Learjet 85 makes first flight, performing ‘as expected’

04/09/2014 5:19 PM

08/08/2014 10:23 AM

After about a four-month delay, Bombardier Aerospace test pilots for the first time on Wednesday took off from Wichita Mid-Continent Airport in a Learjet 85.

Bombardier Aerospace spokeswoman Annie Cossette said the midsize business jet took off at 8:19 a.m. Central time, and the flight lasted about two hours and 15 minutes.

She said the airplane flew at an altitude of 30,000 feet and at a speed of 288 mph. On board the jet were Capt. Ed Grabman, chief flight test pilot, co-pilot Jim Dwyer and flight test engineer Nick Weyers.

“It was a very successful first flight,” Cossette said. “All flight controls were exercised, and the systems and aircraft performed as expected.”

Eric Martel, president of Bombardier Business Aircraft, said in a statement that development of the jet involved Bombardier sites not just in Wichita but also in Canada, Mexico and Northern Ireland. “We are all very excited to see this new aircraft … take to the skies, and we look forward to a very successful flight test program.”

The Learjet 85 will be able to seat up to eight passengers with a flight crew of two, have a range of 3,000 nautical miles and a top speed of 541 mph.

The first test airplane of the company’s newest Learjet had originally been slated to fly by the end of 2013.

But a series of delays connected to systems integration issues – including software updates – prevented first flight of Bombardier’s fastest Learjet.

The Montreal-based company first announced the clean-sheet design business jet in October 2007. It also is the company’s first Learjet with a composite fuselage and wings.

Even though the Learjet 85’s first flight has been achieved, Cossette said the company was not ready to announce when deliveries would begin.

“We haven’t reviewed entry into service yet,” she said.

Dave Franson, president of the Wichita Aero Club and a former Learjet and Cessna spokesman, said it’s not unusual for delays to occur on first flights, especially on airplanes designed from scratch.

“It’s a good day for Learjet,” he said. “They hit a milestone they needed to hit.”

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