Bombardier tried, but couldn¹t quite get its 200th Learjet 31/31A ready for delivery here at the Show. The aircraft is nearing completion, however, and will be handed over to its new owner next month, marking the first in a series of significant milestones for the business jet manufacturer. In late September/early October, Bombardier will deliver the 100th example of its new Learjet 45 "super light" business jet, followed in January by the 200th mid-sized Learjet 60. Bombardier will build a record 120 Learjets this financial year and, by the end of January 2001, will have produced 500 Learjets since it rescued the famous marque from bankruptcy in 1990.Bombardier says delivery of the 200th Learjet 31/31A will contradict critics who claim the aircraft is no longer competitive against other, newer light business jets. "The aircraft is doing very well in the market," says Marc Bouliane, Learjet product director. "Recent changes have given the aircraft even more flexibility and performance and the lowest operating costs in its class. Learjet 31A production has increased in each of the past two years, Bouliane says, boosted by the growth of Bombardier's FlexJet fractional ownership programme, which now accounts for 30% of all Learjet deliveries. The $6.3 million Learjet 31A is ideal for day missions, Bouliane says, the aircraft¹s high speed and high altitude performance benefiting those customers "who want to go out and back in the same day", saving up to an hour per trip compared with a turboprop. In June, Bombardier began delivering Learjet 31As incorporating a host of improvements designed to increase the aircraft¹s flexibility.

Maximum take-off weight has been raised by 225kg (500lb) to 7,710kg, increasing payload with full fuel. For European operators, there is an option that takes maximum take-off weight to just over the 8,000kg mark beyond which buyers do not need to pay VAT. This can save $1 million, Bouliane says. Other changes include a higher maximum landing weight, improving the Learjet 31A¹s "multi-hop" utility; new cooling system for greater comfort and reliability; and new digital engine control, improved winglets and avionics upgrades. There is also good news for European customers: the aircraft should be certificated for reduced vertical separation minima operations by year-end, Bouliane says, and will be compliant with Joint Aviation Authorities JAR Ops 1 regulations when fitted with optional flight data recorder and 120min cockpit voice recorder. Other good news is an upcoming revision to the maintenance procedures that will reduce inspection manhours required by 30%. Bombardier is also extending its popular Dependability Plus programme to the Learjet 31A. This provides a fixed maintenance cost per flight hour and a guaranteed minimum residual value when the aircraft is traded in for another Bombardier business jet within three to five years. "It is as close to risk-free ownership as possible," says Bouliane.

Source: Flight Daily News