Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC


Bombardier is to improve the Learjet 31A, with deliveries starting early next year, in a bid to increase its share of the light business jet market.

The enhancements, being announced at the National Business Aviation Association show in Atlanta, are to increase aircraft value and improve flexibility, increase reliability, reduce maintenance and guarantee ownership costs, says Learjet 31A product director Marc Bouliane.

Production runs at around 25 a year, up from 18 in 1997, he says, with 30% going to Bombardier's FlexJet fractional ownership programme, which will receive its 25th Learjet 31A later this year.

FlexJet's use of the aircraft has stimulated demand for the Learjet 31A, says Bouliane. The fractional programme's high usage rates, typically over 1,000h a year, have provided the impetus for many of the improvements.

The changes, to be introduced early next year, will include:

• an increased maximum landing weight of 7,260kg (16,000lb) - previously 6,810kg - which improves mission flexibility by reducing the minimum first leg range and raising the maximum second leg range;

• an increased maximum take-off weight of 7,720kg (previously 7,490kg), with 8,040kg optional;

• digital electronic control of the AlliedSignal TFE731-2 engines, which improves reliability and provides trend monitoring;

• dual air conditioning systems to provide increased capacity and redundancy, with one system dedicated to cooling the cockpit;

• and redesigned winglets (using the Learjet 60 design) to improve high-speed/high-altitude performance and handling.

Other enhancements include installation of thrust reversers as standard; a new, lighter and more reliable attitude heading reference system and installation of the Universal UNS-1C flight management system as standard. The changes have not increased the Learjet 31A's price, which is $6.3 million typically equipped.

Maintenance requirements are being reduced by inspection programme changes that apply to the entire Learjet fleet and which were developed initially for the new Learjet 45, Bouliane says. The basic inspection cycle has risen from 1,200h to 2,400h and the manhours required have been reduced by 30%. The changes have been tested by Wal-Mart in a pilot programme involving its 15 Learjet 31/31A/ 35As, with "excellent results".

Bombardier has introduced the Dependability Plus programme for the Learjet 31A, providing a guaranteed residual value if theaircraft is traded in for another Bombardier product within three to five years of purchase.

Source: Flight International