Bombardier Announces That Learjet Will End Production This Year
Photos by the Photorecon Photography Team
Bombardier, the Canadian company which owns the Learjet brand, has announced that they will no longer build new Learjets after the end of 2021. Bombardier will continue to support operations of previously-built aircraft though. This will include the newly-announced Learjet 40 and 45 remanufacturing program.
Learjet was among the original companies to build privately-owned jet transports. Their original model, the Lear 23, was designed along the lines of a never-produced Swiss attack jet design, named the FFA P-16. Bill Lear began the Swiss American Aircraft Company, which worked on designing the aircraft in Europe, but later moved the company and production lines to Wichita Kansas in 1962.
The first production Lear 23 was begun in 1963. Over fifty eight years of production, well in excess of 3,000 aircraft have been built and delivered. Here is a brief rundown of the company’s products and its many mergers and re-brandings.
Learjet 20 series
The original Lear 23 first flew on October 7, 1963. The first jet produced for customers was delivered in 1964, but only 101 Lear 23s were produced. The heavier Lear 24 first flew on February 24, 1966, and the lengthened Lear 25 first flew half a year later.
In September, 1966, the company was renamed as Lear Jet Industries, Incorporated. In 1967, the company was acquired by Gates Rubber Company, and in 1969 was renamed again, as the Gates Learjet Corporation.
The longer Lear 28 and 29 were marketed as the “Longhorn”, beginning in 1977. A newly designed wing with winglets (giving improvements in range and efficiency) was fitted. Only 9 of these Longhorns were produced between 1977 and 1982, but this design grew into the Lear 31.
Learjet 30 series
In 1971, the first Lear 35, equipped with Garrett TFE-731 turbofans, flew. This important model, plus the similar Lear 36 equipped with an extra fuel tank, was produced for 21 years, from 1973 through 1994. A total of 738 of these were built.
In 1985, the company’s name changed to the Learjet Corporation.
The Lear 31 and -31A were produced from 1987 to 2003, and featured the Lear Longhorn wings and larger Lear 35 fuselage and engines.
Learjet 40 series
The Lear 45 began production in 1995, and was built through 2013. It was a new design with the familiar Garrett TFE-731 engine.
The Lear 40 began production in 2002, and ended in 2013, it was a shorter version of the Lear 45. 642 Lear 40 and -45s were produced.
Lear 50 series
The Lear 55 version was one of the largest Learjets, still powered with the TFE-731 engines. This version was produced from 1981 through 1990.
Lear 60 series
The Learjet 60 is a longer version of the Lear 55, with Pratt and Whitney engines. Built from 1991 through 2012, more than 400 were built.
Bombardier Aerospace purchased the Learjet Corporation in 1990, and renamed the operation ”Bombardier Learjet”.
Lear 70 and 75
Produced from 2013 until this year, it is an updated Lear 45 version. More than 145 of the -70 and -75 models were produced.
A Lear 85 model was designed but never produced.
A LearAvia Lear Fan pusher turboprop was designed but never entered production. Three prototypes were built, and survive in museums today. Design features were included in the Piaggio P-180 Avanti, which has Lear design components in it due to a short collaboration between Lear and Piaggio that blossomed and then withered due to financial issues.
The LearStar 60 was never produced, but the design became the Canadair Challenger 600 mid-sized jet in the 1975-1976 timeframe, after Canadair bought the design from Bill Gates.
The U.S. and other military air arms have used Learjets for transport, ECM and other special uses. The USAF’s C-21As still shuttle essential personnel and light cargo between airports today. An Argentinian Lear 35 was shot down by a surface to air during the Falklands Conflict as it performed a reconnaissance mission.
With a large number of Learjets still active (and some yet to be delivered), The Lear designs will grace the skies around the world for another few decades. The 60th birthday of the original design is just around the corner, in 2023. That says a lot about the designs that were produced, and the satisfaction that owners and operators have shown over six decades.
Multiple civilian companies perform electronic warfare training for military units by providing various Learjet models with pylon-attached and/or internally modified jammers and emitters.