Learjet 85 still close to first flight

A top Bombardier executives says the Learjet 85 is close to making its maiden flight, but he stopped short of saying the composite aircraft will meet the company’s goal of a first flight by the end of the year.

“We are very close to flying,” Bombardier’s president and chief operating officer Guy Hachey tells Flightglobal shortly after addressing attendees of the Aerospace Innovation Forum in Montreal.

He declines to specify when the first flight will occur, adding only that the company, which owns Learjet, recently conducted taxi and other pre-flight tests at Learjet’s Wichita, Kansas, headquarters.

“Like any first flight, we need to make sure everything is ready,” he says.

Bombardier initially expected the eight-seat Learjet 85 to enter service by the end of 2013, but in February the company delayed deliveries by six to nine months until the third quarter of next year due to problems with manufacturing the composite airframe.

The airframe is constructed at Bombardier’s facility in Querétaro, Mexico, where the roughly 6,000ft (1,830m) elevation requires Bombardier to use special techniques in the curing process for the composite material.

The first flight test vehicle (FTV-1) has been in Wichita for several months, during which time Bombardier officials have expressed confidence that the aircraft will fly by the end of the year.

The project comes amid a period of continued weakness in the market for mid-sized business aircraft.

“[It] remains the toughest part of the market right now, and we anticipate it is still going to be tough for another year or two,” says Hachey, noting that an excess of pre-owned mid-sized aircraft has depressed demand for new jets.

Still, he insists the all-new Learjet 85 gives Bombardier an advantage.

“We have a new product, so we might be more insulated” from market weakness, Hachey says.

Powered by Pratt & Whitney PW307B turbofans, the Learjet 85 will have a larger cabin than other business jets in its category and a range of roughly 3,000nm (5,556km), Learjet has said.

The aircraft’s Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics have heads-up guidance with synthetic vision, features that have recently become common on larger business jets.

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