Winging in from Wichita
The Bombardier Learjet 40 conforming prototype made its first flight on August 31 and five days later the first Learjet 40 production airplane made its first flight as well, Bombardier announced yesterday here in Orlando. And last night, the derivative model flew into Orlando Executive Airport from Wichita to take a spot on the static display line beside its sister aircraft.
During its recent first flight the prototype (S/N 45-001) climbed to 47,451 ft and
reached its top speed of 270 kt, while the production airplane (S/N 2001) on its first trip aloft climbed to 51,000 ft, the maximum operating altitude of the aircraft, as well as reaching its top speed.
How Bombardier Learjet was able to fly the production-conforming aircraft so soon after the prototype had made its first flight is due not so much to the fact that the Learjet 40 is a shortened derivative of the certified Learjet 45, as to Learjet’s decision to develop the two test articles in parallel.
“Learjet 45-001 was the aerodynamic test aircraft for the Learjet 45 certification,” Thomas Hilpert, Learjet program director, told NBAA Convention News. “We chose it as the donor aircraft for modification. Over the last couple of months, we upgraded the systems in that aircraft so that it is representative of the current production 45. We then de-plugged that aircraft, removing a 24.5-inch section from the fuselage. So, because we had a conformed donor aircraft, we actually had a conforming prototype for first flight.”
In parallel, Bombardier Learjet started all the engineering and development work for production. “In essence we took the production engineering to define what the modifications to the donor aircraft would be,” said Hilpert. “The aircraft skin structure changed because of the de-plugging, so the 40 has a new skin. Also, all of the systems inside that ran through the area of the cut had to be revised to shorten their lengths by the same 24.5 inches. So development of the two airplanes, one in flight test and the other in production, were running in parallel.”
Because the production article went through the same build-up and tooling at Bombardier’s facilities in Belfast and Toronto, when it got to the final line in Wichita Hilpert was able to put it into position as if it were just another 45. “So I had a conforming production article to go into flight test as well,” he said.
That article will be dedicated to confirming all of the test points that the prototype article is checking, and it will also be used for certification of the interior and all the interior options, a lesson Hilpert said Bombardier learned from the Challenger 300 development program.
“The prototype article had to fly first,” he explained, “to clear the envelope. We also did a ground vibration test on the development article, to clear it for flutter, before it could be flown.”
Type certification of the Learjet 40 from Transport Canada and the FAA is expected in the third quarter of next year, while certification by the JAA is set for the first quarter of 2004, after which the aircraft is expected to enter customer service. The model was introduced in July at the Farnborough Air Show.
Special Indy 500 Interior Unveiled Here
The first 40 Learjet 40 customers have the option of selecting a racecar-inspired interior for their airplanes, at an additional cost of $150,000. Included will be VIP access to racing events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the next racing season. A mockup of the red and black interior, which incorporates extensive use of embossed leather, graphite surfaces and metallic accents, was unveiled at Bombardier’s exhibit (Booth No. 1079) yesterday.
Announced before the unveiling was a sponsorship agreement between Bombardier and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp., that includes naming rights to the Speedway's landmark Pagoda control tower. The relationship formally begins with the Bombardier ATV Copper World Indy 500 car race at the Phoenix International Raceway on March 17.