February 27, 2009
In a Feb. 18 press briefing, Bombardier reported that the company is fully committed to the development of its new Learjet 85—a $17 million, up to 10-passenger, all-composite, Mach 0.82, 3,000-nm airplane that was first announced in 2007. The composite design work originally performed by Grob Aerospace (which went bankrupt in August 2008) has been realigned to Bombardier teams in Montreal, Canada, and Queretaro, Mexico. At this point, Bombardier says that the airplane’s structural design validation has been completed and that technical ramp-up is in progress. A two-phase training program for the Queretaro workers who will specialize in fabricating and assembling the airplane’s composite fuselage, wings, and horizontal stabilizers has begun, with 18 students already graduated from training classes in Montreal. Queretaro will also make the Learjet 85’s electrical harnesses, as well as install subassemblies.
Bombardier’s Wichita facility will perform the Lear 85’s flight testing, final assembly, interior completions, and customer deliveries. Bombardier-Montreal will do the airplane’s structures certification and engine detail design structure.
Main achievements in the design validation so far include the selection of prepregnated composite materials, fuselage joint and wing-to-fuselage joint definition, wing geometry layout, wing joint and splices definition, and weight and fuel volume “first-pass” estimates. Wind tunnel testing also has been completed, with high-speed tests done at Buffalo’s Calspan Transonic Wind tunnel, and Bedford, England’s Aircraft Research Association’s high-speed wind tunnel. Low-speed wind tunnel tests were done at the National Institute for Aviation research (NIAR) in Wichita, Kan., and at Wichita State University. High-lift studies were done at Ottawa’s Institute for Aerospace Research.
Customer steering teams have been used to solicit input on the design of the interior and cockpit, and also in developing a maintenance philosophy for the Learjet 85. The cabin, Bombardier says, will redefine the midsize business jet category. It will have 30 inches of legroom between facing seats, the largest cabin in the current midsize fleet, and the largest windows in its class. There will be 14, 12-by-16-inch windows located for maximum viewing.
The airplane’s Pratt&Whitney PW307B engines will be eco-friendly according to Bombardier, with nitrogen oxide emissions that beat ICAO standards by 33-percent, and thus let owners benefit from lower landing fees in certain nations.
First customer deliveries of the Learjet 85 are set for 2013. According to a company official, as of Oct. 31, 2008 Bombardier had received more than 50 firm orders.
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Connecticut lawmakers have voted to recognize Gustave Whitehead as the first pilot to achieve powered flight. The bill awaits the governor’s signature, and marks the latest round in a newly revived debate.