Derivative Learjet 45 Specified to beat payload/range performance of rivals

Bombardier has unveiled the Learjet 40 light business jet, a shortened version of the super-light Learjet 45. Formal launch is expected at the National Business Aviation Association convention in September, but work has begun on the prototype, formerly a Learjet 45 flight-test aircraft.

The prototype will fly this quarter, with US certification scheduled for the third quarter of next year and first deliveries for the first quarter of 2004. "This is a very quick, very low-risk programme," says Claude Chidiac, vice-president product planning and programmes, Challenger and Learjet.

The Learjet 40 has the same wing, engines, avionics and systems as the Learjet 45, but a shorter fuselage, seating six passengers, compared with eight in the 45. A 600mm (24.5in) plug has been removed from the forward fuselage, rear-fuselage fuel tank capacity reduced and the optional auxiliary power unit eliminated to rebalance the aircraft.

Low acquisition cost is the highest priority in the light jet market, says Chidiac, and the Learjet 40 is priced at $6.78 million in 2002 dollars. But the aircraft beats the payload/range performance of its rival light jets, the Cessna Citation Encore and Raytheon Beechjet 400A, he says. The Learjet 40 has a Mach 0.8 high-speed cruise, 51,000ft (15,500m) ceiling and 3,330km (1,800nm) range with four passengers. The aircraft can carry a full passenger load and full fuel on missions up to 3,150km.

The cabin has a new interior modelled on performance cars. "We are positioning this as a performance aircraft," he says. The Learjet 31A will remain in production for now, although the Learjet 40 offers a 36% larger cabin and 35% more range for only a 10% higher price. "We will see how market demand evolves," he says.

Bombardier is aiming for a dominant share of a "premium" light jet market forecast at 3,000 aircraft over 10 years. The company has looked at an all-new light jet to replace the Learjet 31A, but believes the lower end of the market is moving towards entry-level jets which do not offer an attractive return on investment.

Source: Flight International