learjet 85 program still on track for 2013 entry into service

EBACE Convention News » 2009
May 13, 2009, 11:17 AM

Development of the “clean sheet” all-composite Bombardier Learjet 85 continues on track for its announced entry-into-service date of 2013, notwithstanding the unexpected insolvency and subsequent bankruptcy in late 2008 of supplier Grob Aerospace, which had been selected to help develop the structure and build the first three prototypes for the program. Bombardier announced in September that it had decided to terminate its agreement with Grob and take over complete responsibility for the detailed design and manufacturing of all primary and secondary structures for the Learjet 85 prototypes. Bombardier had always planned to manufacture the production Learjet 85s itself.

Learjet is now using Bombardier’s new production facility in the Queretaro Aerospace Park in Mexico to fabricate the composite structure for the Learjet 85, which, if all goes to plan, will become the first certified, all-composite Part 25 business jet. The Queretaro facility already builds the Challenger 850 mid-fuselage, the Q400 flight control work package (rudder, elevator and horizontal stabilizer) and the aft fuselage on Global models.

Product design and manufacturing development is taking place at three sites. Bombardier Montreal is responsible for structural detail design of the Learjet 85; Learjet in Wichita is handling systems integration, flight test, final assembly, completions and customer delivery; and Queretaro is providing composite construction of the fuselage, wing and empennage, electrical harness manufacture and subassembly systems installation.

“Following the departure of Grob, we established a composite advisory council last year to bring in both internal and industry experts to surround the program with the best thinkers in the industry to help us progress,” said David Coleal, vice president and general manager Learjet Business Aircraft. “There are many ways to do composites, with respect to the materials, weave patterns, resins and processes. We believe we’ve selected the right combination for the Learjet 85, using the low-pressure, vacuum-bag process. We also established a relationship with the National Institute for Aviation Research in Wichita, which is about 20 minutes away from Learjet.” At NIAR, Bombardier is conducting wind-tunnel testing with a one-tenth scale model of the Learjet 85.

The program is now in the joint definition phase, which is progressing well, said Coleal. “We’re also in the technology readiness phase, during which we’re starting to lay out large-scale test samples. Members from Queretaro are embedded with the structural design engineers from Montreal and are training and learning how to lay out composite structures based on the design of the Lear 85, using the low-pressure vacuum bag, oven-cured system. The test articles have been sent around the continental U.S. for testing. We’re getting the results back and we’re defining the design from there.

“Subsequently from that, we’ve been able to layup a large-scale composite fuselage section with the materials we selected,” Coleal continued. “This structure, which was done using a Global Express fuselage mold–so it is larger than the 85 design–is now being tested and inspected for quality with respect to our design thinking, process and material. We’re feeding this information back into the design process. This way we can make changes to the design before we make production tooling. If they can’t build it, it doesn’t matter how nice the design is.”

Though Learjet is not providing specific dates publicly, the current milestones in the Learjet 85 program are, in order: structural design validation (completed), technology readiness, preliminary design review, joint definition phase exit, critical design review, first flight, and FAA and EASA certification–all leading to first customer deliveries in 2013.

Bombardier reports almost 60 orders for the Learjet 85 at a base price of $17.2 million (2008 $). Learjet is showing the Learjet 85 mockup on the EBACE static display area. A Web site specifically for the airplane is www.learjet85.com.

According to Kahder Matter, Bombardier’s regional vice president for sales in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, it is the Lear 85’s speed and rate of climb that set it apart from competitors, along with the size of its cabin which can seat up to 10 passengers when a divan is installed. Also available is 100 cu ft of external baggage space and another 30 cu ft of interior space–more than twice the space on the existing Lear 45.  The Lear 85 is positioned just below Bombardier’s Challenger 300 and competes against the Cessna Citation Sovereign, Gulfstream G250 and Hawker 900.    o

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