UK charter and management company Zenith Aviation is gearing up to take delivery of two new Learjet 75 business jets that will be used to soak up the growing demand in Europe for short-haul, ad hoc charter.
The first of the superlight jets (G-USHA) is scheduled to leave Bombardier’s Learjet factory in Wichita, Kansas on 25 September for a two-day ferry flight to Zenith’s London base at Biggin Hill airport.
“The second unit – G-ZNTH – will leave Wichita on 2 October and should arrive on the 4th,” says Zenith managing director Stuart Mulholland.
The twinjets will join Zenith’s five-strong fleet of owned and managed business jets, which includes a superlight Cessna Citation XLS, three Learjet 45s and a large-cabin Bombardier Challenger 604.
“We have been flying these aircraft constantly,” Mulholland says. “In 2015 we flew over 700h, and already this year we have flown 1,200h. We hope to achieve around 1,650h by the end of 2016, helped of course by the new 75s.”
The Learjet 75 programme has been hit hard by softening demand for light business jets and the stiff competition in this niche from the XLS+ and Embraer’s fly-by-wire Legacy 450.
During a second-quarter earnings call on 5 August, Bombardier acknowledged that “significant pricing pressures” in this sector had affected deliveries and forced it “to address Learjet’s position”. These remarks have led to speculation that the business jet family – which includes the light-cabin Learjet 70 – could be sold.
Bombardier shipped 32 Learjet 70/75s in 2015 and indicates that it is on track to deliver less than half that in 2016. For the six months ended 30 June, the Canadian airframer handed over six units, compared with 14 during the same period a year earlier.
Bombardier introduced the Learjet 70 and 75 in 2013, upgrading the cabin, flightdeck and interior of the Learjet 40/45.