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Bombardier announces new jets: Learjet 70 and Learjet 75

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, May 11, 2012, at 6:28 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, May 15, 2012, at 6:46 a.m.

Bombardier kicked off Europe’s largest business jet show in Geneva, Switzerland, Monday with an announcement of the Learjet 70 and Learjet 75 light business jets.

The planes upgrade and replace the Learjet 40 and 45 models, with improved avionics, engines and a new winglet design.

The two planes, which will be assembled in Wichita, will offer greater range, more speed, new interior styling, lighter weight, and, because they will have improved fuel efficiency, lower operating costs, said Ralph Acs, head of Bombardier’s Wichita Learjet plant.

“We’re very excited about this,” Acs said.

The Learjet 75 will enter service in the first half of next year, followed by the Learjet 70.

Later on Monday, at a ceremony held in the Learjet 85 assembly area in Wichita and attended by hundreds of employees, the company unveiled a Learjet 75 it has been flight testing since August.

Complete with theater lights and sound system, Learjet pulled back the curtain on the jet, which brought a roar of applause and whistles from the employees, about two-thirds of whom donned red Learjet polo shirts.

Ed Thomas, regional vice president of U.S. sales, told employees at the ceremony that Learjet currently has more than 50 orders, letters of intent and commitments for the 70 and 75.

“Which is a real testament to what we are doing here today,” Thomas said to employees.

The announcement comes two weeks after Learjet broke ground on expansion projects at the plant to make room for the new Learjet 85.

“Now it was time to do something with the 40 and 45,” Acs said. “It’s about using this opportunity to continually improve our offerings to the market.”

The two planes will require less maintenance, Acs said. For example, the planes will be maintenance-free for the first 600 flight hours, compared to between 300 and 400 flight hours on the current models.

They will incorporate Garmin’s Vision Flight Deck used in all Bombardier business jets with a synthetic vision system, graphical flight planning, increased situational awareness and reduced pilot workload, the company said.

The cockpit’s cabin styling will extend into the flight deck and its interior will have the “wow” factor of the Learjet 85.

Transitioning to the Learjet 70 and 75 will be seamless, Acs said.

Wichita’s plant will assemble, paint, flight test and deliver the airplanes to customers.

The fuselages for the models will come from Belfast, Northern Ireland, with the wing shipped from Toronto.

Two of the planned five test airplanes are flying, each installed with the Garmin avionics systems. Together, they’ve accumulated 200 hours of flight testing.

The additional test planes will join the test program over the next six months.

While Acs was excited about announcing two new jets, he said the overall market continues to be soft.

There are a “lot of conversations, but selling remains difficult,” Acs said. “We’re still encouraged. It’s going to get better.”

But he said, “it’s not at the rate we’re accustomed to when you come out of a situation like we’ve been in. It’s much slower.”

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com. Reach Jerry Siebenmark at 316-268-6576 or jsiebenmark@wichitaeagle.com.

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