Learjet

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Learjet
Fate Incorporated into Bombardier
Successor(s) Bombardier Aerospace
Founded 1960
Headquarters Wichita, Kansas

Learjet is an American manufacturer of business jets for civilian and military use. It was founded in the late 1950s by William Powell Lear as Swiss American Aviation Corporation. Since 1990 Learjet has been a subsidiary of Bombardier and is marketed as the "Bombardier Learjet Family".

History[edit]

Learjet was one of the first companies to manufacture a private, luxury aircraft. In the 1940s, with World War II still fresh in the public's mind, Lear chose to base his first jet on an American military aircraft known as the Marvel.[1] Learjet is an American company that started off in Wichita, Kansas, which has over 3200 employees.[2] Wichita, Kansas was not the only candidate for the location of Lear’s project. Grand Rapids, Michigan and Ohio were also both locations that were being considered.[2] Kansas had something that the other two states did not. There were already a few other aircraft companies that were located in Kansas, which meant there were many more potential workers that would possess the skills that Lear needed to run his company in the design and manufacturing of the aircraft.[2] If that was not enough incentive to choose Kansas as the primary location, Lear was offered an industrial revenue bond of 1.2 million US dollars.[2] This would be known as the first historical industrial revenue bond offered by the city.[2] To this day, the Learjet facility is still located in Wichita Kansas, and is currently getting ready to be renovated, by expanding the Flight Test Center and building a new center for delivery.[3]

The Learjet started life as an abortive 1950s Swiss ground-attack fighter aircraft, the FFA P-16.[4]

The basic structure of the Swiss P-16 aircraft was seen by Bill Lear and his team as a good starting point to the development of a business jet, and formed the Swiss American Aircraft Corporation, located in Altenrhein, Switzerland and staffed with design engineers from Switzerland, Germany and Britain. The aircraft was originally intended to be called the SAAC-23. or at one time the 'Tina Jet'. The wing with its distinctive tip fuel tanks and landing gear of the first Learjets were little changed from those used by the fighter prototypes. Although building the first jet started in Switzerland, the tooling for building the aircraft was moved to Wichita, Kansas, in 1962. Bill Jr stated that it took too long to get anything done in Switzerland despite the cheaper labor costs.[5] LearJet was in a temporary office which opened in September 1962 while the plant at Wichita's airport was under construction. On February 7, 1963 assembly of the first Learjet began. The next year, the company was renamed the Lear Jet Corporation.

The original Learjet 23 was a six- to eight-seater and first flew on October 7, 1963, with the first production model being delivered in October 1964. Just over a month later, Lear Jet became a publicly owned corporation. Several derived models followed, with the Model 24 first flying on February 24, 1966 and the Model 25 first flying on August 12, 1966. On September 19 of the same year, the company was renamed Lear Jet Industries Inc.

On April 10, 1967, Bill Lear's stock—he held approximately 60% of the company (US$ 27,000,000)—was acquired by the Gates Rubber Company of Denver, Colorado, United States, with Lear remaining on the board until April 2, 1969.

Merger with Gates Aviation[edit]

In 1969, the company was merged with Gates Aviation and the company name was changed to Gates Learjet Corporation. In 1971, the first Model 25 powered by a Garrett TFE731-2 turbofan engine was flown. This aircraft later became the successful Learjet 35. That year, the company was awarded the President's "E" Award for promoting export sales.

In 1974, the worldwide Learjet fleet had exceeded the one-million flight hours mark and in 1975 the company produced its 500th jet. In both instances they were the first manufacturer to do so. By late 1976, the company had increased the number of aircraft being produced each month to ten.

On August 24, 1977, the Learjet 28 made its first flight. The Learjet 28/29 was based on the Learjet 25, and received a completely new wing fitted with winglets, resulting in improved performance and fuel economy. The Learjet 28/29 became the first production jet aircraft to utilize these winglets, which are now a common sight on most business and commercial airplanes. The winglets inspired the name "Longhorn" for the short-lived Learjet 28/29 series and for some of the more successful models that followed.

On April 19, 1979, the prototype for the Model 54/55/56 series made its first flight, and on July 7, 1983 a standard production Model 55 set six new time-to-climb records for its weight class.

In 1984, Gates Learjet announced the start of their Aerospace Division, a high technology endeavor. However, by the end of the year the company had ceased production of its commercial jets in an effort to reduce inventories. This lasted until February 1986, when the company headquarters were transferred to Tucson, Arizona, and production was restarted both in Wichita and Tucson.

On September 10, 1985, the Aerospace Division was awarded a contract to produce parts for the Space Shuttle's main engines. In 1987, Gates Learjet was acquired by Integrated Acquisition and the next year the name was changed to Learjet Corporation. By January 1989 all production had been moved from the Tucson facility back to Wichita with an employment of 1250.[6]

Bombardier[edit]

In 1990, Bombardier Aerospace purchased the Learjet Corporation. The aircraft were then marketed as the "Bombardier Learjet Family". On October 10, 1990, the Learjet 60 mid-sized aircraft had its first flight, followed on October 7, 1995 by the Learjet 45. In October 2007 Bombardier Learjet launched a brand new aircraft program, the Learjet 85. It was the first FAR Part-25 all-composite business aircraft.

On October 7, 2008, Bombardier celebrated Learjet's historic 45th anniversary of the first flight ever by a Learjet. As a way to commemorate this, Bombardier Business aircraft (a division of Bombardier Inc.) decided to launch the Year of Learjet campaign, a year-long celebration to honor Learjet's contribution as a pioneer to the private business jet industry. One of the most memorable events to mark this celebration occurred at the Farnborough Air Show, when Formula One racing driver Lewis Hamilton raced a Learjet and won.[7]

Records[edit]

A Learjet held the previous speed record for the journey from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. at 4 hours 12 minutes, which was succeeded by the Lockheed SR-71 at 64 minutes.[8]

Aircraft[edit]

Learjet 45 of Gama Aviation

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Condon, Peter. Flying the Classic Learjet. Dorval: Condon. 2007.
  2. ^ a b c d e Gross, Peggy. February 21, 2013. Learjet 50 Years, Bombardier Aerospace, Wichita, Kansas.
  3. ^ Mekhail, Natasha. “Learjet Grows Wichita Site and Workforce”. Experience [Canada]. January 10th, 2013: 81. Spafax Inc. Print.
  4. ^ Georges Bridel, Verkehrshaus der Schweiz, Luzern 1975, ISBN 3 85954 902 2.
  5. ^ Frickler, John. "Switzerland's P-16: Father of the Learjet." Air International, March 1991, Vol. 40, No. 3, pp. 139–146.
  6. ^ Air Progress: 23. February 1989. 
  7. ^ BBC NEWS | UK | Lewis Hamilton races Lear jet
  8. ^ Leland R. Haynes, "SR-71 #972 Final Record Flight to Dulles Field, Washington D.C.", SR-71 Blackbirds, Revised March 29, 2004.

External links[edit]