Flexjet starts sales of new Learjet 85

Fractional ownership company Flexjet has kicked off its sales program to sell Bombardier Aerospace's new Learjet 85 business jets.

Flexjet, a Dallas-based division of Bombardier, is the company's launch customer for the carbon composite airplane, Bombardier's largest Learjet to date.

Bombardier's Learjet plant in Wichita will be responsible for final assembly, interior completion, paint and delivery of the airplane.

The program will support 600 jobs at the plant.

Bombardier launched the Learjet 85 program in October 2007. The company is on schedule to deliver the first plane to Flexjet in late 2013.

Flexjet has seven Learjet 85s on order. They will be delivered through 2014.

The company launched its sales program this month.

"We're now getting the word out," said Bruce Peddle, Flexjet vice president for sales and marketing. "We have some great interest in the airplane. We're very encouraged by it."

Flexjet plans to order additional Learjet 85s, but how many will depend on customer interest. It will make a decision over the next year, he said.

"We have a vision for how many we'd like to see," Peddle said. "We don't talk a whole lot about that until we get a sense for how the airplane is accepted in the marketplace."

The plane fits between Bombardier's mid-size Learjet 60 and its super mid-size Challenger 300.

"It's actually going to be a real game-changer for that particular segment," Peddle said. "It's going to be one of the most efficient airplanes in its class."

Like Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, the Learjet 85's primary structures will be made from composite materials.

It's an all-new, or "clean-sheet" design.

The Learjet 85 will have a range of up to 3,000 nautical miles and fly 624 miles per hour, he said.

Flexjet is offering special introductory pricing to customers buying as little as one-sixteenth of a share of a Learjet 85, which allocates them 50 hours of flying time.

Its promotion offers a 5 percent discount off the cost for a fraction of the aircraft.

A one-sixteenth share costs $1.1 million before the discount. Customers also pay per-hour flight fees and monthly fees for the crew and maintenance.

Flexjet operates a fleet of Learjet and Challenger aircraft.